Words by Peter Tanski
Peter Tanski grew up in the small but thriving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, fronting several bands and founding the music and literary fanzine, Exmortus. After a brief stint living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and writing for Legends Magazine, he returned to Pennsylvania where he began to work with web based music site NEPA Rocks. He currently fronts the melodic hardcore/punk band, Heart Out and hosts The Book of Very Very Bad Things PodZine.
“That gum you like is going back in style.”
As an aging human that came of age reading actual books that were printed and bound on paper, as well as consuming music and film on analog pieces of media, I have witnessed the most meaningful shift in art consumption via the internet and streaming. I was pulled, to my dismay, “naked and unwashed into a world that disrespects me”(as Paul Schrader would have said it). I’d never set a goal to become a man out of time, but keeping with my decidedly Luddite leanings, I prefer a tactile experience to digital one.
Sadly, preferring to retain physical artifacts of the art that I so adore and champion requires warehousing. I need more space for my stuff as I’ve stuffed my space full of stuff. That’s the conundrum. I have become more discerning in regards to which novel or record, film or fanzine, deserves a parcel of land upon which to graze. Hence, I’ve allowed myself to pivot. To pay for streaming service. To experience film on a provider like Netflix. In doing so, I’ve discovered more about youth culture, and my place in it, than I’d have ever imagined.
There has most certainly been a unique resurgence in 80s/90s nostalgia regarding music, and I posit that Netflix is a massive part of this equation. [hard stop.] I know, man. It’s a very lame assertion. But when one truly examines the hows and whys of mass media’s influence on the subculture, it is simple arithmetic. A bunch of aging hipsters are now the people steering these ships. People who had grown up when I did, and dig the same things that I had, are running shows on Netflix and Hulu, Amazon and HBO.
I recently attended a birthday party for a friend’s child, and the theme of this 8 year old’s soirée just so happened to be the ever relevant Stranger Things. This moody, Dungeons and Dragons themed tale borrows, liberally, from Alien and The Thing and has been heavily laced with John Carpenter styled synth-scapes. It’s soundtrack has been impregnated with Post-Punk, Shoegaze, and 80’s alternative music from the first episode. Heck, Winona Ryder is the mom! It is a show perfectly designed to not only bridge the gap between parents in their 40s and the children they raise, but inspire questions. “What was cool? Who did you love, Dad?” and “What is it about this that excites you most, Son?” Not as trivial as one would assume.
On a less genre and nostalgia oriented program, the network in question rolled out a teen suicide flagship show in 13 Reasons Why. A rather maudlin affair that takes place in a modern school setting, in which the main character’s best friend in a handsome, Gothy, tough guy that makes him mixtapes of everything from The Cure and The Smiths to The Chromatics. Another soundtrack that stripmines the underground.
My position is not that these are negative or positive, they just are. My position is that we are having a moment. This climate is such that Iggy Pop’s “Every Loser” (Gold Tooth/Atlantic Records) can find the ears of a kid in Boise that would not have had occasion to, had it not been for dark superhero comedy The Boys’ inclusion of “The Passenger”. Pure Adult “II” (FatCat Records) will come into the world with greater potential for listenership based on the fact that these television shows have produced an interest in such sounds.
Have I grown soft? Am I being entirely too forgiving? Well, I’m not saying Damien Done’s “Total Power” (Mind Over Matter) will have a top 40 hit in it’s future, but the opportunity for a more open playing field is certainly there. Palm Ghosts (Ice Queen Records) will drop a new EP this February, to a world hungry for their brand of gloom. The almighty Depeche Mode (Venusnote/Columbia) have set a March date for their new record, and shall, most assuredly, be readily consumed
Had the Duffer Brothers or the show runners for Yellowjackets only cared to listen, The True Faith’s “Go To Ground” (a la Carte recordings) is comprised of 9 bleak pop gems just begging to be lain atop a scene or 3 in a show that would be all the better for it. Do they seek authenticity? Catholic School (Cercle Social) continues to release singles from the aborted Suicide at Sun Studios sessions.
The gatekeeping elitist in me just seethes with animosity when considering these “poser” streaming series’, but my gut hasn’t held dominion over my head in decades, and my metered response to Hollywood cherrypicking at my cultural touchstones is this… stop playing to the front row. Keep digging. Sure, 13 Reasons has Carseat Headrest and artists on Italians Do It Better, but keep digging. The state of the current scene is an embarrassment of riches. There are literally hundreds of preternaturally talented independent artists that fully deserve to be heard. My advice… my plea… put them on your damn show’s soundtracks! “You’d be cooler if you did.”