ch ch ch changes

by uzwi

In Locus, Graham Sleight tackles a retrospective mood in sf criticism via a metaphor from the music industry. Audiences, he says, driven to distraction by performances of fresh material, often heckle a band, “Play some old!” This demand seems to be based on the automatic & circular assumption that “older is better” (and indeed, to make the argument work, Graham has to begin it carefully, “Your favourite band releases a new album, but it’s not as good as the stuff they did 3 or 5 years ago…”) But to the performer, “Play some old!” is serious entrapment. It precludes change. It acts to diminish the band’s enthusiasm for new ideas, the band’s sense of certainty in its own judgement. The most depressing demand to hear is the one hidden inside the heckle: it’s the implied, “Play some new old!” Lucky for us, then, that committed individualists like Waits or Bowie or JG Ballard simply changed anyway, without much thought to the consequences.