I have recently seen a spate of tweets stating a desire to throw large, decadent New Year’s parties in the style of the Jazz Age and Roaring 20’s, for when the world inexplicably/miraculously reaches the year of our near-forgotten Saviour, 2020 AD. Which is interesting. Bygone years have always acted as fulcrums for current societal invention— 50’s diners in the 80’s, 80’s music in the 10’s— but have always developed organically, in a sense; they originate from “nostalgia”. Market forces have manipulated and abused this to no end, granted, and perhaps I am lending to much credence to Strauss-Howe’s generational theorem like it’s some universal dialectic, but it does provide a decent model for understanding this kind of trend. An age group remembers things; these memories provide inspiration for current things; the process repeats, until capitalism collapses or whatever.
Except these tweets signal, to me, an artificial and conscious effort to revive a time and style purely on the basis of a numerological coincidence. No one who thrived in that era is alive anymore; no one in the 21st-century is ruminating on genuine memories of the 1920’s. All we’ve got is imaginings and idealisms of the 1920’s, taken from media and artistic reiterations. A reflection of a reflection. Maybe we’re getting further from the point of ingenuity and progress than ever before.
Of course, there are similarities between the two eras. The wealth gap is colossal; deregulation is rife (the ‘Gilded Age’); the modernism of then is ostensibly reflected in New Sincerity and growing rejection of trite po-mo collage. But I’ll save the essay comparing big-band jazz and PC Music for another day, or (preferably) for someone else. A ‘20s revival isn’t entirely uncalled for. And, most importantly, it would signal a societal reclamation of its own direction, a little bit away from causality and into its own re-temporal territory. Or is it a further sign of endgame-postmodernity’s insistence on recycling, obliterating idiosyncratic taste in its trans-historical blend for the sake of the consumer’s pseudo-wants?
Answer notwithstanding, here’s a vision of the 2020s: electroswing comes back, uh, swinging, really breaking into the mainstream. Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace dominate the charts. Cars of the retrofuture zoom along the inexplicably-gutted NYC subway system (Wayner). Screens the depth of your fingernail acts as jukeboxes. Androids do the neo-Charleston. We count down from ten. Explosions scatter in the sky, the colour of champaign. It’s 2020 and the world is in sepia clarity.
Wayner, Peter “The New York City Subway System Is Beyond Repair”, The Atlantic, 2018