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From my cold, dead hands…

July 20, 2011

Here at TBTS, I’ve discussed nostalgia. I hope that I have adequately conveyed the idea that we experience different kinds of nostalgia. There is the kind where you sheepishly admit to having enjoyed a certain band or movie in the past, but you have grown or your taste has changed so that said band or movie no longer appeals to you. There is also the kind of nostalgia that bites you on the ass when you realize that something you loved was actually never very good to begin with.

Today I will discuss defiant nostalgia. A kind of nostalgia that makes us cling to the joys of our youth. A kind of nostalgia that rages against the proverbial dying of the light. A kind of nostalgia that says “Back, thou cur! Though it be uncool thou shalt ne’er changeth my mind! Forsooth. Verily. Betwixt.”

Queensryche, Operation:Mindcrime album coverMy first and main example is the band Queensryche. Or, more accurately, Queensrÿche, with the ubiquitous 80’s metal umlaut. For much of the early-to-mid-90s, Queensryche was my favorite band in the universe. Between 1988’s Operation:Mindcrime and 1994’s Promised Land, I devoured everything they released, including a song on the Adventures of Ford Fairlane soundtrack and an imprudent prog-metal cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” (which really has to be heard to be believed).

In post-Cobain America, liking Queensryche is decidedly not cool. Admittedly their newer material (especially since guitarist Chris DeGarmo left the band in 1998) has ranged from sub-par to downright embarrassing, but the older stuff is pure prog-metal awesome straight from the tap. The epic scope of the conceptual Operation:Mindcrime and the socially conscious lyrics found on 1990’s Empire are still high points for me. The musicianship, especially that of DeGarmo, is top-notch. These are default albums on my iPod; albums I’ll listen to when I can’t decide what to listen to. The biggest fight I ever had with my parents was when I was 16 years old and they wouldn’t let me drive an hour and a half to Baltimore to see Queensryche in ’91. Dated though the style and production may be, I can’t imagine ever not liking this material and I will defend it against all detractors. In fact, I know a handful of folks with widely varied musical tastes who count Mindcrime and Empire among their favorite albums.

An example from the art of motion picture is1980’s Xanadu. It is a saccharine slice of late 70’s pie. A roller-disco-meets-rock-n’-roll musical with outrageous dance numbers and an eyebrow-raising cast featuring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Newton-John, 32 at the time, is way hot as the Greek muse of dance, Terpsichore (traveling to Earth in disguise as the roller-disco-ing Kira). Xanadu was Gene Kelly’s last feature film and he appears to be having a good time in it. The movie is rumored to have been the inspiration for the Razzies and received several nominations at the 1st Golden Raspberry Awards, including “Worst Picture” and “Worst Actress”. (Interestingly, Xanadu was directed by Robert Greenwald, whose oeuvre of late has included various activist documentaries exposing government and corporate misdeeds, real and imagined.)

When I was a kid, we lived overseas a lot and only had a few movies on VHS. Xanadu was one of them. I say this not as an excuse, but an explanation, for I genuinely like this movie. A large part of the reason is its soundtrack, half of which was composed and performed by the kings of over-the-top production: Jeff Lynne and ELO. The songs are simply great. Though Xanadu was a box office failure the soundtrack sold very well, eventually going Double Platinum and spawning six hit singles, many of which I guarantee you’ve heard but just didn’t realize were from that movie.

Certain subcultures in today’s allegedly sophisticated audiences have taken to claiming to like things “ironically.” They do it in the hope that it will shield them from criticism. They’re afraid to put their neck out and lose cred in their social circle by professing to like something no one else likes. (Odd, considering that liking something no one else likes is evidently very important and a big part of these folks’ collective identity.) Apparently, it’s OK to like anything others might consider silly as long as you’re doing it ironically.

Screw that. I am not ashamed. You will have to pry my vinyl copy of the Xanadu soundtrack and my well-worn Mindcrime cassette from my cold dead hands. What about you, dear readers? What thoroughly uncool stuff do you love defiantly and unapologetically?

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4 Comments
  1. Paul the Geek permalink
    July 20, 2011 3:37 pm

    I remembered another movie I love and I don’t care what anybody thinks. 1987’s zany Madonna vehicle “Who’s That Girl.” There are parts of that movie that still make me LOL.

  2. Lloyd permalink
    July 21, 2011 11:50 am

    80s British pop, even the bands that don’t have the post-punk cred–Duran Duran, Human League, and the like.

    The dumbass, juvenile grossout comedies of my youth and adolescence–Revenge of the Nerds all the way up through American Pie and Van Wilder, etc.

    A whole lot of rap, old and new, though the misogyny and homophobia bug the crap out of me–I love the music and poetry despite the parts that offend me.

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