09 March 2012

Kids These Days

With the advent of new technology, obsolete machinery and ways of thinking are left by the wayside. Sometimes, progress is commendable, even lauded. Other times, however, important ideologies are tossed aside, threatened to be lost and never found again. Some would argue that the MP3/Itunes culture quickly permeating every aspect of society is for the best. I'm here to say that I almost entirely disagree.

When I was a kid, the internet was an intangible idea, an untouchable concept. We always had a computer in the house, but it was off limits for us kids. It was mainly used by my dad for his school work and his drafting career. I fondly remember him showing me the ropes for DOOM when I was about eight years old. Without consistent computer access, I had to discover new music the only way I was able: the library.

I was young and in grade school. I didn't have a job. Buying music (no matter how cheap) was out of the question. I got permission to use my mom's library card to check out music from the library. With this new found freedom, I became insatiable. I snagged up any cassette or CD that appealed to me based solely on appearance. My mind became like a steel trap for names of artists and bands. I could easily distinguish bands I had already heard and ones that still promised that breath of fresh air. I'd have literal stacks of CDs at any given time.

Growing up in a relatively strict Catholic household, my parents had the final say on what I was allowed to listen to. Anything with the notorious "PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS" was purely off limits. This cut down my options more than you'd think. A seemingly endless supply of "rock" music seemed to be the forbidden fruit. As much as I tried sneaking it past them and stashing the contraband in my room, I always got caught.

So, tired of fighting the unjust system of parent and child, I naturally gravitated to the harder-edged christian punk and rock bands. Something with bite that I could blast alone in my room, but something that would satisfy my parents' watchful eyes. Methodically, I began checking out every single punk and ska record I could get my hands on. Compilations by certain record labels always proved to be quite the gateway into new music.

When I found a band I really liked, I scoured the liner notes of their albums for mentions of other bands. The "thank you" sections became the go-to for finding new bands. I would write lists of band names down and head to the library, searching their catalog for anything I could find. I would wait days, sometimes weeks, for a beat up copy of a CD that I might wind up hating. This made the good bands even better. The cover art for these christian punk and ska albums were what comic books were to other kids. I idolized these musicians, paying close attention to their attire. I would make a mental note of any band t-shirts they were wearing because that meant I'd always have a new band to keep an eye out for.

I remember going to the mall with my parents when I was a kid just to simply sit in a music store and listen to the CDs that I couldn't buy. I would waste hours away, never having enough time to hear it all. I learned how to record CDs to cassette, and I built up my own collection of music from the libraries' inventory. As I grew older and began traveling the city's streets by foot, or taking buses to work or out of state, my portable CD player was crucial to my journeys. Realistically, carrying my whole music collection with me wasn't practical. Very careful selections had to be made as to which albums I would bring with me, a luxury that has been entirely lost in this Ipod-centered world. Now, your entire music library can be carried around in a pocket. I think some of the magic is lost in translation.

Any band that I had come across was through sheer work and research. This not only brought me closer to the bands that really stood out, but it was something that became so personal that it forged me for the future. I'm still just as passionate about music as I was as a bright-eyed adolescent.

I think my generation might be the last of its kind. We cut our teeth on finding bands without the benefit of the internet or even television half the time. We were more excited about a catalog stuffed into a jewel case than finding a dirty magazine. CDs and tapes passed down to us from the older kids became prized possessions.

The kids growing up now have ipods complete with internet radio. Discovering a new band is practically a keystroke away. There seems to be no passion, no drive, no appreciation for the music. It's a commodity now. Music seems to be so expendable to so many. Instead of resorting to the library or even music television, you can pirate an album or pay to download it. You might spend the money, but you won't get the satisfaction of holding a jewel case replete with artwork and lyrics. You'll never understand the frustration of your favorite song skipping because the CD is thrashed. Music has become an idea, a file on your computer. If a song or album gets deleted, you can just download it again.

Do you ever remember a time when you lost your favorite CD and were absolutely heartbroken about it? I do. Remember how you would misplace your school shoes, but you always knew where your favorite Blink-182 CD was?

The hard copy side of music isn't going anywhere. There will always be collectors and purists who value the tangible copy of a CD, LP or cassette more than the tinny sound of an mp3. What makes me a bit sad about the future is the fact that the kids nowadays are being enslaved by the digital marketplace. Why spend the time and money going to a record store and paying for an album when you can download it for free? This is the kind of rhetoric becoming so commonplace that it's not even being questioned anymore. How fucked is that?

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