A Wave of Nostalgia

By shane

It's sad when logging onto Excellent has become nostalgic in its own right.

We've let this site pretty much die, and that's pretty much sad. I don't even know what I can say on the subject while still keeping my shit together. I can't put my finger on why, almost without a word spoken between the lot of us, the admins of Excellent just sorta stopped updating things around here.

I guess I can offer some theories...

Theory #1 is one that makes my eyebrows curl. "WE GREW UP." God, I hope not. But even I, king of all lamer music nerds, have to make the concession that I haven't really gotten the tingly feelings in my armhairs over music much this year. Lord knows I've tried -- I'm still wasting most of my paychecks away on ill-conceived music purchases. But... the vigor just isn't there anymore. Back in the day, if a new release got delayed and I had to wait an extra week for it, it was a Major Crisis in My Life. Nowadays, ehhh, not so much. I can deal. As I type, there's a pile of CD's on my desk some 30 deep that I've bought yet haven't even cracked the plastic on. I'm still a spending fool, even if I'm an old one, so I'm nixing this theory.

Theory #2 is that We Got Busy. That's the honest truth of the matter. Liz (who I sadly don't speak with hardly ever these days) has an amazing design job in Chicago. Ajay's rocking his tech gig out in California. And me? Well, I'm now a paid newspaper columnist, and most of my writing free time must go towards that (though, admittedly, it's nice to hop onto Excellent and type the word FUCK without fear of an editor having a massive stroke.) So, yeah, growing up DOES equal other priorities that take away from the playtime we once spent fruitfully on Excellent. Proudly being a non-commercial site meant that we could never do this for a living, so the odds of it turning into a lame duck site were good, I suppose.

Theory #3, though, is the most troubling, though -- probably because, at least as far as I'm concerned, it's the right one. This theory is that Excellent Has Slowed To A Crawl Because The Music We Cherished From The Get-Go Has Dried Up. No matter what we've done to roll with the times, Excellent was founded as a wayward home for Stateside fans of UK indie music. And, well, UK indie music pretty much is a dead turd these days.

When Britpop waned out of the picture, we -- along with every other music journalist in the world -- told you not to worry. Scenes come and go, but great music is forever. But these days it's almost as if the entire concept has vaporized. Okay, sure, there's a lot of great bands out there making some fantastic sounds... but anything as captivating as the UK scenes of 88-96? Hardly. Bloc Party are a fantastic band, Kaiser Chiefs have their moments, Arctic Monkeys are fun, and even Coldplay and Keane (two bands that I don't much like) have their good bits. But to think that any of those bands would be worthy of launching a web site to celebrate any kind of UK "scene"? Laughable. Do any of today's top UK names hold the excitement of a Happy Mondays? A My Bloody Valentine? Pulp? An Oasis? Not hardly.

Not that we need a "scene" in order to function -- Lord knows we rallied against the Brit mags for trying to constantly invent scenes back in the day -- but God help me, at least the media hype used to provide some excitement. These days the NME is forced to rely on the heroin binges of Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse to sell issues, and that's just pathetic.

Perhaps a lot of this is also due to the state of music retail. How many of you still go to record stores every week? How many of you give a shit about album packaging anymore? With iTunes or a menu of lawless options at procuring music electronically, music has become a disposable commodity. And it's certainly hard to build hype around something like that. We started this website because music meant something to us far more than the average human. Yet the same internet we cherished to bring us closer together as fans has wrecked the visceral excitement of the whole thing. Nothing will ever replace the memories of staying up til 4 a.m. just to call Sister Ray Records in Soho to place an overseas order. Driving 3 hours to the north suburbs of Chicago just to pick up a Ride EP at the Turntable. Begging the local bookseller to import copies of NME, Melody Maker, Select, Q, etc. It's just history now. Want an import these days? Spend 5 minutes on the net and its yours. The thrill is gone.

Nothing drives the nail home quite like Rhino's "Brit Box" that just came out. Every band, every scene within a scene, every cultural touchstone that lit my heart ablaze for over a decade... can now be yours for the low price of $59.99. And hey, it lights up and blinks, too.

Is this the down side of aging? That the music which provided me with an unlimited vitality is now retro kitsch, boxed up for the kids who think Snow Patrol is pretty cool and want to see what England had to offer a decade ago?

Bands that I consider vital are now museum-ed up in a box set. Artists like Miki from Lush are doing interviews along the lines of "I'm a grey haired office worker now, but whoo, those days were something, eh?" I'm sorry, but I just don't like thinking of Lush as the music of yesteryear. As shallow as it is, my instinct is to say fuck-you, Miki -- I don't want you working in an office. I don't want Martin Carr's Facebook to say "Unemployed and looking for work." I don't want to find out that Bloc Party is being managed by one of the kids from Menswear.

I've always hated change. Maybe this is why.

I'm not a total pessimist, though, I'm really not. There's gobs of great new music being released every week. It's just a different era, and things are handled differently these days. Sure, I've got my iPod full of apparantly OLD FOGEY music now, but I've got plenty of new stuff on there, too. And not all of our aging heroes are desk jockeys these days -- The Verve are sounding brilliant on tour, My Bloody Valentine are actually claiming new material's less than a year away, and bands like Oasis keep soldiering on.

Music will never die. This site might. But I'm in no hurry to take it down. We've still got one hell of an active e-mail discussion list, and maybe we'll gradually return to frequent posting again. Maybe I'll go to the record store next week and my armhairs will tingle at the most unexpected of releases.

Time is a bitch. But we music nerds in it for the long haul, no matter how dated Rhino Records may try to make us feel.