Almost a century ago a woman named Edith Wharton became the first person to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction when she published The Age of Innocence, a tragic love story set in New York City during the 1870’s about a doomed romance between a man with a bright future and a woman with a questionable past.
Towards the end of the novel the protagonist, Archer Newland, is talking to himself about his son’s generation and recalling his own difficult decision to choose duty over love, and says:
“The difference is that these young people take it for granted that they’re going to get whatever they want, and that we almost always took it for granted that we shouldn’t. Only, I wonder— the thing one’s so certain of in advance: can it ever make one’s heart beat as wildly.”
The generation of young people right now taking their first tentative steps into the real world is the first generation in a long time that must exert a tremendous amount of effort to accomplish any kind of life that is either comfortable or fulfilling, to say nothing of both at the same time, and this burden seemingly has freed them to more seriously consider how best to apply that effort, forced them to consider what kind of life might actually be worth that effort.
The kind of permanence and normalcy that one could eke out of a life as a bored housewife or a unionized factory cog isn’t all that easy to find in today’s fast food kitchens and ride-share apps. The economic security that accompanied a white picket fence and an incurious soul half a century ago is becoming harder and harder to come by, and, strangely enough, that uncertainty necessitates a level of clarity about what one truly wants to get out of life.
That clarity on full display throughout Glitter Density’s monstrously good debut album Make Ya Mother Proud. On songs like “Hush Darling” and the haunting “At Your Doorstep” Catherine Lewin and Louise Bequeaith state firmly and unapologetically what they want, what they deserve, and they do it with such unexpected deftness and raw talent, and quite frankly, with a degree of emotional maturity and self-awareness that eludes even me to this day.
To have mastered the ability to express their feelings in such a way at the startlingly young age that they are tempts one to call them marvels and novelties and wunderkinds, some pair of kooky savants more deserving of curiosity than praise. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons, not the least of which being it places their agency in doubt, but I think it also obscures the larger idea of what they and their art represent.
Several years ago, in a desperate tribute to my youthful exuberance and narcissism published on this site I quoted Joan Didion as saying “one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.” The context in which I used this quote was some self-pitying diatribe about aging and growing up and finding the courage to be boring and cliched. I promise I made sense at the time, but reading it now, particularly after listening to Glitter Density’s music makes me feel much differently.
The fact remains that every generation reinvents the wheel, so to speak. We do a lot of recycling and borrowing from previous generations but in the end we’re all spending an awful lot of our free time trying to define for ourselves what heavy ideas like “cool” and “good” and “important” mean to us. We lie to ourselves by suggesting that we are staking new ground, pushing the envelope, breaking the mold. But if that were true the characters and relationship dynamics in The Sun Also Rises wouldn’t be so damn relatable. In reality it often seems more likely that this thing we know as “youth” is a process that is repeated every 20 years or so like clockwork, that we are just the latest batch of “rebels”, with and without causes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
I say it often feels like that, though, because when I listen to Glitter Density it doesn’t feel like that at all. It feels like Glitter Density has reinvented the wheel and made it radically different and substantially better. It feels like they are playing with an extra dimension that I can hardly comprehend, like they have three or four different colors on the spectrum to paint with that I’ve never even seen before. When I listen to Glitter Density I get the sense that nothing like this really has ever happened before and I can’t find any evidence to the contrary.
I’m not certain how much longer my car will keep running before it finally breaks down for good, and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep staring at these same old streets before I finally break down for good, and I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with beating my head against a an iPhone screen open to the twitter app. These uncertainties fill me with anxiety to be sure, but they also help me better appreciate how wildly my heart beats when I see talented musicians like Catherine and Louise grow into their craft. These uncertainties help me focus on how much indefatigable hope I have that the next generation will get more things right than ours did. These uncertainties help remind me every day that I have to make conscious choices to be and do good, to try a little harder, and to, hopefully, make my mother proud.
Glitter Density will celebrate the release of their debut album, “Make Ya Mother Proud”, at the early show at the Vaudeville Mews on October 21. More information available here.