Borrowed nostalgia and the mid ’90s alt music scene

The Olivia Tremor Control + The Music Tapes – Le Poisson Rouge – September 21st

Sure, I spent a decent amount of time listening to Of Montreal and Neutral Milk Hotel, but I never really got around to hearing much from most of the other projects tied to the Elephant 6 Collective… which is one of the reasons why I decided to check out The Olivia Tremor Control and The Music Tapes last night. (Review here on Brooklyn Vegan.)

I was curious. Curious to see a couple of early ’90s indie rock legends and curious about their fans. Going to shows featuring new artists can be fun, but it can also be kind of a drag sometimes, especially when the sets are a mess and the crowd is annoyingly aloof and indifferent. Maybe I was also trying to get in on the nostalgia somehow. Group nostalgia is a weird thing. Even if you weren’t technically involved in the scene in the first place, it’s easy to get swept up in the emotions. So I was in elementary school when The Olivia Tremor Control  started playing and touring. What of it?

So I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect going into the show, but despite my lack of knowledge about the discographies of the two artists, I immediately felt like a part of the scene, thanks largely to The Music Tapes. Jordan Koster, the main man behind The Music Tapes was a delight. Not only did his music (and the giant 7-foot tall metronome) keep you guessing, Koster himself was full of whimsical mystery.

Julian Koster playing the singing saw at a show on 2/18/09 (photo Bradley's Almanac)

After kicking off the show with a sort of gypsy carnivalesque gig, Koster offered this by way of explanation:

Lovely, lyrical, and magical.

I know there are decent, genuine artists out there who are just beginning their musical careers. I know. But sometimes, it seems like the only bands that get any buzz are the ones that are just saturated with cheap irony and carefully marketed kitschy weirdness. Yes, Julian Koster is quite eccentric and his songs and stage presence are often strange, but there’s something in the music that just feels real, raw, and honest.

Though I enjoyed the frenetic energy of The Olivia Tremor Control, it was The Music Tapes that really intrigued me, so I’ll leave you with a song from them:

Want to hear some stuff from The Olivia Tremor Control? You’re in luck. NPR Music recorded it. Stream it or download it here.

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1 Response to “Borrowed nostalgia and the mid ’90s alt music scene”


  1. 1 Elyse Howdershell August 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Nice post:) I’ve been really nostalgic lately as well..probably why I was so excited to hear about The Wallflowers coming out with a new album on 10/2..I’ve really been digging the new single
    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/song-premiere-the-wallflowers-reboot-the-mission-20120723


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