9.30.2008

Irony, Post-irony, or am I Just Thinking Too Much?

One of the strange things about being a 40 year old guy living in a college town is that you feel alternately younger (there's a lot of young people around, a lot of things that cater to young drunk people, like bars, pizza joints, wing joints, taxis, tailgating, bands, bars, etc), and really old and out of touch (like, there's a lot of young people here). One of the things that falls into that category is the awesome and sometimes baffling Penn State radio station, The Lion 90.7.

My question is this: when The Lion plays a series of tunes that goes something like the following, what does it mean?

(note that this list is by memory and probably not completely correct, and that they are currently playing, no lie, "So Into You" by the Atlanta Rhythm Section):

Like a Virgin, Madonna
Crosstown Traffic, Jimi Hendrix
I'm Amazed, My Morning Jacket
An Innocent Man, Billy Joel
Paul Revere, Beastie Boys
We Are the World
Me and My Uncle, Grateful Dead

So what the fuck is that? I know, there are a fair amount of hippie songs in there, and granted, it's not a real playlist, just an approximation, and a pretty good one, I think, of what I routinely hear on that station. For instance, I know I've heard "We Are the World" at least twice in the past week, which is twice more than the previous ten years.

The question is: the Madonna, the Billy Joel, the We Are the World, the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Is that ironic? Or are we so past irony that they're listening to these songs and saying, shit man, you know what, An Innocent Man is just as good a song as Crosstown Traffic or My Morning Jacket, and fuck you if you have some kind of preconceived old man notion about the level of coolness of post-Glass Houses Billy Joel?

Ironic or post-ironic? Or am I just too old and opinionated to even parse what's happening here?

10 comments:

Kistulentz said...

I like to say fuck you to post-Glass Houses Billy Joel. You got a problem with that, Housley?

On a serious note, at what level does a band like say the White Stripes lose its "alternative-ness"?

I mean, Jack White is about as alternative as Bing Crosby now. And have you seen/heard the Bond theme song with Alicia Keys? Makes me long for the good old days of "A View to a Kill."

Mike said...

I don't know shit about Penn State, but it seems like it might be the kind of place where you'd get an almost baffling blend of ironic college-style coolness blended with totally non-ironic Midwest-style earnestness. Or maybe it's just that college stations pretty much let the DJs play whatever the hell they want, and someone got a gig there who really fucking loves We Are the World?

I don't know, man, but that mix is indeed baffling. What's equally weird, and I'm sure you'll notice this if you haven't already, is going to a bar and seeing college kids get all excited and sing-alongey to songs they're much too young to actually have any legitimate "remember when we used to like this lame song" nostalgia. Ice Ice Baby, for instance. Or New Kids on the Block. Or Bel Biv Devoe.

In Iowa City, kids were always going batshit over Ice Ice Baby et al in bars, and I could never figure out what the fuck it meant. Then again, when I was in college we'd get all excited about certain 70s'era disco tunes none of us were really old enough to have lived through (or, well, we lived through them, maybe, but as tiny little babies) so maybe it's the same thing?

aaron said...

On the post-Glass Houses Billy Joel front, a few months ago, I was driving back from PA with 2 American University students who were working on Kylos's movie. I woke up from a nap to hear Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire...okay, i understand, that, I think...but then I realized the song wasn't on a playlist, but was the whole Storm Front album. And there was no irony involved.

dave said...

I suspect it's not irony, and that is really the most disburbing option.

Mike's right that there's a good mix of people here, hipsters and also your more midwestian Pennsylvania style students.

My wife, who teaches spinning at a gym across from the school, reports that her spinning chicks really react to the classic hard rock and what I guess you'd call classic hair metal.

I don't if this is good or bad, but it is weird, right? I mean, I expected to hear nothing but the Shins and the Hold Steady, and I'm drowning in the aforementioned post Glass Houses Billy Joel and the Atlanta Rhythm Section?

To be fair, there's also a really kickass funk show, and your prerequisite jam band hippie hour kinda thing.

But still, We are the World?

MattKP said...

I can't believe that you people are throwing around the phrase 'post Glass-Houses Billy Joel.'

Mike said...

As long as they don't start listening to that album where Billy Joel tried to be a classical pianist. Because that was ... a thing that happened.

But "An Innocent Man," both the song and the album, are post-Glass Houses, and I think of that as pretty much the heights of Billy Joel's career. Which isn't to say it's his best album or anything, but maybe the most Billy Joelish of all Billy Joel music? i.e. kind of annoyingly infectious and kinda charming but also super-earnest and goofy and painfully unhip.

aaron said...

How about "Post Birth Billy Joel"

dave said...

What do you mean by "you people" Kirkpatrick?

I like that this has morphed into a discussion of post-Glass Houses Billy Joel -- and I use that term mainly to confound Matt. It also sounds very much like a term Chuck Klosterman would use, which makes me wonder whether I accidentally plagiarized that one. Oh well.

A quick look at Allmusic and my suspicions are confirmed: we're right, everything after that was embarrassing tripe. Maybe we're really talking post-Christie Brinkley, actually.

Kistulentz said...

I still think that "Big Shot" needs to be covered by every insane heavy metal band ever. Circa 1987 G-n-R would have nailed it.

Mike said...

I went to a wedding this weekend at the Jersey Shore, and when I walked into the hotel lobby Friday afternoon there was some serious post-Glass Houses Billy Joel being piped in. Oddly, the music was piped in everywhere, even in the second-floor hallways.