Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm ready, I'm ready for the laughing gas

Recently on cable I saw part of a documentary film, From the Sky Down, about the making of U2's 1991 album Achtung Baby. I recall at the time being sort of dismissive of it, both because I'd preferred the Unforgettable Fire sound of the band and because that album got the shit played out of it on the radio. But now, a couple decades later, I can enjoy at least some of the tracks on there, and do acknowledge it was an important album for its day.

And then, inevitably, I had that moment of thinking, Holy crap. It's been over 20 years. How has it been that long? But let's not digress to that.

Then I had a moment of wondering what album, if any, that has come out in the last year or so, will be worthy of a commemorative documentary feature in the 2030's because it was groundbreaking or otherwise culturally significant.

And it occurred to me: As one whose heyday of really paying attention to contemporary music was back around the time of Achtung Baby, I'm not really in a position to say. It's not that I ignore new music, but I cannot even pretend to be keeping close tabs on the music scene. It's not that someone my age cannot still be "with it"; I simply must concede I'm not there anymore. I do think, however, that if I were 20 years younger right now I'd be able to offer at least some answer.

All that said, I further wondered if in a couple decades down the road if the album will be viewed as a quaint cultural artifact from an era where we had to rely on physical media for delivery of music. And society will be so splintered regarding its cultural touchstones, without a scenario where a finite number of record labels and radio stations and magazines could saturate the listening public with a particular batch of tracks from an artist, that at best each sub-culture will have their own important pieces from circa 2011 but a worldwide phenomenon like U2 was (whether you liked them or not you probably heard of them and heard them).

Perhaps 20 years from now that documentary will not be about an album from now but instead about how there was a time when we considered making documentaries about albums to be culturally relevant.

1 comment:

  1. Twenty years from now, fawning documentary directors from everywhere will be fighting in the Hollywood Bowl Gladiator Ring for the chance to make a documentary film about Empress Beyonce's rise to greatness.


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