FREE VERSE: Me—The Ageist Ass

Just lately, a number of some of my favorite musicians have come out with new albums, decades after their first years of successes. For example, both Violent Femmes and Loretta Lynn released albums this month, and both have me wondering: Does creativity just generally deteriorate as we age?

Of course, I would like to disclose at the start of this little contemplation, that David Bowie’s Black Star is the ultimate exception to any rule. Somehow Bowie managed to continue releasing enormously creative work while staying true to his signature sound. That’s amazing, yet somehow incredibly rare.

I’m also not saying that the work of Lynn or the Femmes is bad. Their newest albums are quite notable by my standards. In Lynn’s Full Circle, she has revisited songs from her past in a tasteful manner. The Femmes, too, have stayed true to their roots while showing evolution.

Are those qualities the only ones worth praising?

In both cases, however, there has been an equally notable loss of energy in comparison to the work of each decades ago.

A few months ago I saw The Replacements at The Fillmore and they were terrible. The group had kept their sloppy, punk sound but had lost all of the youthful angst that was once made that sloppiness so attractive. Thus, the group was left with buzzing guitars, shaky vocals, and not a lot of lively vigor to back them up.

What’s behind this? Am I just an ageist ass? I do realize that words like “youthful angst” and “energy” are being thrown around here and, really, are those qualities the only ones worth praising in a musical artist?

What about having an aged wisdom in music? It can’t be such a bad thing that artists lose a handful of that fervor that dominates our youth. Yet, for some reason, I have this affinity for music with an irrational youthfulness to it. So much for respecting my elders.

—Mariah Taylor

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