I know Phosphorescent from a Newport Folk Festival Concert a number of years ago. I remember liking the show, although I feel a little disappointed by this Tiny Desk Concert. This show is just Matthew Houck and his guitar.
The blurb says that Phosphorescent specializes in “free wheeling weariness.” And that seems to be true. It also says that Houck’s voice is weary after a lengthy tour and could barely speak which made his voice sound even more weary. Phosphorescent was wrapping up months of touring and Houck could barely talk, let alone sing solo for 20 minutes on camera. We quickly hooked him up with as much herbal tea as we could find and coaxed that crooked croon back to life.
I found all four songs to be pleasant and, yes a little weary-filled.
I know that Phosphorescent is basically a solo project for Houck. but when I heard the Newport Folk festival show back in 2013, he had a full band with him. And I think the fuller sound made his songs sound, well, fuller.
“My Dove, My Lamb” is a pretty song, gently picked with a rather lovely sound and good lyrics. After “We’ll Be Here Soon” he says that “The Mermaid Parade” is in the same key with a lot of the same chords, “I’m okay with that if you are.” The songs do sound rather similar. Before “Los Angeles” he says he has a new guitar with new tuning. I can’t iamgine what he means by that. Is he playing all of his sings with the strings tuned differently?
All four songs were pleasant, but they didn’t make me want to get his record.
[READ: January 26, 2016] “The Packaging (and Re-packaging) of a Generation”
Since I found the essay by David Lipsky in the recent Harper’s I decided to see if he had written anything else for Harper’s over the years. In fact he hadn’t, but they had excerpted a portion of a book that he co-wrote, Late Bloomers: The Declining Prospects of the Twentysomething Generation. Interestingly, on Amazon, only Alexander Abrams is listed as an author, but only Lipsky’s bio is given )no respect for Gen X). Of course, the book is only available used since it is 22 years old, but as the slackers say, whatever.
Back in the 90s I read an enjoyed a lot of books about my generation–Gen X–from insightful commentary to parody. And I’m somewhat surprised that this one missed my radar–although the title is a bit of a downer, let’s be fair.
The Publishers Weekly Review from back then states “In this sweeping and often dull analysis,” but for what it’s worth I found this excerpt to be pretty interesting. Now if that could be sustained for 224 pages is something else entirely.
This excerpt breaks down into a few salient arguments. The first is that before 1990 people of the twentysomething generation were regularly labelled as “growing up too fast,” and were “too comfortable working and studying and didn’t know how to play.” Whether this was a bad thing or not, all the researchers felt that students were “older than they used to be” and were “interested in jobs and sex, in that order.”
The kicker is that in 1989, Fortune wrote: “seldom have the personal attitudes of a graduating class meshed so neatly with the needs of business.”
But then in July 1990, Time wrote of the same students, for the “puzzling twentysomething crowd…second best seems just fine.” Even Fortune wrote in 1990 that young people “refused to make sacrifices” for the sake if employers.
Why the change? This was the part that fascinated me in retrospect. Having grown up as a slacker, I wondered why I was one.
The worst recession since 1922 started in July 1990. Between May 1990 and May 1991 about 400,000 people over 30 lost their jobs but a million people under thirty lost theirs.
I found this paragraph especially insightful into the media both then and now:
The larger middle class looks for explanations not in economic trends but in character flaws–someone else’s character flaws. In the 1970s it was hippies, in the 1990s it was another new generation of idle kids.
They also quote Bob Guccione, Jr. the publisher of Spin who noted that the negative labels are propaganda. If businesses believe that young people are passing time at McJobs, it allows them to preserve opportunities or people over 30.
There’s also the possibility that this kind of thinking would seep into our unconscious to prevent us from being more upset about it. “If we never cared about career and material success, it would be less distressing for us–and for the country–when we didn’t achieve them.”
I find that to be strangely apposite and distressing. Something that I think many of my peers have had a hard time getting over.
The final paragraph has a wonderful nod about irony and how twentysomethings have embraced it. “It’s no surprise. If you devote everything to getting ahead–if in the argot of an earlier generation, you ‘sell out’–and then discover than there is no market for your goods, what other response than irony is there?”
I know that no one care about gen Xers anymore–we are often overlooked between the greatest generation and the new wunderkinds, but I’d be curious if this book was revisited today with a historical perspective, how well it would hold up. I’d also be interested in reading it, but I fear I would just get depressed.