30 December 2009

On decade ends

I'm pleased that the end of the "noughties" or "2000s" has been a relatively low-key affair compared with the 1990s, when we seemed to be hit from every side with "roundups of the decade", as well as apocalyptic predictions of millennium meltdown. Partly this is because there are no 'millennium bug' stories to get excited about, and the end of the millennium was always going to be a slightly bigger deal than a simple end-of-decade. But also the "noughties" sounds crap; the "tens" will sound even worse, so prepare yourself for even less fanfare in 2019. The twenties through to the nineties have a definite advantage of not sounding ridiculous and so come 2020 we will probably be right back into this thing. But we still have another ten years of respite from it.

I do believe, in any case, that this decade thing is overrated. Of all the post-war decades, the eighties came the closest to having its own identity - but even then, the prevailing "get-rich-quick and f*** everybody else" ethos wasn't really established until the 2nd Thatcher election victory of 1983 - the early 80s were much more grim. The seventies are often seen as a coherent decade but were nothing of the sort culturally or economically. For example, musically speaking the period 1977-9 (in terms of what was seen as the "happening sound") was COMPLETELY different from the period 1970-5, with 1976 as a strange transition year between prog and punk/new wave.

Even the sixties, often seen as the archetypal "cool decade", did not really get going until about 1964 in terms of musical and cultural shifts. And the fifties really have to be divided into the pre and post-rock'n'roll eras - with the dividing line about 1956 or thereabouts.

There is nothing surprising about any of this of course; why on earth human life should suddenly change every ten years because the calendar says so is not entirely clear. The nineties and 00s have really lacked any defining "vibe" at all IMHO. So, while I will be doing some round-ups of what we might expect politically in 2010 and beyond over the next couple of days, for me it's just another year-end. Don't expect any insightful summaries of how the 2010s will differ from the 2000s.

If I had to give a prediction for the next decade, it would be two small words: WE'RE F***ED. And that's why the name of the opposition head spin doctor in The Thick of It (which I've enjoyed watching very much on iPlayer over the last couple of days) is so wonderfully appropropriate - "The F***er". If you haven't seen the latest series yet, download, beg, steal or borrow - it starts off a little slowly but from episode 3 onwards there's no stopping it. And in the event that the Tories win the (real-life) election, a fine team has been assembled to carry on the series. Just give us more of the F***er, please. "We want the F***er"... good T-shirt slogan, that. The Sound Of 2010?

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