“Double dating” is a concept my wife and I have talked about for a while; it’s where a piece of media — usually a movie or TV show — exhibits elements of two distinct time periods. Most commonly it results from the art being set in a particular time period, but unintentionally carrying distinctive elements of its own time period as well, which don’t really become apparent until much later. Think “Happy Days.” It’s set in the ’50s, but there are definitely elements (like hair styles) that are more characteristic of the ’70s era when the show was actually produced.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been having a lot of the same feelings towards the music of Com Truise. I discovered Com Truise (stage name of musician and graphic designer Seth Haley) around 2012 when his In Decay album was released. I immediately latched onto the hazy nostalgia it evoked for my early ’80s childhood and the exciting technologies of that era.
I listened to a lot of Com Truise from about 2012 to 2014. And now when I listen to this music, I have a different kind of nostalgia. I still feel that pull to my ’80s childhood, but I also have much more distinctive memories from the early 2010s to associate with the music as well. I had a lot of good things going on in those years. My business was relatively new and growing, my kids were in school and starting to have their own distinctive personalities, and I was just generally enjoying a lot of what was going on in the world because things seemed to be pointing in a positive direction.
I’ve lost a lot of that optimism over the past 8 years though. In a nutshell, it’s not so easy as a white person to ignore all of the terrible things other white people do in the world. And even as a light has been shone upon these transgressions, the worst among us are doubling down on bad behavior and destructive attitudes. Plus we have the increasingly frequent climate change-related disasters that only the most stubborn or brainwashed can continue to deny.
But there have been more personal struggles as well: aging (and then eventually dying) parents, the difficulties of adolescence for our kids, my own aging body, the souring of some aspects of my business (*cough* Gutenberg *cough*). There have been plenty of good things too though, especially around my involvement in music. But overall, I would give the past several years a negative score.
All of that does make me nostalgic for the halcyon days of the early 2010s, and that’s a period I strongly associate with the music of Com Truise.
I’m in a Radiohead mood today, listening to A Moon Shaped Pool, and I decided to kill some time (a.k.a. distract myself from work) by looking for a “listicle” ranking their albums, to see if I agreed with it. Here’s what I found. Pretty good. I would swap the positions of Amnesiac and Pablo Honey, and probably knock The Bends down to fifth (moving A Moon Shaped Pool and In Rainbows up by one each). Honestly I have barely listened to Pablo Honey (ever) or King of Limbs (beyond about a month after its release)… and I haven’t really listened to Hail to the Thief since In Rainbows came out.
It’s also hard for me to process the fact that they only have 9 studio albums… back in the early 2000s when I listened to them a lot there were a handful of EPs, extended singles, a live album, etc. that made their catalog seem a lot bigger.
(Also yes I did notice the author got the release year of Pablo Honey wrong… it was 1993, not 1995!)
I can tell when some of these were released by the mental image I have of where I was when I was listening to them.
Pablo Honey (1993) and The Bends (1995) — I didn’t really listen to Radiohead in the ’90s, but I remember these being on the periphery of my awareness in college.
OK Computer (1997) — I first heard this one in a friend’s studio apartment in Loring Park, Minneapolis shortly after it was released, and now I was paying attention to these guys. (We were living in California at the time, but I spent the night hanging out with some college friends when I came back to visit my family in Minnesota.)
Kid A (2000) — I remember first talking about it with my bandmates (one of whom was a coworker at my job at the time) at a rehearsal in our drummer’s basement in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis.
Amnesiac (2001) — I was working from home for the first few months after we moved to Atlanta, and I listened to this sitting in my basement workspace.
Hail to the Thief (2003) — Another basement… this time I was working for a travel industry startup with a terrible early 2000s tech startup name (and long-since defunct), and my desk was in the basement of a converted house in the northern Atlanta suburbs.
In Rainbows (2007) — The first pay-what-you-want album! I splurged for the big vinyl-plus-CD-plus-coffee-table-book set. I most associate it with my home office in the back bedroom of our first house in Minneapolis.
The King of Limbs (2011) — My wife was teaching at the University of Minnesota when this came out, and I was already self-employed at that point. I would meet up with her on campus for lunch once a week, and on those days I would generally just hang around somewhere on campus with my laptop working. I always associate this album with sitting in the open area on the lower level of the then-brand-new Bruininks Hall.
A Moon Shaped Pool (2016) — Another one I immediately purchased on vinyl. This was spinning frequently in the storefront studio space I was renting at the time in the East Nokomis area of Minneapolis.
Oh yeah… since that listicle I linked to will probably be as dead as my old travel industry tech startup’s website when I want to look back on this in 10 or 20 years (eek), here’s my ranking as of right now:
9. The King of Limbs 8. Pablo Honey 7. Amnesiac 6. Hail to the Thief 5. The Bends 4. A Moon Shaped Pool 3. In Rainbows 2. OK Computer 1. Kid A
Last week my wife tipped me off to this amazing artifact on YouTube, the broadcast by Pittsburgh’s channel 11 of the special Solid Gold Countdown ’82, which is… just… well… I can’t even put it into words. We watched the whole thing.
There is so much to unpack here. If you didn’t live through 1982, this will feel like it’s from another planet. As for me, it feels like going home.
But, I just have to say… of everything in here, the little nugget that has stayed with me for days after watching it is the commercial for a local car dealership, offering the low low interest rate of…
Today I woke up with a couple of nerdy ranking lists floating around in my head. I suspect these will get expanded into YouTube videos in the near future, but for now, just the straight lists. These are my personal rankings of all Rush albums, and all Metroid games.
Rush Albums Ranked
It’s probably worth noting here that I got seriously into Rush when I was a freshman in high school, in 1989, so there’s a definite before-and-after feel going here. The stuff that already existed when I got into them seemed mythic and eternal; the stuff after that is all “the new stuff” to me, even though the oldest of “the new stuff” is now 33 years old… but when it came out, the band’s first album was only 16 years old. (As was I.)
Moving Pictures (1981)
A Farewell to Kings (1977)
Permanent Waves (1980)
Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Clockwork Angels (2012)
Snakes and Arrows (2007)
Power Windows (1985)
Caress of Steel (1975)
Vapor Trails (2002)
Hold Your Fire (1987)
Fly by Night (1975)
Roll the Bones (1991)
Test for Echo (1996)
I suspect many Rush fans would criticize my low placement of 2112 but I stand by it. I just don’t think it’s that great. I find the side-long suite on Caress of Steel to be more musically and conceptually interesting, and the other tracks on Caress are much more interesting than the utterly forgettable side 2 of 2112. I couldn’t even remember all of the songs. (After really straining my brain muscle I was able to come up with “Tears,” but I had to look at Wikipedia to remember “Lessons.”) I even prefer “I Think I’m Going Bald” to most of the filler tracks on 2112.
The Live Albums
Yeah, Rush had a bunch of live albums too. Earlier on in their career, they had a nice formula of four studio albums, then a live album. After Neil’s life fell apart in the late ’90s with the deaths of his wife and daughter, and the band’s future became more uncertain, they started releasing a live album after every studio album, plus some other archival material, and things got messy. I’m not even sure I’m accounting for all of them here. Anyway, here’s the list:
A Show of Hands (1989)
Grace Under Pressure Tour (recorded 1984, released 2009)
Exit… Stage Left (1981)
Rush in Rio (2003)
R40 Live (2015)
Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland (2011)
Clockwork Angels Tour (2013)
Snakes and Arrows Live (2008)
All the World’s a Stage (1976)
Different Stages (1998)
I have to give special recognition to Grace Under Pressure Tour, because when the DVD of that was finally released in 2009, and I watched it, my jaw dropped. I suddenly remembered that I had seen it on TV in 1985 and was mesmerized by it, but that was the only time TV or radio ever exposed me to Rush growing up. By the time I was in high school, I had all but forgotten it. (Which is to say, when a friend first played me a tape of A Show of Hands, I knew I had heard of Rush, but didn’t remember having ever heard them.)
Metroid Games Ranked
I’m almost as much of a Metroid nerd as I am a Rush nerd. As with Rush, my first taste of Metroid was pretty far removed from my obsession with it. The same friend who introduced me to Rush in high school also owned an NES (I didn’t), and I played Metroid a few times at his house. I was intrigued by this disturbing and immense underground world, but it was also disorienting and brutally difficult.
For various reasons I never owned or even played an SNES (Super Metroid was released when I was a junior in college), and I totally skipped the N64/PlayStation generation of consoles too, because… my god, those polygons and textures just plain sucked, and the games all looked like absolute ass. The GameCube drew me back in though — the first actual console I owned since my Atari 2600 (not counting an Atari 7800 I bought NOS from Radio Shack’s mail order catalog in the late ’90s) — and I was obsessed with Metroid Prime, the first Metroid game I truly experienced.
A year or two later I bought a Game Boy Advance SP, and played Zero Mission and Fusion, then of course Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, also on the GameCube. I loved all of those. The DS Metroid games were kind of crap though, and I could never get the hang of the Wii motion controls on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Fortunately, the Wii also introduced the Virtual Console, and I finally got to experience the magic of Super Metroid. (That was also how I introduced my then 5-year-old son to the world of Metroid.)
After that, the Metroid franchise all but died out, because Nintendo seemed to actively try to kill it with misguided garbage like Other M and Federation Force.
And then came Samus Returns, on the 3DS. Ohhhhh man. That game scratched the itch. Needless to say, Metroid Dread carried on where that one left off, and I am eagerly awaiting Metroid Prime 4.
And now, the list:
Metroid Dread (Switch)
Super Metroid (SNES)
Metroid Prime (GC)
Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC)
Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)
Metroid Fusion (GBA)
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)
Metroid Prime Pinball (DS)
Metroid II: Return of Samus (GB)
Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS)
Metroid: Other M (Wii)
Classic NES Series: Metroid (GBA)
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS)
Finally… just in case you didn’t get the reference in this post’s title:
Reading John Gruber’s thoughts on the potential future existence of an iPhone SE 4, which necessarily included a note on the lack of an ongoing slot in the iPhone lineup for my beloved 13 mini, got me once again thinking more generally about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, as my 49th birthday approaches in 2023.
That thing I have been thinking is, this is not the future I signed up for. I’m beginning to understand why older people get set in their ways and cranky about change, in ways that probably could not have occurred to me until I had lived enough to experience a lot of things firsthand.
I remember lots of things, both good and bad. Most things, in general, improve and get better over time. But some things get worse — at least, worse by my subjective standards, because there are certain things I don’t want, like a phone that’s too big for me to use with one hand, or fit comfortably in my jeans pocket.
Possibly even more frustrating than things that get worse are things that just stop existing. Things I really liked that are now gone, especially if they are gone for reasons that I do not think are sound. That happens a lot for me with styles of music or genres of video games. I want new synthwave music* that I can get as excited about as when I first heard Tycho and Com Truise in 2012, for instance, or new Castlevania games that are as good as Aria of Sorrow.
True, sometimes those glories do return, and 2021 gave me a double whammy, in the form of Mitch Murder’s Then Again album and the all-time classic Metroid Dread. But more often than not, I just have to move on and give up on dreaming of a decent modern SimCity game, or a computer Scrabble that will ever be even a fraction as “smart” as the GameHouse version I loved back in 2006.
The world is change. I get that. It’s just hard to let go of things that I know are better than what has replaced them, and that makes me cling desperately to the old things I have that I’m still able to enjoy, whether that’s 40-year-old vinyl records on my turntable or 20-year-old GameBoy Advance ROMs in an emulator.
The true nature of the curmudgeon, I think, is not borne of pessimism. The curmudgeon is not purely a crank. It’s optimism, idealism. Belief in a world that could and should be better than the one we’re living in, because you remember something that’s gone. And beyond that, you remember the trajectory those past things suggested we were on. But somehow we never got where we were going.
Now, let me be clear: I’m not one of those MAGA types who longs for a return to their fictional, idealized version of what the 1950s were (at least, for white people). I’m inspired by the progress we are making towards a more equitable society for everyone — even as I see how far we still have to go. I’m longing for a future world that never was, but that I believed we could — and would — have by now.
Ironically, it was the sci-fi dystopias that were so popular in my childhood in the 1980s, that seemed to get many of the worst things about the 21st century right. The techno-fascism of corporations more powerful than governments, spying on our every action as a way to make more money. Aggregations of the intimate details of millions of people’s personal lives have become the most valuable commodity around. I didn’t believe this was the future we would have, but here we are.
I just want a small phone, some good music to listen to on it (ideally through wired headphones and a 1/8″ jack), and maybe a couple of games that are actually mentally stimulating instead of just “idle” ways to give up money or personal information in an endless stream of “microtransactions.”
Is that too much to ask?
* Of course, synthwave itself is an appeal to the future-should-be-better-than-it-is nostalgia of people (like me) who grew up in the 1980s.