It’s been happening for a while now and, I suppose, I’ve been recalibrating and preternaturally bracing for the full-fledged revival of my 1990s. I say my because the dates and influences aren’t clean—I picked up on some late-80s stuff late and I’d be hard pressed to clearly call anything by a proper label such as riot grrl or grunge. My fandom has never been categorical.
Courtney Love was on Studio 360 on Sunday, babbling on about her fucked-up life and Kurt and Francis. I listened inattentively, my ears perking up only when the producers played a clip of Doll Parts off Hole’s 1994 album, Live Through This. The sound is vinegary. Instantly, I am transported back in time, not to some show (although I seem to have a vague recollection of catching Hole on tour through Ithaca), but into architecture studio: headphones on, hunched over a drafting board, drawing lots and lots of lines. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that my thesis was bathhouse in San Francisco based on corseting and peepshows, seeped in feminist architectural critique, given my steady musical diet of Hole, Liz Phair, Belly, and the Breeders.
More time travel today. I walked into my local coffee shop, Outpost, a bright spot on a particularly run down stretch of Fulton Avenue in Brooklyn. The foppy server has the Pixies’ Surfa Rosa playing on LP. Kim Deal hollers “This is a song about a superhero named Tony It's called: Tony's Theme,” and wham, back at the drafting board marking time in graphite. I have to admit that it is not quite authentic to play that 1988 album on vinyl; he’s a twenty-something Pratt student, so I’ll cut him some slack on the record-playing pretension. For me it is all about cassette.
I was thinking about cassettes a couple weeks ago when Sonic Youth headlined McCarren Pool. They played their 1988 Daydream Nation start to finish: balls-out rock ‘n roll kicked off with the opening chords of Teen Age Riot. It is an unnatural way to present the music live. Bands always mix up the hits, otherwise it’d be like singing along in the car, but without tape hiss. Playing Daydream Nation in its entirety preserves something that never happened: it fictionalizes, makes an art piece. Is it Fluxus or an easy way to recontextualize and commodify Sonic Youth for a younger generation?
While my musings on retro have yet to really codify, they began while standing in the aquamarine pool, the remaining paint flaking off while luxury condos, in various states of construction, rise tall around the perimeter. The space is a vestige of 1936 Robert-Moses brand optimism, layered with 80s nihilism, and today’s narcissism, or is it apathy? Hard to say. The band sounded great, the people looked cool, and Kim Gordon danced around the stage with abandon.