Lately I’ve been obsessing a little bit with time perception. There is this VSauce video which covers the topic quite well, but one of the things that really stuck with me is the story of the time traveler. The story goes sort of like this: In this picture from the 40s you can clearly see a person who doesn’t fit in. He has clothes that look very modern, sunglases, a portable camera, etc… So what’s the first idea everyone got? he must be a time traveler.
He was of course not a time traveler, but a person that was dressing extremely casual for that time. This then generates the question: If we dress extremely casual for what it is normal today, are we going to be dressing as people will do in a hundred years? Who knows, maybe you even have existing photos that would make people in the future to freak out.
This phenomena is haunting me for a while now, and I recently found something that also fascinated me. I was an emo kid, and I listened to a lot of emo music during my teenage years. Most of the bands were terrible, but some of them really stuck with me and I still listen to them today. When reading about the origins of this kind of music and style, a band that I never heard before (not sure how) popped up: Rites of Spring.
The band formed in late 1983 is by many considered “the first emo band”. Which it’s a bit of a too-broad term, but it makes sense. Listening to the song “For Want Of” I just can’t believe that this music was out there in 1985. It feels like the time traveler from the photo but in music form. If I hear this song among the rest of the early 2000 emo bands, I would never suspect that this song was playing at the same time as “Like a Virgin” from Madonna, or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears were on the Hot 100 singles. If you listened to early My Chemical Romance, you can clearly see how similar their music was.
When I listen to “retro” music I can usually navigate in a very straight path from genre to genre, from sound to sound, and it is quite easy to follow where the influences are coming from. But I wasn’t aware that even Kurt Cobain cited Rites of Spring’s record as one of his favourites of all time. That also made me realize that yes: this music was made before Nirvana existed.
The band didn’t like the term “emo”, and didn’t want to be associated with it. But unfortunately that’s not how labels work. It is funny that being emo myself during my early teenage years, a meme between the emo kids was saying that “I’m not an emo kid”. We all knew we were, but we didn’t want to be associated with the label either.
Half of the musicians from this band went on to make a much more successfull band called Fugazi, which has its own merits, but they don’t resonate with me that much. Fugazi feels more grounded in its time and even if it has great songs, my brain can contextualize them in that time period.
I now have my eyes and ears open trying to guess what thing from today will be something considered “ahead of its time” in the future. And I hope that by then, I can be as facinated as I am now with Rites of Spring.