Unlike Jesse Hughey and Darryl Smyers, I do not have children yet. I come from a large family. My father is eldest of five, so it's understandable why I, a 33-year-old, have cousins who are teenagers.
Something I've wondered about with my cousins is the kind of music they like these days. Is their generation really all about hip-hop, screamo, dubstep, teen pop, and what Pitchfork says is cool? Do they truly care about (or care to know about) The Clash, Love, or At the Drive-In? Are my cousins like I was in high school, where I had a variety of interests, but was very guarded about sharing those tastes with others?
I hit up my 16-year-old cousin Andrew, who plays in his high school band and sings in choir. He was born when I was a junior in high school, so I wondered what bands he likes these days. He cites Fleet Foxes and Andrew Bird as some of his favorites. In turn, I introduced him to My Morning Jacket, Buffalo Springfield and Richard Hawley.
But I was curious to see what he thought of the music I listened to when I was his age. The following is a list of songs I associate with my high school years. Here's what he thought.
Pavement, "Cut Your Hair" A song I enjoyed because it seemed so goofy when I heard it in high school. Years later, after listening to all of Pavement's material, I think it's a wonderful song with some spot-on commentary about the exploitation of bands. Andrew's take: I see this as a song with a strong influence from rock and roll and a slight influence from punk music. Overall I like this one. I love its rhythm and use of vocal harmonies.
Sugar, "If I Can't Change Your Mind" Reading the ins and outs of the Houston Chronicle music section, I discovered this Bob Mould-associated juggernaut long before I heard Hüsker Dü. Andrew's take: I like its melody and I love the guitar part, especially in the last few measures. However, it has some influences from techno, the vocals sound like they are shrouded by a vial of Auto-Tune or something. I think the bright sound of the guitar part gives the song a very "yellow" feel. I am not a fan of yellow-toned music, but I do enjoy this one.
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Wilco, "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" I thank 120 Minutes for airing this video and Greg Kot for his four-star review of Being There in Rolling Stone. One of my all-time favorite bands. Andrew's take: It's got a nice beat to it, and plenty of influences from rock, which I like, however it's a bit "busy" in the background. But I do like how they made the "busy-ness" have a role in the music. It probably wouldn't sound near as good without it.
Hootie & the Blowfish, "Let Her Cry" I'm not going to pretend like I was some cool tastemaker in high school. And I truly believe more people my age were listening to Hootie more than EPMD and Public Enemy in those days. Andrew's take: Alright, I really like this one! It's got a "blue" tone to it, and sounds a bit like a lullaby. It has a nice texture to it as well. I also hear a similarity to modern Christian rock music.
Sunny Day Real Estate, "8" The first song I ever heard by this band. And when these guys were first around, I never heard the word "emo" associated with them. Andrew's take: This one is not so much for me. I'm not such a big fan of the influences from emo music, but I do enjoy the influences from indie rock, especially the guitar parts.
Oasis, "Live Forever" Lots of agitated music critics loved Definitely Maybe when it first came out. I'm still in the dark about its greatness, since I think its follow-up is a masterpiece. Andrew's take: I love the melody. I picture this song to be the predecessor to more modern indie folk/rock music, which I love. It sounds a little busy, but overall it's great.
Therapy?, "Screamager" Guys I knew talked about Therapy? like they were this dangerous and awesome band. When I heard this song, I was struck by how catchy it was. Andrew's take: It's got some pretty heavy rock influences, a bit too much for my tastes. However, I like the singer's voice; it reminds me of Bob Dylan and The Tallest Man on Earth.
Seven Mary Three, "Cumbersome" A very simple song by a band that was hated for being post-grunge. Andrew's take: I like its diverse sound, it feels like its influences are from both country and rock. Overall I like this one a lot; halfway through it feels like its going to end, but instead you are surprised by a subtle repetition.
Silverchair, "Tomorrow" Something I heard plenty of times in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This was a summer filled with Silverchair, Foo Fighters and Weezer. Andrew's take: I love its guitar melody in the beginning. However, it does transition often between a more melodic rock to a heavy rock frequently.
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Hum, "I Hate It Too" I never heard "Stars" on the Buzz, Houston's equivalent of the Edge, but then again, I didn't listen to the station that much, aside from Sunday night specialty shows. I learned this song because my high school band, Public Abuse, wanted to cover it. I liked how the drumming was like "Heart-Shaped Box." Andrew's take: I love the beginning guitar part. I also like the vocalist. It's a stretch, but he makes me think of the voice of Iron and Wine.
Sponge, "Molly (Sixteen Candles)" The guitar lines on this song gave me the chills back then. They still do. Andrew's take: I love the melody, and the vocal harmonies with the dissonant instrumentation in the background.
Everclear, "Heartspark Dollarsign" Sparkle & Fade was in constant rotation in my blue Pontiac Catalina. I think it's still the best thing Art Alexakis has done. Andrew's take: The lyrics are not something I normally comment on, but in this case, they are refreshingly creative and meaningful, especially when compared to current rock songs. I like it, but it's not my cup of tea.
Rollins Band, "Liar" The absolute heart of my teenage angst, circa ninth and tenth grade. While I still enjoy Henry Rollins' spoken word material, I find it hard to listen to him attempt to sing. Andrew's take: It definitely sounds like it has jazz influences, then turns around into a heavy rock song, then turns around again into a light "speaking" song. Then turns right back again It a rock song. You also never know where the lyrics are going to go. They are somewhat poetic, regardless of the "music in the back ground."