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Forgetting the past is now a luxury

I can't pretend I'm the first to say it, but we live in an inescapably archival society, the past a shadow we're increasingly unable to outrun.

The sole culprit is technology. YouTube is a monumental and ever-swelling reliquary of ephemera (if that's not oxymoronic) from which few deeds, significant or meaningless, are spared. Each tweet and Facebook status update is, by default, registered for eternity on the cloud. So long as you're an active online participant, and that means not millions but billions of people, what you think and do and where you go is knowable by complete strangers. Tweaking your privacy settings might restrict your public profile but there are ways too numerous to mention here to circumvent such efforts.

Once second nature, and pivotal to a healthy outlook, jettisoning the past is becoming a lost art, as the musician Davy Henderson told me last week. "I'm trying to develop new ways of forgetting," he said. He meant it, too.

Tonight his group The Nectarines No9 reconvene in Rutherglen to revive Saint Jack, an album they released almost 20 years ago, and speaking to Henderson ahead of the show got me thinking.

My own group, you see, supported the Nectarines at King Tut's in Glasgow at the time of Saint Jack's release. Frankly, we were chuffed and overawed in equal measure. This is no trip down memory lane, but rather context for the purposes of making a broader point. Further in my defence, and strengthening my argument, I'm on record as loathing nostalgia, far preferring the here and now to what's gone and what's coming. So there.

In the mid-1990s the internet, now a rainforest, was but a seed. Pause and think about that. It's difficult, isn't it? Like imagining hunger immediately after wolfing a three-course meal.

Our group didn't spend time making videos for our YouTube channel, dreaming up ingenious ways of making our music go viral, buddying up with our heroes online or tossing the results of our long, hard labours into the well of free tunes. We made records, did a John Peel session - the highpoint for me - and played shows (heaps of them).

The fact we had no fear of our legion missteps being fossilised meant we could blithely make them, hopefully learn from them then make different ones. Looking back, I can now treasure the thrills, the ludicrous highs, and let go of the remainder.

How we filter our memories is becoming harder, but how we shed them is becoming harder still.

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