Last June I was learning to come to terms with the New York City music scene and a phenomenon I only brushed against during my time in Missouri. Rampant musical hipsterism or indie snobbery as I called it back then was the constant pursuit of the unknown, the not yet recognized “next big thing.” It was trend spotting for the common man, scouting bands in dark clubs trying to find the perfect ansamble; ideally one that prints CDs in a damp basement while applying shoe polish for make-up.
I wrote at the end of one of my posts: “(…) I enjoy sharing and sticking around. Hell, I went to see Marilyn Manson tour behind his greatest hits record. It doesn’t get more uncool than that.”
Recently I was making a CD of mp3s for Elle (we call these “Bufnita’s musical songs“) and, as I was gathering stuff, I started thinking about why I “share and stick around.” Why would anyone in their right mind admit to having had a Manson-phase of self-destructive anger when the man today is little more than a puppet on high heels, posing emphatically for Vogue. VOGUE! The Antichrist is in the pages of Vogue, a top magazine choice of upscale dental offices everywhere. Women giggle over the pages of Vogue — not use them to absorb the blood from self-inflicted knife wounds.
I did have a Manson phase — a huge one. I used to go to bed listening to “Fundamentally loathsome” and “The speed of pain.” I used “The beautiful people” and “Rock is dead” were mainstays in a playlist I used to boost myself in front an exam (a playlist which had Bloodhound Gang’s “I hope you die” as the climax).
Music has always been there to help me figure out myself and the world around me. And it stayed around because it’s not a reminder of pathetic phases (well, a little) but a memory trigger. The playlist I made for the gym has songs from European techno-heads Scooter, Euro-dance outfit Aqua and Swedish dentist Dr. Alban.
These are to many — musically speaking — forgettable moments of early 1990s European dance music. But they were my early nineties. The first three records I purchased — back in 1992 — were New Kids on the Block, Roxette and Dr. Alban. Back then I — and other Romanian kids — spelled rap as “repp” or “rapp” and believed rock music must be really awful because those dudes with hair certainly looked awfully dirty.
By the mid-nineties I had a serious collection of a few hundred tapes (no CDs in Romania yet) the great majority belonging to some type of sub-genre of dance. There was E-Type, Imperio, Solid Base, and of course Sonic Dream Collective — my claim to euro hipsterism since not many had heard about it. I loved collecting this stuff so much I used to make mix tapes (and print elaborate labels which I had designed in CorelDraw): best of spring, summer, fall, winter and at the end of the year I used pen and paper to compile the top 100 songs and burn the as many as possible on two 90-minute tapes. I think I produced the best of 1995, ’96 and ’97 before quitting.
I shunned this music through my college years as failed relationships began to accumulate and started down the path of music more suitable to grieving than Britney Spears’s “E-mail my heart.” My first moment of rock hipsterism came when I discovered Linkin’ Park before Hefe — a DJ at a Bucharest rock club that hosted an alternative rock night every Tuesday. I spent so many nights in Fire, jumping and screaming that I couldn’t believe I was the same person going crazy after each Fun Factory release.
Why me and rock had not interacted much before college is a mystery that still needs to be uncovered (for some strange reason I did own Green Day’s “Dookie”). But I began falling for the guitars, the screams, and yes, the lyrics — rock might have bad lyrics, but try to beat dance music — a genre in which Mr. President sang in a song called Coco Jumbo: “Turn around scream and say Columbo. Now I gotta go, so coco.”
Music has seen me as an upbeat dancing tomato, a skeptic screamer and more recently as self-accepting of my musical past. It was sometime last year that I began scouring the Internet for the music of my teenage years and even more recently that I accepted my past as a Limp Bizkit fan (Re-arranged rocked!).
Making that CD for Elle I understood that I like the music because those first 30 seconds of a song take me to some other place in some other time. I have a hard time listening to full songs sometimes because I get on a memory-binge and feel the need to stuff myself with the past. So I start one song and then jump into another and so on until I am satisfied enough to turn to the present.
And speaking of the present. Let me assemble a mix tape of what I am today — although you have to remember that today there are parallel playlists on my IPod that proudly play uncool music from a different time (you can probably play — if not download — all these songs using The Hype Machine):
Bright Eyes – Landlock blues
The Decemberists – Engine driver
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins – You are what you love
Tilly and the Wall – Do you dream at all
The Arcade Fire – Intervention
Feist – Mushaboom
The Arcade Fire – Cold wind
Tegan and Sara – You wouldn’t like me
Sia – Breathe me
Kaiser Chiefs – Everyday I love you less and less
The New Pornographers – Twin cinema
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The skin of my yellow country teeth
The Boy Least Likely To – Be gentle with me
Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) – We both go down together
If you’re curious about some of the euro-dance gems I mentioned, I’ve uploaded a few. Check them out: