Monday, May 22, 2017

Voice of A Generation

I read Douglas Coupland’s “Generation X” back in the mid-1990s, when I was a disaffected college student studying journalism and English and wishing I was done with school.

I was also listening to a new band, introduced to me in the wilds of Idaho by a brother who was living the life of a sophisticate in Phoenix: They Might Be Giants.

I remember being told Coupland was the voice of my Generation X. And I recall, while reading his book, that maybe he was. Or maybe he wasn’t. I was younger and more callow than his protagonists, anxious to get out into the world and make my mark in the exciting field of newspaper journalism.

I remember listening to TMBG – their album Flood was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money – and thinking, hey, these are funny songs. Or at least I should call them funny so I can be as sophisticated as my brother in Phoenix.

Nowadays, I can claim to have read Coupland’s “Generation X”.

Nowadays, I still listen to TMBG.

Slate writer Laura Miller, in her review of Coupland’s “Bit Rot,” laments the fall of Coupland as the Voice of A Generation.

I think she ought to pull her old TMBG albums out of mothballs and consider she’s overlooked the real VOAG all along.
What qualifies them as VOAG in my book? Well, this song for a start:

The song captures the pre-Internet narcissism that’s now bubbled over into the full-blown Me-Fest that represents the Internet and, to many extremes, my generation and those that have come after it. That I have a platform at all to flap my gums about whether TMBG is the true voice of Generation X is evidence that the Internet Me-Fest is the defining element of my generation.  (And remember, it’s not important that anyone actually listen to what I have to say, but that I say it in a public forum. Because truly I should be allowed to blurt there merest idea if by random whim one occurs to me. And here it is. And there it goes. Because in a day or two, Generation X-like, I’ll have forgotten what I’ve written here unless I encounter it again in a year or two when Facebook reminds me I’ve written it.

Meanwhile, I’m in my veal-fattening pen but absent the bleeding hippie boss. (My current boss is also Generation X; I have failed to climb the corporate ladder but as my corporate ambitions can be summed up in one Dilbert comic, I’m not all that bothered by it.)

But one song, I can hear you asking – does one song define VOAG? Well, they let one book define it for Douglas Coupland, but I have more evidence.

I could point to Flood, TMBG’s most popular album, but then I’d have to discuss my hatred for “Your Racist Friend,” which while politically motivated, is absolutely unsingable unless you’re really in the mood for a whiny, whiny, WHINY song. My hatred of the song probably implies to many of my generation, and those that follow, that I am the racist friend being sung about. That assumption is false. Be honest with yourself, the song is terrible.

So I’ll move on to their better album, Apollo 18.

More specifically, this song:

In a spare 74 seconds, TMBG captures the feeling of gleeful angst Generation X is known for. Note it doesn’t describe what the angst feels like, nor its point of origin. It’s angst for angst’s sake, which is the hallmark of this generation. That overseas guy thinks he can describe it, but overseas is how it really feels.

No comments: