An­niver­saries are keep­ing mu­sic cov­er­age stuck in the past

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY - Jim Car­roll on mu­sic For more see irish­ ontherecor­d

High-pro­file an­niver­saries al­ways get at­ten­tion. Last week, for ex­am­ple, you couldn’t es­cape the 20th an­niver­sary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Ev­ery me­dia out­let had its take on the singer, his band, the mu­sic and the fans. The fact that he died on the date he was sup­posed to be play­ing a show in Dublin pro­vided many Ir­ish an­gles.

Such a fo­cus has sev­eral ef­fects. It cer­tainly made many feel rather old. It also served to re­mind us of pop cul­ture’s fond­ness for nos­tal­gia, an­niver­saries, reis­sues and re­vivals. More im­por­tantly, it showed again how such cov­er­age fo­cuses at­ten­tion on the past rather than the fu­ture.

Of course, it’s eas­ier for many com­men­ta­tors and jour­nal­ists to fo­cus on past events be­cause that’s when they were at large and truly en­gaged with the cul­ture. For many of the cur­rent crop of crit­ics, the 1990s and 2000s was their time in the lime­light so it’s per­haps in­evitable that they can talk and write at great length on, say, Brit­pop or grunge.

How­ever, it’s a much dif­fer­ent mat­ter when it comes to the cov­er­age given to to­day’s mu­sic. While there is a whole crop of bril­liant writ­ers who can sweep you off your feet with opin­ions and trea­tises on the mu­si­cal and cul­tural machi­na­tions of now from far and wide, the big­gest spreads and profiles still ap­pear to go to the es­tab­lished acts or an­niver­sary-led out­breaks of nos­tal­gia.

It of­ten feels as if events of the past carry a greater heft than what’s go­ing on to­day in terms of main­stream cov­er­age. You have to won­der if there’s any ac­tual will to ad­dress that im­bal­ance or should we sim­ply wait for the “30 years of Cobain” ex­pe­ri­ence in 2024.

Cobain: Hello, hello again

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