Carrie Brownstein, co-founder of rock band Sleater-Kinney, has a new blog over at NPR called Monitor Mix. In this entry, she makes a good point about letting the hype and mystique of obscure bands take over our appreciation for the masters.
How had I forgotten about The Ramones? I own nearly all of their albums, I might even consider them one of my favorite bands, but I rarely listen to them. Suddenly this oversight, this forgetfulness, felt disastrous. I think of The Ramones as a starter band, one you have to know, one you have to love, one you have to discover in order for them to lead you elsewhere. But then you go further away and sometimes you forget to ever go back. You find post-punk, you listen to Wire, Gang of Four, The Slits, you find reggae and dub. Then you embrace classic rock, first ironically, maybe at a karaoke bar, and then for real. F*ck this straight-forward punk sh*t, give me prog and wanky solos and post-rock, and soon nothing is valid that comes in under five minutes. When friends or prospective dates ask you your musical tastes, you can’t just say, “The Stones” or “The Clash”, you have to say the name of the last Ethiopiques CD you bought, or you mention Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Bert Jansch, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, a side project of Wilco but not actually Wilco, the list goes on and on. Really? Really these are our favorite bands? The ones that got us out of bed in the morning on a sunless day? Sure, sometimes they really are favorites, for a day, a week, maybe longer. But watching the Johnny Ramone film I was reminded that for all of the wonderful and complex paths The Ramones’ music had led me down, not too many led me to a place better or more satisfying than the point from which I started.