Friday, 22 August 2014

Proof of how insular our suburbs really are

Over the past decade and a half, just how insular and unaffected by prevailing trends in music and culture the suburbs in which I and most children in Australia were raised actually are has dawned upon me.

Even when I still lived at Keilor Downs, I was well aware that many different stations existed in suburban Australia. The vast majority of small stations, however, played extremely conservative and often very old pop music, and only Triple J and Triple R played anything different from what Joe S. Harrington and David Keenan demonstrated to me during the 2000s as extremely derivative commercial music whose originators were never heard on Australian radio.

What Triple J at all events played was generally even worse – tuneless, noisy grunge bands like Silverchair, the Offspring and Nirvana which I had so little patience with that it drove me off commercial radio when hearing the tuneless “New Mexico, New Mexico”. The music of community stations I already thought very uninteresting, but it was not as bad as those bands or the Presidents of the United States of America – and experience was making it tough for me to try “alternative” music as I thought “alternative” was all really violent and inspired people to say things like “I’ll (expletive) kill you” or “I’m gonna shoot you, (expletive)”, which had me worrying about my life.

However, reading about music on a broader scale showed that – whilst I was only able to listen to a very restrictive range of pop music – a musical and cultural revolution was happening in the Enriched World, whereby gangsta rap and thrash metal were becoming mainstays of most of the population, especially the working masses. “Generation X”, as it was called, took up radical individualism and radical egalitarianism as its basic ideals, ones that were heard on the mainstream of Australian radio very little and only for a few years in the middle 1990s before teen pop took hold of airplay.

As a young man, I assumed these ideals would be stronger in Australia because of its “car culture”, but now I recognise that the insular character of the family car is actually entirely opposite to the extreme masculinity (much more absolute hatred of traditional femininity) found in the Enriched World’s modern culture.

In recent times, election results and opinion polls show that we are witnessing a repeat of this divergence (in other words, a further divergence of suburban Australia from Enriched World political standards). Whereas Enriched and Tropical World cities are so densely crowded any child is enfolded in noise, as I can testify from being in Berlin and Singapore, most Australian cities are extremely quiet and there is ample space for families to play and enjoy themselves as well as study.

Under such conditions, it is clear that parents would prefer to avoid something at all angry, let alone the anti-religion anthem of the Enriched World’s Generation X – ‘(expletive) Hostile’

or what may become its equivalent for the Enriched World’s “Generation Y” and “Generation Z” – the overtly controversial ‘Pearl of a Girl’

because these would be disturbing to the establishment of family relationships. Indeed, it is very likely that hearing such songs would have an effect on community relationships in general, because their message is clearly one of complete individualism with laws to eliminate restraint thereon, as opposed to merely an absence of laws to limit individualism. At the same time, songs like ‘(expletive) Hostile’ are what can teach children about industrial-age Enriched World culture – the music taught in schools does nothing theretoward.

In 2003, Peter Rentfrow and Samuel Gosling in ‘The Do Re Mi’s of Everyday Life: The Structure and Personality Correlates of Music Preferences’ showed that there exists an “upbeat and conventional” category characterised by
“genres that emphasize positive emotions and are structurally simple”
which clearly corresponds to the type of emotions mothers would wish to convey to their children, rather than the “structurally complex” character of classical and jazz or the “full of energy and emphasise themes of rebellion” character of alternative and metal. It is thus not surprising that pop, soundtrack and religious music dominate in quiet and isolated residential enclaves distant from commercial or academic hotbeds. This is indeed the tendency I saw at every record store in the outer suburbs of Melbourne during my regrettable “galloping round the countryside” on buses a decade ago: the shelves, much more than in city stores, were filled with “easy listening” and country artists who would be considered dated by most in the Enriched World or inner suburbs.

Major and most minor radio stations are all present or past “pop and Top 40” in format – completely lacking are the college stations or non-classical public stations of the Enriched World – so that there is little incentive to play much variety of songs. Neither have genuinely cutting-edge bands toured Australia whilst in what critics regard as their “prime” – for instance Metallica were all but unknown down under until they released their self-titled album, whose change of style caused many old fans and later converts to their 1980s albums to rename the band ‘Selloutica’ or ‘Metallicash’. Young mothers and fathers would certainly turn off the radio if they played a song like ‘Pearl of a Girl’ whether they heard the blasphemous lyrics or not, whereas the students and lower-class workers of Enriched World cities, feeling unjustly treated by the market or politicians, take perfectly to them and their messages that people have every right to do whatever they want no matter how it affects others (emotionally as well as physically).

The recent findings of Jason Millward in the 18 August Advertiser should thus not be considered remotely surprising, although major radio stations used to have lists of the top 500 songs or albums of all time and still do “no repeat” days during the week, whose veracity I have always believed without ever bothering to check. Millward’s study, like last year’s election, should be as instructive to foreigners wanting to learn about Australia as to Australians themselves, and my hope is that it will begin a long-needed correction of misconceptions about Australia and its culture.

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