It is October second and I am nostalgic for a time I am too young to remember.
I am sitting in my car as I write this, half-conscious in the day’s dark beginnings, my thirty year old bones and my thirty year old brain still very much in mourning for the recent death of my twenties, and yet somehow I find myself verily wishing that I might instead be mourning the death of my thirties. This is what the pop culture of my adolescence did to me: when I was in the low double digits, plagued with bad skin and worse moods, mainstream rock music meant Dave Matthews Band, Korn, and Limp Bizkit. And pop music meant boy bands: a plague of furrow-browed chisel-chested date rapists waxing deceptive romantic. Guys like me clung to Nine Inch Nails like ship wreck drift wood and engaged in a myriad of self destructive coping mechanisms, the long term effects of which haven’t stopped haunting us and evidently never will. And in our weakest moments we were still told that our counter-cultural points of refuge were shameless and shameful derivations of forebears we were too young to remember.
I was a goth kid for roughly half of 1998. The winds of mainstream rejection blew me back until I hit Hot Topic; suddenly I had just cause for being in a mall, and for a brief moment I thought everything was going to be copacetic. This notion was promptly shattered the first time I told a Skinny Puppy fan ten years my senior about the artistry of Trent Reznor. I took heed of his subsequent admonishments and proceeded to do my early eighties alternative music homework, whereupon I discovered the truth behind his invective. He was right. In time I grew to envy him.
This uppity Goth Geezer got on the Goth train when it was still moving forward. He had been at its forefront: a trailblazer, an innovator. Simply put, he and others like him had found something new. I myself have never been at the forefront of anything, and no one my age can claim otherwise. I have never found something, anything, new.
These days I can only dream of what life might have been like as a kid if I had been born a decade sooner. Duran Duran sharing the zeitgeist with INXS, Depeche Mode, Cindy Lauper, and pre-bullshit U2. Teenaged girls with multi-colored braces singing “Like A Virgin” without grasping its meaning. Seeing Swans the first time around, systematically getting themselves banned from every dive bar and hole-in-the wall club they (dis?)graced with their presence. Seeing Foetus alone on stage enveloped by fog and strobe lights, equal parts solo revue and Hiroshima karaoke bar. Seeing Einsturzende Neubauten when they were surviving tours of Australia on ice cream and speed, their power tools drilling through London stages in search of abandoned WWII tunnels. Falling in love with Lydia Lunch in a smoke-choked pre-Giuliani New York dive bar as I learned to despise my gender. Listening to Jandek and wondering who the hell he was, why the hell he was, and whether Corwood Industries was accepting demos. Leonard Cohen going New Wave. Nick Cave miraculously living long enough to begin a solo career. Tom Waits getting married, sober and strange. And look, I would’ve remained faithful to Gary Numan no matter how close he came to Prince. I would’ve seen Bowie on the glass spiders tour and struggled to find a single damn thing to like about it. I would’ve learned how to program a Yamaha DX7. I could’ve enjoyed MTV when it was eminently possible to do so.
Yes, time has been good to 1984 as a result of how bad time has been to what has come after. Out of all the many corpses exhumed from the pop culture graveyard, 1984’s resurrection is perhaps the least abominable. It seems to have thus far evaded decomposition, and we can pop the lid off the coffin and marvel at how it actually looks like it’s only sleeping. And then we can climb inside and sleep beside it, singing ourselves to sleep with synth pop lullabies as visions of moon boots dance in our heads.