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Posts Tagged ‘Popular Music’

Who postponed the future? Why the power of nostalgia can hurt us all

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 30th 2019

Last week I attended a talk about one of the seminal bands of late 1970s Britain – Joy Division – where the author and cultural commentator Jon Savage discussed at an event run by Monorail, a wonderful independent record shop in the centre of Glasgow, the band, their music, originality and enduring influence.

It was a mesmerising talk about the power of music, importance of place and of Britain – both in the late 1970s and now. In one observation, Savage spoke of Joy Division as representing (in 1979-80) what could only be described as ‘music of the future’. By this he meant that it was firmly located in its social and political realities – the grimness of 1970s Britain and post-war Manchester, but that it transcended this, aspiring to a timelessness and sense of prophecy.

Such a rich talk before a receptive, if ageing, audience got me thinking about areas beyond music. There is the power of the past, why the UK and most other developed countries increasingly seem shaped by what has gone before, and what this climate of nostalgia says about our societies in the here and now, and the consequences for the future.

It is important to understand that there are at least two types of nostalgia. Svetlana Boym in her 2002 book ‘The Future of Nostalgia’ identified two that she called restorative and reflective. The former ‘puts emphasis on nostos (rebuilding home) and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’ – a kind of homesickness for the past. The latter ‘dwells in algia (aching), in longing and loss, the imperfect process of rememberance’; and unlike the former has the insight to know that we cannot go back. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Music of the Year: 2018

December 21st 2018

Gerry Hassan

This is my fourth year of doing a comprehensive music list of things I have bought, been listening to, and had come my way in the past year. It has been as usual an eclectic year musically but highlights include the Southside Record Club (meeting at Some Great Reward record shop) and listening to some great sounds through that, some stellar live gigs – with often the smaller the better (and a big hat tip to the Bungalow in Paisley), and some fantastic bootleg recordings.

But as with every year pride of place has to go to the new musical sounds that have impressed me this year – and here in reverse order – as in the old chart rundowns are my top ten spins of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future has been Postponed: Making Sense of the Age of Nostalgia

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 9th 2018

Nostalgia is everywhere. The past seems all around us – alive, noisy, ever-present, and more relevant and dynamic than the voices of today and the concerns of tomorrow.

Take a couple of examples. The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn seems to define its moral compass through a host of reference points from its past – from Keir Hardie to 1945. Then there is the regressive radicalism and conservatism of Brexit. And less seriously, there is how popular culture increasingly re-presents and repackages its past to the detriment of the present. Something is going on and should we be concerned with it?

Each of these examples tells us in a number of ways about the state of the present. First, the British Labour Party has, for much of its history, been shaped by its understanding and remembrance of the past. This includes past struggles, victories and defeats which have been experienced by the party, trade union movement and working classes. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Music of the Year: 2017

December 19th 2017

NEW ALBUMS

  1. The Visitor – Neil Young and Promise of the Real

Neil Young’s roving and rocking spirit look at the America of today. Hit and miss in places – but some hard rock and roll such as opener ‘Already Great’.

  1. Dark Matter – Randy Newman

Newman in typical sardonic form with his first album in nearly a decade and trademark laidback musical style and acerbic lyrics, ‘Putin’ being one of the best.

  1. Damn – Kendrick Lamar

Not as stellar and pathbreaking as ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ from 2015 but this is R ‘n’ B with personal reflection and social conscience.

  1. How the West Was Won – Peter Perrett

The uplifting music story of the year – once singer of new wave legends The Only Ones gets his life in order and returns with great tunes, lyrics and guitars.

  1. Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Jones made it as a star in her 40s and her soul sound gave Amy Winehouse her ‘Back in Black vibe. Sadly she died in 2016 and this is her last album filled with the spirit and passionate vocals she was known for. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Marra: The Bard of Dundee and Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 13th 2017

Michael Marra – musician, artist and force for good – was a precious Scottish gem. He was unique in his art but also in his delivery and style; singularly understated, modest and often humble to the extent that at times he hugely underpromoted himself and his work.

It is worthwhile celebrating that the writer James Robertson has contributed his time and intelligence to produce a biography of Marra – ‘Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment’. This is a fascinating book, and important beyond the subject of Marra in addressing music, the creative muse, the role of the artist and culture, and having something to say about his home town (and mine) Dundee – and contemporary Scotland.

Michael Marra was born in Dundee on February 17th 1952, the fourth of five children, and grew up in Lochee, then as now a working class part of the city. After an unhappy time at school and several routine jobs, Michael found his voice as a singer and songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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