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What Does it Mean to Have “Good Taste” in Music?

On the morning of my 11th birthday, my mum presented me with a gift. It was small and square and solid, and even before I had ripped off the shiny wrapping paper, I knew it would be a CD. But which one? Avril Lavigne, I hoped. Or Sugababes’ second album, which I had seen advertised on TV. Maybe a standard NOW compilation? I tore off the sellotape. But when I peeked inside, what I saw staring back at me wasn’t anything I recognized, but a solemn black and grey image of a single candle. “It’s Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation!” my mum announced excitedly, as if those words made any sense. “I was going to get you Goo, but I thought you might want this first.” We then sat on the sofa and listened to the slow, grim textures of “The Sprawl” while I wondered, for not the first time, why grown ups enjoyed depressing themselves like this.

It would take another ten years before I genuinely started to enjoy that album. When I was in my third year at uni, I’d stick a sock over the fire alarm in my room then chainsmoke like a miserable goth to “Silver Rocket” while smashing out essay bibliographies until I fell asleep. I started to like how bleak and enveloping it sounded, how that whole album felt like heavy clouds and bleary eyes and escapism via little snatches of erotica, Z-grade horror movies and cyberpunk sci-fi references that I didn’t understand, but would reveal themselves upon each listen. I also liked the idea of my mum passing on this object, which took a long time to sink in, and the feeling of satisfaction when it eventually did. To me, that has always been a signifier of something “good”:

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