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March 13, 2013

Completely Obsessed

Pop culture crash

I once dated a girl a few years younger than me. Too young for me. We couldn’t relate to each other on a pop culture level at all. Sure, music was our middle ground, and as long as we could stay on subject, we were fine, but when you’re talking TV and she mentions that she’s never heard of “The State,” you can tell pretty quickly that the writing is on the wall.

As it turns out, I reference pop culture a lot. Dating me has to be something like dating an episode of VH1’s “Best Week Ever,” and I can only get that blank stare so many times before it’s time to talk about the weather. Or the government. And, of course, that gets us to mentioning R.E.M.’s “Pop Song 89,” which references both, “and then there was that time Michael Stipe was on ‘The Adventures of Pete & Pete.’” Oh right, you’ve never heard of that show.

I would think that in the circles I run, the friends I have, but more importantly, the age I live in — when everything is available and no one and nothing ever really dies — a picture of John Cusack holding a boombox, or even a shot of an older Macaulay Culkin in a wheelchair holding a sign that says “Will dance for food” would spark a good conversation of the first time you saw either. But as I’m finding out, the world is moving a lot quicker than I noticed, and we’re finding more ways to shove more in.

I read an article that used the line “first generation blog-rock darlings.” What we’re talking about here is circa 2005, when music websites were beginning to prove their force by breaking new bands to a world that was paying less and less attention to traditional bullhorns. For anyone over 25, that’s one of those lines that’ll make you roll your eyes as you try and brush away the icy cold fingers of Mr. Reaper, or at least hyperbolize on having that “I’m getting too old for this” mentality.

There was a time when we counted pop culture in decades. It was that 10-year span that separated everything from style and trends as well as you from your older siblings and your parents. But it’s moving so much faster now. Now we’re talking five or six years before a lifetime of new comings and goings have been thrown at us, auditioned, critiqued and tossed one way or the other. It can become surprising when you’re going down the list of niche genres that are already old hat, even though they happened less than three years prior. (Oh, hi, Chillwave. Let me introduce you to my friend Dubstep.)

The most surprising thing to me is that I’m all for this change of pace. It used to take us most of a generation to come across something musically monumental, and after Cobain’s demise, it started to seem like what was left to discover had happened, or we would have to wait another 15 years to see something on a game-changing level that massive present itself again.

And then came 2003. What had been known as the underground of the ’90s rose as the Indie Kids of the ’00s, and the mind-blowing amount of talent that came with it. Death Cab, Modest Mouse, The Killers, Kings of Leon — they all hit it big around the same time. And then the copycats came, and we were back to square one. But before complacency could set in, only a few years passed, and the electronic movement was happening (with laughable superstars, but excitement nonetheless).

So, yeah, maybe it feels like it’s starting to happen at a breakneck speed, but in a time when it would be so easy to continue to recycle old sounds, we’re getting bands who are pushing beyond what’s hot today to get us to that next chapter in this crazy little sing-along. And as rock ’n’ roll gets comfortable in its seventh decade, it’s nice to know that we’re still going somewhere. Sure, it makes dating anyone more than a few years above or below you a heckuva lot harder, but I’ll take that trade.

Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.