Friday, January 16, 2009

Look Back in Anger

Dearest Internet

As an elderly gent, I find my C15 Cameo Mono Electric Riser to be the perfect little chair on which to muse on the complex machinations of the modern world. The crumbling miasma of cultural identity seems to sit more comfortably in the mind the more comfortably my papery flesh balloon is cradled in the fibre back cushion, button back design. The quiet and smooth, three position lift system centres the mind’s eye, the vapours of age swallowed by the New Levante Burgandy (Vinyl) skin. Ticket checked, discount counted, first class on the relax your ass train to Going to be Here an Awfully Long Time…

I would have expected this stylish design to bring a certain calm to my withered, little thought sack; a new found clarity would bind to my wealth of experience. From this I could birth a new, younger philosophy. A philosophy on which I could construct the brief, Floridian condo of years I have spent half of my half cocked life looking forward to. However, to my surprise, all that elderly comfort reluctantly gives is the desire for more of the same: more comfort, but now the once passive little jaunt on the Comfort Liner has gone active; it now masquerades as its ugly cousin, nostalgia. The flabby torso of the mediocre struggles its varicose pins into the snug leggings of the familiar. Suddenly, every past, regrettable act can dull the spiny spectre of the present. All I now want is to suffocate myself with every past object, emotion, sound, every slightest déjà vu I can forcibly rip from the walls, furniture and faces that insist on stumbling into my plod along life. I have become the lord of nostalgia, the king of retrospect, the regent of the rose tint. So, I like to talk about smells that remind me of some time, songs that bring to mind so and so, feelings that rediscover inappropriate anecdotes. I whittle my day around boring Tom, Dick and, indeed, Harry. Because I’m old. The more years you notch up the higher the general public’s tolerance for self-indulgent whimsy. I’m old. Old, old, old. Old. You, however, are not. You are young. You are an idiot.

That’s right. You have no business pissing about with nostalgia. It is not acceptable. Get out of my toy box. I’m taking to Flog It! on Wednesday and I don’t want you sabotaging my one and only shot with Paul Martin. He’s too comfy, an over familiar family friend in a slow moving scarf storm. He’s mine and I don’t want you stinky students getting your sweaty glo sticks anywhere near him. Why does the youth feel this need to remember? What use is it to them? How is wrapping yourself up in a Knight Rider duvet and watching Labyrinth fifteen times conducive to a balanced, future of mankind-y type personality? This is not irony, this is retreat.

This particular brand of youth nostalgia seems to have leaked into all sorts of things. Every little unwashed crevice of the 18 – 30 is now drenched in ironic past stumbling. Groping around in an audio-visual charity shop, at night, in sunglasses, without any eyes. Take London’s clown fest of an East End, or indeed anywhere within puking distance of an art school. The shop windows are wormholes, rectangular, day glo portals sucking time and rational thought back into the late 80s – early 90s. Seemingly, juxtaposing a He Man figure and a shoe is the perfect way to extract £80 from any unsuspecting twenty something. These shops are bizarre, creepy places. I understand vintage fashion, looking back and picking the best bits seems to make some old fashioned kind of sense. However, we now see the pillaging of the past for pillaging’s sake. Not because the clothes make you look better but because they are patronisingly funny. This is not fashion, this is coating yourself in layers of childhood. You may as well travel back in time, rip off your own seven year old arms and sport them as leg warmers.

The essence of vintage, discontinued lines, and backwards looking past times are changing a context. Standing in a bus stop dressed as Anthony Eden’s sharper looking cousin means a whole lot more now than it did then. Not because it makes me all gooey inside, I wasn’t anywhere near the stop in question, it’s just an original alternative to buying your suits in Moss Bros. Whereas, throwing on a purple shell suit and a Global Hypercolor tshirt and playing an Atari ST until your eyes bleed is culture for irony’s sake or, as I would suggest, for familiarity’s sake. You can bellow all you want about postmodernism and rediscovering pilled up box dancing as a misunderstood art form but in reality you are just clinging to a more comfortable time. A time when you didn’t have to worry about art exams, how to pay the rent in your warehouse / wank space or how to get on the guest list for that club… you know… the one shaped like a shoe (Old Mother Hubbard’s, 101 Old Street). It’s the cultural equivalent of clamping your chops firmly around your mother’s breast and not letting go until it all looks safe outside i.e. your late thirties.

But is it merely the recycling time lag catching up with itself? Clothes wise, this could arguably be the case. The indie scene in recent years has prided itself on introducing forgotten looks back into the Zeitgeist. There were the flares, Fred Perry and zip up tracksuit tops of the 90s and the tight jeans, new wave hair and possibly new rave twats in the 00s; the reference point slowly catching up with the present. Possibly. But I don’t remember listening to Television when I was seven or rocking out to Talking Heads in line for Laser Quest. But, you do remember listening to 2Unlimited on Now 20. You do remember playing Chucky Egg, fighting with Scorponoc and wearing a bum bag. You can’t seem separate the reference point from the memory.

So, I should sit here in my reclinable sitting machine and despair? How did it ever get to this? There is no hope! Pull the plug, cave my sallow skull in with a calculator watch. But, no. Like any self respecting dead man walking, I have a Bono full of patronising advice. Leave well alone, youth rebellion. Nostalgia is not meant for you. You have no place hiding under the duvet with the lights out, there’s no room in here. In twenty years the vintage shops will be empty. The East End a ghost town. There will be nothing left. The whole process will have collapsed in on itself unless you can figure something out for yourselves. Childhood was shit. Forget it. Move on. Get down to your practice rooms and throw out your sirens, dummys and glow sticks. Give us something else to be pissed off with that we don’t remember from last time.

yours with genuine concern

Barnaby Fudge

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