The opposite of nostalgia
"Everything I feel now as an adolescent is true. This is who I am. Each day that passes I grow away from my true self. Every inch I take towards adulthood is a betrayal." - Stephen Fry, age 16
I remember feeling this way as a teenager, too. This feeling is powerful, but it can, with the benefit of the intervening years, be shown to be demonstrably false. Yet its power can be a force for good. This is partly why I love the music of the 90s, still, so much. There are good, true things that can (still) be accessed via the music one came to in one's youth. Through it, you can remember things that truly matter: the thrill of discovery, the shock of finding like minds, the joys of love and friendship, the beautiful superfluousness of art.
This is probably why I keep writing about the 1990s. The theme of most of my music writing since about 2010 has been "guys, 90's Christian rock was actually good."
Many of the bands I discovered in the 90s were absolutely revelatory to me, and I've written about many of them over the years. I've found it difficult to write about Luxury, who -- I hate to exaggerate but I don't mean to -- might actually be the best rock band of all time.
I tried to capture what makes them special in this piece I wrote around 2014 and in the new piece I just published this week ("Punk Rock Priests Offer Up Their ‘Parallel Love’ in Music and Sacrament" in Christianity Today), but I want to try to get at what made this band so amazing to discover for me, a gawky, awkward evangelical teenager. It's that these people were ostensibly like me -- raised in conservative evangelical environments, super into rock music, nerdy (except for Jamey Bozeman, who looks like he's always been a cool dude) -- but they appeared to be (pardon me) fuckin' fearless. Their music was violent, angry, sensual, vulnerable -- and I bought their records at a store where you could also buy liturgical supplies, Precious Moments figurines, and something called "Testa-mints."
The way I feel about Luxury is the opposite of how I feel about most 90's bands I liked as a teenager, maybe because they've remained together. As I allude to in the piece I published this week, they've grown into themselves as a band in nearly 30 years, inhabiting their music with maturity while maintaining a willingness to shine a light on the human condition, wherever that willingness takes them. More than any band, I feel like Luxury's work embodies the aphorism from the Roman playwright Tererence: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" -- I am human; nothing human is alien to me.
So listening to Luxury isn't about nostalgia to me; it's about growing into the fortitude it takes to meet the world head-on. Every inch toward adulthood is not, as it turns out, a betrayal, but a becoming.
If you're interested, on Thursday May 27 I'll be joining some fellow academics/ critics/ Luxury nerds for this even on Zoom: "What's the Best Luxury album?" The Facebook even has a Zoom link in it for you to click when the time comes.
That's it for now -- I hope to write some more soon. Hope you are well. Listen to Luxury.