Are we the dads the Now That’s What I Call Music franchise tried to burn?
Opening Twitter and being confronted by the onslaught of chaotic discourse surrounding MGMT's Kids’ addition to a "dad rock" compilation album was, to put it lightly, food for an existential crisis. The infectious yet pessimistic kaleidoscope-pop track which soundtracked the late 2000s for many indie fans - and FIFA players - had been deemed as a classic for dads. Dads? I was immediately transported back, á la food critic in Ratatouille style, to a time when I was a die-hard MGMT fan.
MGMT were my first ever gig. Beneath the dazzling light of Europe's largest disco-ball (a fact I liked to point out every time I was in the O2 ABC – may she rest in peace), I stood; a braces-equipped 13 year old, confidently shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the art schools' finest promising young artists – all tripping on acid or some form of trendy hallucinogen. It was a collection of gurning jaws, dilated pupils and slurred chatter. In fact, the crowd, a swirling sea of loud late 00s hippies and hipsters were so drugged up and pretentious, my chaperoning dad – a former punk band member and The Clash gig-goer, who had lived to tell impressive tales of arrests, riots, and wild gigs – bailed and took to the bar for a pint, with a defeated sneer at the onslaught of West End Woodstock wannabes, and some mumbling of meeting me when it finished. Despite this, I was entranced, and the gig was a baptism, albeit one of fire, into the world of indie music. Kids, featured on the bands 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular, was 14 years old. Which wasn't that long ago, right? Now That's What I Call Dad Rock clearly didn't agree.
It was then that I realised I was being confronted with more and more of these little revelations.
Stacking shelves in my part-time supermarket stint, I watched as a little girl, coated in pink and donned with ribbons, ran past me, excitedly chattering. Her mother chased after the blur of hyperactivity, shouting helplessly for the child's attention. My jaw dropped. The mother was a classmate of mine from high school; I used to curiously stare at her growing baby bump in Business. Back then, she was on her way to motherhood – conveniently slotting her labour between Higher exams. And here she was! That little bump from Business was a walking, talking child. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode ... was she the rapidly ageing CGI child from Twilight? Or had it actually been that long?
From Facebook engagements and pregnancy announcements to friends with impressive plans of mortgages and houses – I couldn't help but feel somewhat left behind. I was a student living at home, with no experience of living alone or annoying flatmates (that I wasn't blood-bound to). I skipped breakfast (more often than I woke up in time for food to count as breakfast), I played The Sims, I loathed phoning the doctor, I dyed my hair whenever I felt gloomy, and I couldn't handle alcohol – maintaining notorious lightweight status. Did I miss the memo on growing up? Childhood was short-lived. Teenage-hood was over before I knew it. And now, I feared, young adulthood was slipping through my fingers.
Ironically, Kids, the track which spurred this crisis, elicits feelings of nostalgia itself, detailing the end of innocence and entering the cynicism of adulthood. Songwriter Andrew VanWyngarden told Time Out the song was conceived as the band "were just happy-go-lucky, going crazy on campus. But at the same time, [they] were nostalgic for childhood and there was the threat of post-college life coming." That was just it. MGMT shared my post-college life fear. I had no clue what I wanted to be, only brief, etch-a-sketch ideas I would later dismiss – at this point I'd had more career notions than Barbie. On top of that, I'd already "wasted" my third year of university in my bedroom, meekly attempting Zoom friendships. I badly wanted to prolong a (normal) university experience.
However, I wasn't alone. It seems like everyone missed the comfortable days of childhood. And, for us 20-year-olds, that means the 2000s. With the 00s aesthetic re-emergence in pop culture and the revival of "y2k" fashion, it feels like nostalgia for a simpler, pre-Covid life is everywhere.
Perhaps it's time to embrace this next stage of life, with the knowledge that not everyone's path to adulthood is synchronised. Sure, I'm not a child anymore - if anything, I'm closer to the parenthood stage. But I'm not exactly afraid of becoming the person who plays Lady Gaga in the car with their children, making comments like "No, you don't understand - I loved her when I was your age! She was really popular!" while they roll their eyes.
I've somewhat learned to embrace the dad-hood status imposed by the Now's That's What I Call... franchise. I'm leaping into the next stage with the ignorant faith that it will all come together. Right?
Just don't expect me to handle finding my first grey hair with such grace.
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