Podcast: Theory For Turntables (TFT)

Theory For Turntables is a long-running weekly podcast (200 episodes now) which is about an hour long and involves two of the Overthinking It blog/podcast contributors Ryan and Matt discussing older noteworthy albums. The mission statement holds that the podcast “explores the big ideas of social science theory through the lens of contemporary and classic rock, pop, hip-hop music.”

I’ve been listening to the main Overthinking It podcast for a few years with occasional lapses and catch-ups (lapse-ups?). That one tends to focus on current media releases and events. Or as the oft-repeated tagline has it “subjects the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn’t deserve”.

Anyway, I’ve only recently dipped my toe into the TFT podcast and like any sensible person I began by hunting out a few albums of interest so that I could pass judgement on the reviewers’ opinions. They appear to be reviewing the albums they’re interested in according to chronology, which means there’s a lot of ’70s stuff to pick from. Occasional contemporary albums also get covered (apparently Taylor Swift and Taylor Momsen are different people, who knew?).

Looks like as of Episode 200 they’re up to 1986 which means The Smiths, Grace Jones, Madonna, Phil Collins and the like. Which come to think of it does sound like the usual subjects/suspects. Discussions seem to focus mainly on an album’s musical and historical contexts along with close readings of their lyrical content rather than any deeper analysis of the music. Maybe not one for musos.

Here are the few episodes I’ve checked out so far:

There’s some talk about the beginnings of punk from an American context mostly by reference to The Ramones, a bit about band-manufacture and an attempt to answer the question: “What does it mean to literally be anarchy?”

They do a better job of attending to every track on this album (the only Bowie one they’ve covered to date). The meat of the discussion is still around the title track and what-and-whys of Berlin itself and Bowie‘s period there.

A good discussion emerges about what New Wave is and where it sits, both podcasters having previously associated it and Blondie strongly with the ’80s. (I’m almost as bad as I was hoping for some Fab 5 Freddy facts to be mentioned but that association wasn’t until a bit later).

As my narrow selection of episodes between 121 and 124 might suggest, there’s a much wider range of music reviewed than that represented above, including e.g. some funk/soul/Motown/stuff I can’t categorise which might appeal to acidbearboy and Da22. Searching through old podcasts seemed a bit opaque and/or cack-handed, although that might just be my NoScript settings interfering. It would certainly help if the episodes were named after the album under discussion, although I’m never going to come down against foregrounding flights of fancy.

Recommended! Direct links to each episode as .mp3 are available, else there’s an RSS feed or iTunes according to how you like your pods.

TFT is ongoing weekly at time of writing.

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