Synth music bringing back the music and film passion that we’ve lost in the new millennium.
Netflix is terrible.
Prime video is a minefield of movies that someone financed through selling an organ.
Sky has so many channels that I don’t watch anything. And when I do it certainly isn’t live. And I’m paying good money to watch the same stuff repeated week on week.. the only exception to this is the stack of 80s action movies I have record to watch when those raining days come to visit.
Despite the quality, there is something convenient about having all this consumable content at our fingertips. Ready and waiting for you to click play. That flight you are about to take is no longer defined by the movies they have available. Your commute just got more entertaining – but anything to take the attention away from the depressing politics and economical news that dominates the headlines, right? Any of this ring bells?
Post-Millennials don’t want to wait for what they need. They’re too busy getting offended to wait in line. Thus we find ourselves here. High levels of consumption and high levels of entitlement. A marketers dreams – any of this ring bells? In time everything comes back around. Synthwave and it’s popularity is proof of that pudding. So why is it we find ourselves with such a comparable attitude those Wall Street yuppies of the 1980s, and yet in this world the Gordon Gekko’s would not last 5 minutes? let’s chat all things 80s and my point will start to make sense.
I’ve got a blockbuster video card. I’ll keep it forever as a reminder of times when things were more exciting. Before I was lucky enough to get my own blockbuster card my mum would drive us home from school on a Friday night and we would pull into the Star Video, our local video rental store. Fridays would be the day of new releases and this particular store would have maybe 6 copies of the new release for the day. I’d run up, get in line to try and pick up a copy of whatever great movie had FINALLY made its way to VHS. Sometimes I would be lucky, other times I would fail. But that was always ok. That meant I could hit the action and horror aisles and find something to watch that weekend. This would take me about 45mins. You had to pick well and you had to take your time. This was THE entertainment of the weekend. I had queued up to get in here. Amongst the slightly stale smell of the carpet and the small screen behind the counter where the assistant was playing some 18 certificate movie for all to see (“whenever you rent or buy a video..” – shout out to all those at get that reference!)
My point is – effort was made. The excitement I would feel for hitting that store and exploring the aisles for a movie for the weekend was vital to my mood. Even if I got it home and it was shit, I would watch it all. Probably twice. I was invested in the process.
This mentality wasn’t reserved for the movie store, it was at the movies too. Weekends would be spent queuing to see a new release. You didn’t know if I you were going to get in. The auditorium would be full and the likes of Odeon didn’t need to entice you with monthly ‘all you can watch’ deals. Cinemas made big money and were the only place you could see that movie you needed to see by Monday so you could keep up to date with the other kids at school.
Music was a very different beast in those days too. Vinyl dominated. Physical releases were the only option. Artists were certainly as prolific as they are nowadays however it was much harder to release music and there was no assumption that it MUST be liked. Critics would be open and honest and artists would take it on the chin. Fans didn’t dominate the agenda and if you didn’t like a release, then tough shit man. It was about expression.
Today. 2019. Our ease of access is so simple that the passion has gone. Wherein the 80s and 90s there would be incentive and that young teenage drive to engage in entertainment as a means of feeling something. Now it’s all about filling an hour before you get to work / school. The importance of music and film has not gone, but it has certainly diluted and has become a different beast the satisfies different needs. For me though, the ritual was as good as the content. And that ritual is no longer there, now reserved only for picking up those in demand gig tickets (see FM-84’s London gig on Feb that sold out in 5 mins!).
The Japanese phrase Mono No Aware sums it up perfectly: The sad beauty of seeing time pass – the aching awareness of impermanence. The Blockbuster has gone. It’s been replaced by a Starbucks where you can order your coffee before you leave the house and pick up an amazon parcel that you ordered just this morning.
So what has been the impact? Well certainly there is less of a need for the movie theatre. When I do go, it’s frequented by kids who talk through the whole movie. I was watching a movie just a few months ago and when challenging two kids to stop talking, their reply was ‘dude – you can see this movie on the internet when you get home’.
The 80s taught us that the future would be bright. That the future would be exciting and Tony Montana knew from the start that the world was his for the taking. But I don’t think we expected this level of disconnect from the very entertainment we engage with.
The way we use Netflix and Amazon Prime is as such that if we don’t like a movie, we switch it off after 10 minutes and move on. We don’t need to be dedicated to spending that time in the store picking the perfect movie and watching it despite how shit it might be. But that time and Friday night event WAS the entertainment. That was the gratification I yearned and got every time and that was before I’d even seen the movie or listened to the album.
Society in 2019 wants needs to be instantly addressed. Be that the need to be liked, for your content to be shared and praised (even if it’s shit). For that itch to be scratched without putting in the hard work of queuing outside the record store at 8am to get that vinyl.
But despite what I see as a dumbing down of passion and working for our gratification, those bells should still be ringing. 80s was excess. Getting what you wanted, when you wanted. But it was limited to only the select few. The Bud Fox’s of the era frequented that world. But what would they think of life now? Their money and what that got them doesn’t mean anything anymore. They would have no status when I can get that movie the days it’s released from the comfort of my bed. Whatever your itch, you can get it scratched now without Patrick Bateman’s Cillian Braille business card.
Synthwave is a unique beast in this comparison though. In synthwave / retro wave, whatever you want to call it, you have a music scene which harks back to those thoughts and feelings of childhood in the 80s (and to an extent, the 90s). Those movies and tv shows we would have to schedule into our weekends to watch. But with the instant ability to share, access and comment. The vinyl revival has hit this scene hard and it’s no surprise when we talk about the important and weight that we would give to the ritual of accessing music via that medium.
Some of the successful artists are putting their heart and soul into the music. They have that drive and passion. Despite the fact they could release it in whatever state they felt. And that t the reason for their success.
Synthwave benefits from 2019’s instant gratification and easy access society all the while taking us back to the time we miss. The time we crave. The time we got joy and excitement from the process. Where music and movies were about more than what we heard and saw.
In that respect, synth music of the 21st century has the potential to save the world. And maybe I might get the chance to use that blockbuster card again.
Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to return some videotapes.