Where are my tastes taking me? Do I want to go there?
I asked myself this question, at least a little facetiously, in a post a couple weeks back. If you've followed this blog at all in the last year, you know many of my listening hours have been spent with the Byrds, which led in turn to more groups from the late-60s/early-70s Laurel Canyon scene. I've slowly been following that trajectory into the 70s with mixed results—Joni is great, Fleetwood Mac has many great moments, America is offensively awful. Despite some misfires, I'm still undeterred in exploring this area of pop music (with the help of the Rising Storm, among others).
The thing is, I know where this ends: The Eagles. The Fucking Eagles. Connecting the dots, the line doesn't get much straighter moving from the Byrds to CSNY to the Eagles. The bands sprang literally from the same landscape, separated only by a few years.
And I know it just ain't gonna happen for me. I've loathed the Henley et al. ever since I was a wee lad watching Henley's ugly old face sullying my MTV. At some point, as I mine this period of pop music, I just know I'm going to come to a point where I say "enough." (Eagles aside, I know that many of my beloved Byrds went on to make some pretty crap records.)
Where are my tastes taking me? Do I want to go there? In the context of Laurel Canyon it's easy to mock that question. It's easy, as Richard did in the comments to that original post, to presume that I'm "worried" about where my tastes are going. (Granted, I've worried in the past.) But the fact is that with any sub-genre in which one gets thoroughly immersed, the answer, sooner or later, is no. No, you don't want to go there.
This simple truth occurred to me when I was having a discussion elsewhere about post-rock bands from the 90s—the many bands that were coming out of or inspired by the Louisville/Chicago axis: Slint, Rodan, Tortoise, June of 44, Rex, Him, the For Carnation, Shipping News, Ativin, A Minor Forest, Ui, Dianogah, To Rococo Rot, Kriedler, et alia ad infinitum. These bands were everywhere for a long time, including my own collection, and now they've largely fallen out of fashion both at large and in my personal estimation. Sure, I still have a soft spot for certain songs here and there (Ani-sette! Anisette!), but in general I cringe at the idea of listening to a band with two bass players or a baritone guitar playing angular riffs with all downstrokes, stark drumming playing in odd time signatures and stop-start beats.
Can't the same be said for any sub-genre? To love the harmonies and easy feelings of the Byrds must mean an inevitable loathing of the Eagles. To have your mind blown by Tortoise's blend of Ennio Morricone, Steven Reich, Can, and Miles Davis is to be inevitably underwhelmed by Ui's moody funk.
Some sub-genres go deeper than others, depending on your taste. One could spend years with "alt" country before noticing a vague sense of boredom with the latest Jay Farrar release; or maybe get one's fill of, I don't know illbient or dubstep, after just a couple albums and artists. There's a distinction to be made between genres and sub-genres (or even sub-sub-genres), of course. One could devote one's lifetime to the larger umbrella of country or electronic music. Despite not being very interested in post-rock, I'm still neck deep in indie rock (including a liking or at least awareness of bands like Battles or TV on the Radio, who are obvious descendents of 90s post-rock). It's the difference, I guess, between the interstate and the access road. You can travel on the latter for a stretch with some success, maybe passing by the gridlock of the genre at large; but eventually you run out of road.
Everyone has ruts: some impression that, well, music sucks. I just can't find anything interesting right now. But of course it's not music that sucks; you've just run out of road and it's time to get back on the interstate. Where are my tastes taking me? Do I want to go there? Yeah, for a while longer.