The mantle of Jeremiah suits Mark K-Punk very well, which is a shame in a way – the enthusiastic posts he made about The Stone Tape and Talons Of Weng-Chiang were really excellent, insightful, itching-to-watch-it-again stuff. His gloomier stuff is usually thought-provoking but does wind me up a bit too (partly cos the endless rhetorical questions stylistically remind me a bit of John Junor!).

Anyway at the moment he’s turned his sights on POP and more specifically “Poptimism”. It’s a slippery thing, this Poptimism – depending on who’s using the word it can mean anything from thinking 2003 was the best year ever, to thinking 2003 was terrific, to just liking pop music in 2003; or come to think of it liking anything very much in 2003. Mark asks the question – do ‘poptimists’ ever think a year is bad? In his comments section I have a go at answering that. My return question would be – what would make a year ‘good’? Because I think here is where the real divide between poptimists and hindsight crew lies (if there is one).

For the Poptimist the answer is simple enough – hearing lots of great records makes a great year. For the antis it’s a bit tougher – something exciting has to happen, something new. I think it’s in the difference between Newness and Novelty that the split takes place.

Novelty is something trivial – a hook, a gimmick, a joke, some seed of pleasure or other that you’d not bumped into before. Newness can sound just like Novelty, but seems to the anti-Poptimist more important and lasting – it has to be inspirational, should spark a movement of some kind. From a historian’s point of view, Newness matters and Novelty is trivial – and so a year full of novelties can still be a bad year.

As a historian, I sympathise – a little. As a listener, I’m firmly on the side of Novelty, and not just because it’s much easier to detect and just as easy to enjoy. Excitement and shifts in pop can happen through big New things but they also arise from little accumulations of novelty, eddies that are hardly detectable and easily dismissable at the time. Take the current resurgence of interest in ‘Italo’, for instance – did it seem New at the time? Probably not. Was it rubbish, then? It sounds good to me.

Reading back over these thoughts they seem particularly scattered, raw materials for an argument rather than an argument itself. One last point, though – Angus at I Feel Love mentioned that of course in 1985 (the year that started this whole debate off) there would have been lots of people who enjoyed that year’s pop enormously. The implication of the hindsight boys is that those people must feel – or even be – pretty foolish. But why? Their enjoyment was real enough, I’m sure. Outside the world of the music critic, after all, people change their minds the whole time.