my awful taste in music

“Any fun plans this week?” my co-worker asked.

It’s never clear to me whether people are making small talk because that’s just what people do or because they are genuinely interested in the answer. Did she really care if I had any fun plans? Was this just a ploy for me to then ask her if she had any fun plans because there was some adventure she was about to embark on that she wanted to gush about?

“I’m going to a Dave Matthews Band concert. I know — I have awful taste in music,” I said.

“Hey, I like Dave Matthews Band,” she said. We’re about the same age, so this was unsurprising.

“We have awful taste in music,” I assured her.

Dave Matthews Band, Everclear, Dispatch, Foo Fighters, Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, Third Eye Blind, Stone Temple Pilots — this is the music of my youth and the music I still listen to, almost exclusively. I guess there is some diversity beyond 90s alternative rock. Sometimes I listen to 90s third wave ska like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Bowling for Soup and Suburban Legends.

None of this is good music. It’s enjoyable, entertaining, fun. But if we were to make a list of the best 100 songs of the past 30 years — assuming such a list could be objectively made — none of these groups would show up. If we made a list of the top 1,000 songs of all time, I doubt we’d see any of my music catalog represented.

Which is fine. I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve embraced it.

Which makes another interaction I had all the more confusing. I’m not sure whether to put it in the back-in-my-day column or the actually-know-my-shit column.

I was talking with a different coworker — at a different job, incidentally — about popular music, openly admitting how out of touch and old fashioned my tastes were, but being open to trying new things. She mentioned a half-dozen different musicians she liked — none of whom I had ever heard of.

There are some more modern groups I occasionally dabble with and like: Mumford and Sons, Adele, Alabama Shakes, Passenger, Shakey Graves. And there are many more I’ve at least heard of — your Grandes and your Malones and your Drakes. 

But name after name she went down her list and I was in a sea of ignorance. Until she said a name I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time.

“I’m really into Andrew McMahon, too,” she said.

“He’s still going?” I asked.

She was puzzled. “Still?”

“Something Corporate. Jack’s Mannequin.”

She stared at me blankly.

I had kind of remembered something about McMahon continuing with a solo career — but kind of remembered immediately turned into well actually.

“Well actually, before Andrew McMahon was doing his own thing he was the front man for a group called Something Corporate, and then when they broke up he started another group called Jack’s Mannequin.”

I don’t know if she was surprised, impressed or skeptical. In reality, she probably didn’t care in the slightest.

To me, for a moment I was the cool, older guy who actually knew some shit about what the kids were listening to these days. Or maybe I was the lame, older guy rolling his eyes at kids these days.

I’m still trying to decide. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. The music world is going to keep moving on without me. But I’ll be fine. I’ll always have my Goo Goo Dolls.