music and my ‘disaffected youth’

A conversation I had recently spurred me to think back to the music that had an impact on my person. I recall the early 1990s as a key turning point. The conversation referred to having a dark side, and I have been pondering a tangent of that notion.

Like many ‘youth’ of that time and generation, I was impacted on by bands which emerged in the early 90s and lyrically reflected on not fitting in with constructed social stereotypes. Most people instantly think of Nirvana, and I cannot deny the influence.

Arguably the song most remembered from that time is Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. For me, whilst Smells Like Teen Spirit had an impact, a number of songs by the band were much more profound. The demo version of Something in the Way still sends chills down my spine. Lithium resonates for other reasons.

Radiohead’s Creep also had a profound impact on my feelings of not fitting somewhere in ‘the’ world. Wanting to fit somewhere, though definitely not wanting to fit in what I saw in the world that television and the like were portraying, and questioning what and where that may be was a key aspect of my disaffection.

The label of middle class white boy angst has been used to refer to the rise in popularity of such music. For some, it was a reaction to the rise in the number of women expressing concern with sexism and patriarchy. Men were feeling uncomfortable in their place(s) in the world. Women were the misdirected target of many men’s reactions. I was unsure of my place, though soon found that my uncertainty and reactions were directed at the world. I had not come across the term patriarchy and had a broad, if undefined, understanding that sexism was (is) pretty fucked up.

In reflecting on that period, it was the influence that one band also had on me (alongside a number of others in the riotgrrl genre) that exposed me to non-understood issues and expanded my awareness — Hole. Pretty on the Inside was so raw, angry and powerful. Live Through This was so deep, reflective and amongst it all very positive. It provided a means for me to see beyond the negative responses tied to my masculine angst about not fitting in.

I somewhat lost my intent in writing this — a lot of things swelling around in my brain of late. My initial intent was to reflect on that place in the back of your mind from where cognitive dissonance stirs. The early stages for me — the lack of a means to understand my discontent and disaffection with the world — were brought to the surface by being exposed to others with similar thoughts. This was both through listening to music and finding others who this music resonated with. It makes me feel better in myself that I did not misdirect my angst towards women, rather soon was able to work out that patriarchy and the role of men in maintaining and perpetuating it — alongside the rampant consumerism that was bulging out of the seams of capitalism.

If nothing more, these are more thoughts for the week…

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