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Mommy, where does music taste come from?

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This is mostly a boring life story and analysis here. If that sort of thing bores you, skip this entry!

I’m having a ton of fun here with my family in Washington. On my first day here, my uncle (Bret, one of the guys on the blog here!) offered me a chance to rip the collection of CDs he has. So I sort of went through yesterday and checked some stuff out. I grabbed a few CDs. I don’t remember how many, but I think it was like 14 bands total. Today he picked out some stuff that I hadn’t heard of, but should check out. So I now have 1.5 days of music from him!

Yesterday, I listened to:

Afghan Whigs – 1965
Bad Brains – All Ages
Burning Airlines – Mission: Control!

I’m currently listening to another Afghan Whigs’ CD of his. Good band, methinks. But this makes me wonder: why the hell do I enjoy his music taste so much? I grew up listening to none of it. Mom didn’t put on Fugazi records, dad certainly didn’t like Jawbox. But why do I just feel so naturally at home with this music? It relaxes me, calms me down, gives me something to put energy into. It’s great learning about the history of, the relationships between the bands, the stories. The bands may have dissolved a long time ago, but to me, it’s still worth reliving. Why is the entire experience so affirming?

If I analyze what I grew up listening to, my mom (my uncle’s sister, so if that matters…) played a lot of REM, Nirvana, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, and reggae. Now, I hated the reggae so much that I semi-deliberately once got gum all over a Peter Tosh cassette. I still dislike it, but then there are Fugazi’s dub influences to think about, right? Anyway, I still love REM and Nirvana. They’ve definitely encouraged me down a lot of roads, musically. I know some people reading this hate Nirvana, but they’re one of the first bands I really “got into,” regardless of their talent or anything like that. It only hit me recently what impact Simon and Garfunkel had on the music I listen to today. The harmonies and dual vocals are a major part of shoegaze. I think i found it very familiar to listen to a band like Chapterhouse, even though they might sound very different from Simon and Garfunkel to most people, because of the vocal similarities. I think Nirvana also pushed down the shoegaze route a little too, really, you know? Nirvana wasn’t a grunge band per se, but then neither is Swervedriver — yet both have pretty thin links to the genre. Swervedriver is much more on the shoegaze side, whereas Nirvana is more on the grunge side (tho still, so the genre puritans out there don’t get me, not grunge). REM leads me to bands like Apples in Stereo, Cake, Harvey Danger — and that more “indie pop/rock” side of music. I have no idea what the hell Peter Gabriel made me do. I really hated Bob Dylan as a kid, but I’m not sure what kid could really appreciate Dylan. I’m still not as serious about him as some people get, but I can definitely understand him better now.

As for my dad, he listened to the Grateful Dead and Phish. All the time. Jam bands galore. There was always a lot of oldies and classic rock (I’ll save everyone from my thoughts on classic rock here) on the radio. Sweet Jesus, do I hate jam bands. So hard. I hate hippies, jam bands, drugs, all of it. I can’t see how any of what I listen to was influenced by his music. Except maybe that I feel extra-close understanding of simple songs like Dead Head.

But when I first started listening to a lot of music, I was listening to stuff like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. I was only vaguely familiar with Fugazi. At the time, I had no idea of the history of emotive hardcore or the ’80s indie scene or math rock. And then my uncle’s like, “Here, listen to Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, Pitchfork, Rocket from the Crypt, and this Fugazi CD.” So I was like, “K, thanks for sendin’ them to me!” And I just got really into it. It like fit naturally. Part of it was the lyrics, but I really instantly loved the bass, the cutting guitars, and the drum styles.

So when he gave me all this stuff:

Afghan Whigs, Bad Religion, Bluetip, Boys Life, Burning Airlines, Forget Cassettes, Gorilla Biscuits, Hutch, Jawbox, Jesus Lizard, Jets to Brazil, June of ’44, Kerosene 454, Kite-Eating Tree, Mars Accelerator, Milemarker, A Minor Forest, Modest Mouse (The Lonesome, Crowded West era), Pee, Promise Ring, Rentals, Replacements, Rocket from the Crypt, Scribble, Sunny Day Real Estate, Team Dresch, Thirty Ought Six, Tsunami, Unwound

Plus: 20 Years of Dischord, Allied Records/Music for the Proletariat, The Making of Allied One Two Three.

I was like, “Whoa!” I’m in the process of listening to it right now (Bad Religion, half of Bluetip, Alfghan Whigs, Burning Airlines, and now part of the first Boys Life CD he gave me, are all down). Really good stuff.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank my uncle for all this great music. I wanted to look into a little of why I like the music I do, but I’m still not sure yet! Someone plz tell me.

Speaking of uncles, mine is like so cool. This room I’m sleeping in here is great. Vinyls from his old bands are hanging from the wall. Three guitars and a bass are resting on the wall. Old cameras are on cool little shelves. There are some Hot Snakes (<3) posters floating around. A custom designed Hot Snakes skateboard with John Reis’s signature on it is right above the bed here. All these awesome old Star Wars action figures are floating around the room. Dude. It’s so cool.

But in conclusion, really, is musical taste maybe kind of genetic? My uncle and I, as far as I know, haven’t had similar life experiences. My mom’s a fair amount older than him, so it could be she played somehow similar music for each of us when we were younger. It could be that perhaps the Grateful Dead secretly have everything in the world in common with Lungfish. So I’m just trying to figure what it is about the music! It’s stuck in my head now and I can’t figure it out. Or maybe it’s random coincidence!!

So to you guys: are there any family or friends who influenced a lot what you listen to? Why do you think you listen to what you do? Blah, blah, blah!


Written by M

July 14, 2008 at 3:47 am

4 Responses

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  1. haha No, I think I am the only person in my entire family who listens to Metal. I wasn’t influenced by anyone or anything aside from the boredom I got when I was 15, and checked out a band called Dream Theater… the rest was history from there on. It was my life journey into the world of Metal. I started checking out other sub-genres, got some recommendations from people on forums. I spent most of my days browsing through Metal Archives and MTVHell looking for bands to listen to. Bought books that expanded my horizons.

    Now, a few years down the line, I got one of my friends to listen to Metal, who now co-host with me on Ragnarok.

    I think I’m gonna be the uncle that everyone in the family hates. I can see my brother telling his kids to “stay away from uncle Vince room because its full of posters of dead people and decapitating Jesus”.


    July 14, 2008 at 7:35 pm

  2. Marshall, without getting too touchy-feely here, because nobody wants a touchy-feely uncle, it warms my heart to read this. I can’t tell you how amazed I am at how much music knowledge you’ve been able to pick up on your own. Not only that, but you have damn good taste, if I do say so myself. 🙂

    As for where musical taste comes from, I don’t have an answer. I think that at the core of it, kids often rebel against their parents’ musical tastes. Part of it is trends, part is cultural, but part can also be informed by the values of your parents. Sure, your dad digs the Dead, but perhaps it’s the idea of not following the status quo (which, like it or not, is something the Dead sort of pioneered in some ways) that has helped to form your view of music.

    I can’t also help but think that your upbringing has given you a very broad and open perspective to the music world, allowing you to make your own judgments about what constitutes good music. So may kids have tepid top-40 music crammed down their throats and can’t learn to think a song is good unless it’s been repeated to them 1 million times over the radio, on TV, in their favorite trendy clothing store and at their friends’ houses.

    Anyhow, I’m more than happy to share any useless music knowledge or suggestions you want (and even ones you don’t want). Don’t be afraid to ask.

    By the way, I have not forgotten about the domain name and hosting stuff. I’ll try to get that wrapped up this weekend.


    July 19, 2008 at 5:41 am

  3. Thanks!

    I see what you mean about the Dead, but when I was little and first came to dislike them, I think, I didn’t really know much about the cultural impact they had and the, er, counter culture lifestyle they espoused. Honestly, I thought music was about the dumbest thing until I was… 14, just because of what I grew up listening to. It was oldies/classic rock format stations, non-stop Beatles and Grateful Dead. With the exception of the few bands mom played that weren’t of that nature, I thought music kinda sucked. So I do see what you mean about rebellion that way, but I hope it’s not a conscious decision on my part to listen to music just to be a rabble rouser. 😮

    Annnyway, thanks so much for all the music. I’ve been listening my way through it while being bed-ridden here. June of ’44 is most epic.

    Marshall B

    July 19, 2008 at 9:32 am

  4. I don’t really know where my music taste comes from…

    I mean, my mom neverever played music and my dad owned CDs (well, cassettes until like ’94) like Meat Loaf (whom I still like), Styx (whom I also still like) and lots of other generic 80s rock (which I hate). But those are all pretty far off from like…anything I listen to. Well, I guess my dad and I have REM in common. But my brother and I have probably done as much for their music taste as they have for us (though our influence on them is more obvious as CDs make great Mother’s/Father’s Day gifts).

    So I’ve sort of started rambling, but this entry really got me thinking. But I still have no idea why I like Modest Mouse and Cursive and Ben Folds and not W.A.S.P. or something.

    Also, glad Washington has been so good to you.

    Jacob Z

    July 20, 2008 at 7:01 pm

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