If you are in or around your mid-twenties, this probably isn't the first time you've felt the cold hands of classic-rockdom closing around your neck. (For me, it was seeing a Garden State DVD on the bargain shelf at an FYE. And then, right afterward, it was thinking, "Man, I can't believe I used to buy DVDs.") But the Coachella-driven Postal Service reunion is hitting my cohort pretty hard. Not because we don't enjoy The Postal Service--because a band from our youth had to reunite.
Ben Gibbard and the guy who isn't from Death Cab (Jimmy Tamborello, so you don't have to look it up) released Give Up, much to my surprise, 10 years ago next month. Learning that--that Give Up is as old now as In Utero was when Give Up came out--forced me to reevaluate my whole iTunes library. (Man, I can't believe people used to have iTunes libraries.)
That makes Owl City and the other Postal Serviettes post-grunge, I guess, which makes sense enough; it puts their disproportionate influence over contemporary pop, whether you're in favor of it or not, into a more manageable perspective.
It also makes this video's brief run-in with Apple, after the filmmakers replicated their clean-room video for a Macbook ad--which happened a year before the iPhone, if you're looking for an anchor--going on seven years old.
None of this is to say I really feel old--at least, not because of The Postal Service. People who actually do feel old would berate me if I did, and I can think of few less-appealing ways to face mortality than filtered through the age of your first indie rock album.
But so long as music is dominated by the idea of youth and newness--whether it's the mainstream's explicit hammering on it or the weightless boy-girl dynamics of a Postal Service lyric--every generation is going to run into this weird feeling eventually.
The Postal Service isn't nearly here yet, but I think this is the phenomenon people are afraid of:
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(Do not look at Mike Love's weirdly muscular body. Do not look at Mike Love's saxophone. Let Carl Wilson give you a tropical contact high.) Nobody wants to be a fan of a nostalgia band. Nobody wants to be a fan of a nostalgia band because as serious young music fans we've grown up railing against nostalgia acts, and all the damage they did keeping our bands off the part of the radio that plays "A Horse with No Name" at 22 and 47 minutes after the hour, every hour.
As a Weezer fan, believe me: I get it. I might not have loved "Beverly Hills," and the thought of going to one of their "Memories" shows, in which they play The Blue Album or Pinkerton in their entirety, is extremely appealing to me. But there's something vital--something good--about a band that's still reaching broad, new audiences.
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For all that, though, nostalgia acts exist for the same reason they scare us: We're worried about time passing. And if my hypothetical children, however many years from now, are tired of listening to "Hash Pipe" in the car, they're just going to have to deal with it: As technology drives culture into narrower and narrower channels, nostalgia acts are only going to become more unavoidable. If last year's Weezer Cruise wasn't enough 90s for you, later this year you'll be able to cruise with--deep breath--Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, Marcy Playground, and the god-damned Spin Doctors. (Tickets here, or visit AOL Keyword SugarRayCruise.)
The Postal Service's one-album discography means the middle-aughts indie set is probably prematurely terrified of its (our?) own demise; they never wore out their welcome to begin with, and they're nearly as influential as they've ever been. But it's not worth fighting, because nostalgia-dom is inevitable and not so bad, in moderation. And Death Cruise for Cutie will probably be a blast.