The Future Is Not What It Used To Be

by on December 5, 2011

Posted in: Uncategorized


Once simply a (frighteningly addictive) anonymous mix exchange, Tiny Mix Tapes is now one of the foremost online publications about independent music and popular culture currently running. Its contributors’ broad-ranging tastes run more toward the experimental and esoteric; this, as well as their seriously well-read, probably college-educated (hey!) backgrounds in philosophy, sociology, and literary theory (references to thinkers from Freud to Foucault abound in their reviews), set TMT writers apart from their colleagues at other major online music publications. TMT can be counted on to remember, when other music publications do not, that true cultural criticism is a serious intellectual endeavor, not — as their review of Lars von Trier’s new film Melancholia argues — the “simple criticizing” of a cultural text, despite the apparent kinship between the two concepts.

I bring this up now because, as it happens, TMT contributor Jonathan Dean has just published an incredibly intelligent, perceptive, and rather bleak essay on TMT entitled “2011: Dispatches From the Pop Museum: The Future Is Not What It Used To Be.” The essay sharply assesses the state of contemporary popular music/culture — and if you’re not a regular TMT reader, take note of how much more substantiated its criticisms are than those of essays posted on more popular, less theoretically well-versed music sites such as Pitchfork. “The Future Is Not What It Used To Be” follows in the wake of preeminent British pop music historian Simon Reynold’s excellent new book Retromania as an academically credible work unenthused by pop culture’s recent obsession with nostalgic reenactment of itself. If cultural theory interests you — and if you play pop music on the radio, it probably should at least a little! — I recommend Reynolds’ book. It’d be a good pick if you’ve got time over the upcoming break…but in the meantime, please check out Dean’s truly wonderful essay (note: I am not proposing that these two works make the same points) here.
PS. And here’s Pitchfork (I know I just kinda said they’re intellectually inferior writers who pander to the masses but whatever) editor-in-chief Mark Richardson’s interview with Simon Reynolds about his book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. AND here’s a now-notorious anti-chillwave article by Wire journalist David Keenan that deals with similar themes and was one of the most talked-about pieces of music criticism during the summer of 2009, when what Keenan calls “hypnagogic pop” was initially in ascendancy — featuring, among other things, a few words from Zola Jesus‘ Nika Roza Danilova, which is reason enough to read anything! Although, really, Keenan is a distressingly reactionary critic unwilling to grasp the pervasive postmodern logic described by Dean, and Reynolds’ book does little except clarify a very interesting but ultimately obvious problem…so just read the Dean essay! It’s great, I prooomise. It’s only three pages. That’s a mere fifth of the length of the paper I should be but am not writing right now! So short!