I have always been a bit of a music snob and a bit of a music sponge at the same time. I have gone through as many musical phases as I have gone through life experiences. I can probably look back at all my conscious years and name a song to describe how it felt to be me, then.
My early high school years were dominated by gangster rap. From the fat, heavy beats of Dr. Dre to the explicit for the sake of being explicit rhymes of Brotha Lynch Hung, I listened to it all. The teenage angst of my own trouble fitting in and desire to distance myself from the stability of suburbia were somehow translated to stories of violence, drinking, smoking and endless easy sex. I bought into the East-West rivalry of the genre, and listened to my West coasters and laughed at the East — of Notorious BIG and Tupac, the latter was the one I missed.
My next phase was the booming metal of Black Sabbath (and later the stylings of the rapidly incoherent Ozzy Osbourne), the hard and fast Motörhead, the theatrical black glamour of Judas Priest. Newer forms of the genre, from vintage Metallica to Dave Mustaine’s idea of Metallica in Megadeth, joined my playlists.
But those didn’t last for me, and Roger Waters’ rock opera The Wall drew me into the world of Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Jethro Tull. There are few joys quite like smoking pot and watching The Wizard of Oz on mute and playing Dark Side of the Moon, which, at that moment seems to sync remarkably well. There may indeed be something in it, as the end result seems to stray closer to the undercurrents of L Frank Baum’s original intentions.
And onward I went — blues, folk, electronica, R&B — all have a time in my life and all have a place in my music collection. There has only been one constant, and that is the music of what I consider to be the greatest musical figure of the last 5 decades: David Bowie. But one of the greatest things about his body of work is his own ability to shrug off his current reality and reinterpret music fresh. His musical evolution mirrored my own interests, with distinct periods each appealing to me at different times. Years ago, perhaps the greatest David Bowie album to me was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, but today I feel a strong connection to the more recent Heathen, with its exploration of the themes of the instability and self-degradation of the human race.
While my musical taste has changed, the music in my library has simply accumulated. The Eminem MP3s I originally downloaded almost two decades ago were taking up space in my library, and forever held me back from my current interests. It became baggage. It was heavy, and instead of searching for new songs or artists, I would just go back into my old favourites.
I had just packed up a couple suitcases and moved across the world from North America to Europe, so I was familiar with the necessity for leaving behind that which curbs your change.
And so, into the bleak oblivion of the digital graveyard that is my computer’s trash went 48 gigabytes of my old music, the only thing remaining being the David Bowie albums that had been there with me from the beginning.
Some might say I need to lose those too to complete the process, but I argue that it may very well have been him who taught me that constant change is the only way to survive, intact.
And so, out of the death of this past salesman rose a more Dutch-inspired collection — for the time being. Constantly using one of those applications on my phone that identifies a song from the sound, I have found a deeper appreciation of Seu Jorge’s multi-disciplined explorations of the fusion of the anglophone and Brazilian influences, the light yet surprisingly rhythmic and very Belgian arrangements of Aeroplane, Australian ska band Cat Empire, and that one song by Tove Lo called Habits that has popped up everywhere.
And then, when all is said and done and, like the kids from The Destructors, I will wipe out these “Old Miseries” as well to build up something new, in time.