Back when I was a lad, being cynical was the sine qua non of coolness. People equated optimism and a sunny disposition with clueless naivete, and so life was a continuous contest to see who could be the most jaded and sardonic. And sure enough, virtually all the bands I listened to were dark, angry, depressing or even nihilistic: Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Cure, Sonic Youth, Big Black, Hüsker Dü, etc. Don't get me wrong, those are all great bands, but that attitude got ingrained in me pretty hard, to my eventual regret.
But Saturday night as I was watching Dustin Wong play his riveting solo guitar piece Infinite Love, and then as the delightful band Delicate Steve celebrated the release of their aptly titled debut album Wondervisions, at Public Assembly in Brooklyn, I was reminded yet again that things have changed. Both Wong and Delicate Steve make instrumental music, but it's strongly major key and unabashedly imbued with what can only be called a sense of joy and wonder that speaks louder than words.
Twenty years ago, a roomful of New York cutting-edgers would have been in the East Village; instead they were in Williamsburg, which was a sleepy hamlet back then. But much more importantly, these same people would have been listening to banging, clanging angstmusik. Don't get me wrong, that type of music still exists and there's still a place for it, but as a whole underground music is just vastly different now. I've said it before, but it's hard not to read some significance into that. After all, music isn't just recreational sound — it's ideas encoded into rapidly fluttering pulses of air. And a lot of the ideas that are flying around right now are positive and inspiring. It bodes well.