Is Rock all said and done? Part II

Two months ago I wrote an opinion piece about this decade not having a defining artist with enough music influence to compare to monsters of rock of the previous decade. I know some of you disagreed with the opinion, and the rest completely missed the point. But I am now revisiting the topic, since there are some interesting articles discussing this same issue. Their writers also feel that there is indeed an “issue” with today’s oversaturated music industry.

Refe wrote an article here, published a response from an industry veteran here, and that same veteran wrote an article of his own here. The consensus seems to be that there is indeed a “problem” in this decade pinpointing new genres or influential artists that take the world by storm (rather than being niches). As the internet age is trying to define itself musically, the culture itself takes a hit. Maybe it is a social sign o’ the times. Please read these articles before commenting below.

And please let me rant a bit more, this time about Muse’s brand new album, “Resistance“. It sounds exactly like Queen did in the ’70s and ’80s. The album sounds like a bad cover of Queen (many others have noticed too, and one music reviewer even made fun of the fact). Now think about it: if a “progressive rock” band (that was the definition of Muse’ sub-genre so far) is copying a 30 years old band, how progressive is that? Obviously, not much. I can see the rotten state of music perfectly through the new music of Muse. It is to me a perfect example or irony.

I wonder if and when the internet age re-shuffles itself and the dust is settled down, maybe the new major genre we might look at would be electro-rock. Think of bands like the Passion Pit, Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT. This genre encompasses electronic, dancy pop-disco melodies, and rock. It is accessible enough to pop audience, still has rock elements to appease the rockers, and it uses electronic samples which are in line with the internet and computer revolution (each generation uses whatever tools it can to make music, and electronic is today’s main tool). This is the only genre that I see as emerging right now as one that has enough strength to become ultra-popular. If this genre fails too to create major artists (e.g. the way grunge had Nirvana as its poster boys), I don’t see light at the end of the tunnel for music.

Then again, as Refe wrote, maybe the true legacy of this decade is to have true variety, through many niches of genres and artists. And maybe that’s a good thing — just different from what we were used to before.


My Anonymous wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 12:46 AM PST:

I reckon that the music you listen to as you grow up “imprints” your brain. You associate it with the (hopefully) happy times of your youth – hence you generally prefer music from that time for the rest of your life.

Or of course, the 90’s (and the 00’s?) is the era of Big Media trying to manufacture bands and music – and for the most part sucking at it. Can you ever imagine some mega-corporation ever primping someone to be a Kurt Cobain? No, you get the Spice Girls & Boy Bands… *sigh*. Does that mean with enough marketing, you can sell anything? Or is there really talent in your average Boy-Band.

Of course I have no answers, but you should really checkout the Norwegian mocumentary “Get Ready to be Boyzvoiced” –
(M-Pete … we looove you!)

Mr A.

l3v1 wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 5:04 AM PST:

Many of the great old rockers played because they had something to say. Most of today’s wannabes don’t have anything to say, they just want to be part of the associated lifestyle. And it shows by their numbers, and the quality (we need to newspeak that word too) they produce. Most of them are nothing but a joke. Still, crowds choose, money talks.

Rick Aushey wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 6:49 AM PST:

l3v1 – spot on. Nothing to say.

Remember, ROCK really is the music of the devil, breaking taboos. What remains taboo today? Nothing you say? In this POP infested world, much is taboo, more so than before actually.

Electro is the future? What a joke. Dependance on technology is what brought ROCK to its deathbed. Who needs talent when you can just shove in samples? Fine, except the ‘sample’ thing was done done at least 50 years ago (e.g Strawberry Fields, John Cage)! Hardly innovative and worthy of any fucking consideration at this point.

All this reliance on technology betrays a lack of talent. Listen to jazz (not fusion or other bastard descendant) for a while, where no distortion or any effect-of-the-day clouds the momentary appreciation. It’s all pristine recording where only talent can shine.

As for ‘appeasing’ rockers with electro-rock-pop? Haha silly goose, pop and ROCK are anthetical, so any pop-rock act is not ROCK and as such cannot ever, ever appease me.

Hmm, I guess I have something to say. Should put it to a song.

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Eugenia wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 8:28 AM PST:

Rick, I do not agree with you at all. Just because you can use technology these days to write music, doesn’t mean that it can’t be rock. This sounds like technophobia rather than using the right tool for the job.

As for pop and rock being antithetical, again, you have to think with evolution in mind. Maybe that was the deal in the ’80s, but it doesn’t have to be the same today.

For example, The Killers can also be considered electro-rock. However, they do have something really “rock” to say about in their songs. Their song “Spaceman” is my favorite of theirs, and its lyrics are not “pop” at all (it is a dark song, nothing to do with love and relationships that pop mostly talks about). What makes rock as rock is the lyrical content mostly, not the tools you use to dress it up. This is why even Depeche Mode are considered alt.rock.

Jazz is not my style at all btw. I never liked it. It’s among the top-3 genres of the most painful “music” to my ears. It sounds completely random to me. I know it’s not random, but since it feels this way to me, I just can’t get into it.

Rick Aushey (Again) wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 11:09 AM PST:

Hi Eugenia! Happy to hear about your disapproval!
Of course you totally agree with me, but don’t know it yet.

First off, I’m soooo not neo-Luddite. And I absolutely adore computers in particular (Viva GNU/Linux!). I started off making harcore tech-no music with my computer as I had no ‘analog’ synths and such.

Now, I have my portable Sidux/fluxbox/Ardour multi-track studio sitting in my kitchen, which I also use to play online shooters games. I use LADSPA plugins, the most advanced tools that require using the command line to master. And I make ROCK.

That being said, my beef is with music using technology INSTEAD of talent. Abusing auto-everything where a musician lacks the ability to perform. That’s not music, it’s a program. Like any program (if you know the language) it’s necessarily predictable (you see the code). If you use a clicktrack, on a 120 bpm 4/4 beat each note will occur at .634211223 seconds from each other (or not).

oK, you don’t like jazz. Very sorry to hear that. I guess it can be an acquired taste like FRENCH red wine. I just mentioned jazz because the nuances are obvious (hehe) that only talent can make a great jazz track. There’s no echo, wahwahs, etc for guitar wankers to hide behind.

And so, it contains the key to great ROCK. Aha! That’s where my seemingly incoherent ramblings gel in to form my indestructible argument: music is about surprise.

As an artist, I want nothing to do with music theory (it shows) yet know that in a melody there is a ‘home key’. It’s just too obvious nowadays. Look (huh, listen) at Hendrix veering off into a-musicality (or a-tonality or something) to enlarge the path to the home key. Woa, what a trip.

Yeah i listenned to DMode in the 80’s. The only thing I hear in retrospect is their whinning about their next smack hit. But, I’ll concede to them being alt.rock or whatev.

I assumed you were talking about ROCK, not rock+fad-sub-genre. Picking on details am I? Well, then anything is everything, disco is heavymetal, and WAR IS PEACE.

What makes rock as rock is the lyrical content mostly?
Ha! You just betrayed who your favorite is, a certain mister gimmick. You can’t read a killer song (not killer some group). I thought You considered me anti-technology. You’re anti-senses.

The best ROCK song is instrumental, and the best lyrical ROCK song has the most inane lyrics. Leave poetry to books in a dusty shelf. ROCK is about the combination of lyrics AND music. Better, ROCK is the musical FUCK YOU!  Who has those round things to say it today? (Note: remember to use that as my next twit.) Whatever means to achieve it matter not. (I would add ‘amen’ but I’m luciferian. Remember the devil created ROCK music). But surprise me somewhere in there.

Embrace randomness as soon as you can. It’s our last stand as humans.. /dev/null is no substitute for swing

If not, well then, enjoy your pop world. I just thought you had a moment of clarity and realized that nothing has been said since 1969. All said and done? I consider (nearly) nothing has been said yet.

BTW, what’s the other 2 genres? Country and Opera? Same here. I hate those.

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Eugenia wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 11:44 AM PST:

You have a very concrete idea in your mind about what rock is, which seems to be pretty much guitar jamming, and as you said, randomness. This is not the rock I like, sorry. And this is not the definition I give to rock either. For example, as much as I love the essence of Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, their long jamming sessions bore me.

Rock is a musical fuck you up to a point, and to the previous genres that preceded it. But it does not mean that it’s always random. If it was just random shit no one would buy into it.

And it doesn’t mean that if you use electronic samples on your song you somehow you lose the moniker “rock”. This is just too short-sighted, and one dimensional. Rock is not one-dimensional.

And besides, as you very clearly demonstrated in your comment, you feel that the last real rock era was some time in 1969. You completely forget that music EVOLVES. And if in year 2009 electro-rock is how rock has evolved into, then so be it. You will have to open yourself to new things I am afraid. If electro-rock is the new rock, embrace it, not push it down just because it is not EXACTLY the same as it was in your beloved ’60s.

This discussion reminds me of the long internet trolling against Photoshop artists. Just because they used photoshop to paint, real painters called them “not real painters”. And that’s of course bullshit. The method doesn’t matter as long as the final result is great. I guess I am not a purist.

xiaNaix wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 12:22 PM PST:

The unfortunate fact is that, to the majority of people, music is disposable. It’s background noise for your car, while working, jogging, etc. It’s no longer about listening to the music. It’s about whether the music suits the task you’re currently performing.

As technology advanced and the internet gained popularity, it was now possible for anyone and everyone to produce, distribute, and access music quickly and easily. The market was flooded with crap product because, literally, everybody and their brother can have a band now. You have to dig deep to find the good stuff and, for most people, it’s not worth the effort. I collect vinyl so I don’t mind digging. 😉

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Eugenia wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 12:26 PM PST:

xiaNaix, I agree with you. This is indeed what’s going on right now. There’s so much over-saturation in the industry that the good artists never get to get their share of success, and most people just don’t dig deep to find the good ones (I am one of the few that do, I spend almost an hour daily online trying to find new music). And also as you said, most people now days don’t “listen” to music anymore.

Antialex wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 3:34 PM PST:

If always felt that the real successor to rock was to post-rock, naming of the genre aside. It will never be mainstream, but, as you mention in your comments, it is music that has to be listened to. The genre retains the rock instrumentation but for completely different musical purposes, which I feel is the only way for rock (and any subgenre) to go, since, as you said, it is all said and done.

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Eugenia wrote on August 28th, 2009 at 3:38 PM PST:

I just realized that the reason why today’s rockers don’t talk about important things like the 60s rockers did, is because no one is giving a shit. George Bush went ahead with all the crap and no big marches stopped him. Today’s youth simply doesn’t care. They care more about their XBoX and nailing others rather than the problems of the world.

And today’s music reflects just that. I guess it’s not rock that changed, but people.

memson wrote on August 29th, 2009 at 3:47 AM PST:

My thoughts:

Every generation thinks that their music is the most important stuff around. In the 90’s, it was all 80’s stuff like Metallica and Megadeth and Bon Jovi and things that came out in the 80’s that people claimed were the \last great musical revolution\. In the 80’s it was all about Led Zep and the Doors and the Beatles. In the 60’s it was all about Elvis and the old rockers from the 50’s.

In the 1990’s Nirvana were nothing. Just another band. Now look at them. By the end of the 1990’s they were massive, iconic and on a par with the other greats bands.

In the 2010’s we will look back on the 2000’s and there will be great music. I can’t tell you what it will be yet because I’m too old at 35 to appreciate the music that is currently popular. It’s nothing *I* like, that is for certain.

deathshadow wrote on August 29th, 2009 at 7:42 AM PST:

My problem with modern ‘rock’ is there often seems to be no soul to it. It’s mindless droning tripe that has nothing remotely resembling “testicular fortitude” – soft rock wussy crap churned out by metrosexuals so limp wristed they’d get their asses kicked by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Seriously, MOST of the ‘big’ rock bands today aren’t fit for AM radio of the 80’s. It started in the mid 90’s when Metallica was replaced by pods and we lost Kurt, and it’s been a downhill slide ever since. I mean just how the **** do bands like Coldplay or Nickleback even have CAREERS?!? It’s bad when soft strain operatic ‘fringe’ groups like Evenescence or Darling Violetta are rocking harder than washed up hasbeens like Pearl Jam or limp wristed wussies like Matchbox twenty. When John Mayer and Destiny’s Child are showing up on ROCK top 100 charts, something is dangerously wrong with the world.

Much less I can’t think of ANY recent group that has done anything on the scale of 38 Special, Foreigner, Eagles or Steve Miller Band. Just exactly what is the current generations equivalents to “Hotel California”, “Stairway to Heaven”… hell, I’d kill for something on the same level as the “Safety Dance” at this point! Probably why my twentysomething nephew spends more time raiding my late 70’s early 80’s collection than listening to anything that’s come out the past decade.

I just told him I was going to say that, his response: “Man, the Bay City Rollers were more talented than everyone on the current billboard charts”

… and it’s a good point – look at the whiny little bitches on the billboard charts. Linkin Park? Freddy Mercury would tell them to tone it down. Silversun Pickups? Oh, you mean Green Day MkII!!! Pearl Jam – don’t even get me STARTED! Kings of Leon? Sounds like all the other blurred together soulless mush we just listed. Muse? I think I liked it better when it was called INXS.

It’s all mushy whiney soft rock crap… Where’s the energy? Where’s the hate? Where’s the Soul? It’s like these bands are just going through the motions.

But there have been a couple of shining gems in this dearth of talent. White Stripes for example – a two person act that rocks out harder than most of what’s on the billboard top twenty right now. Nobody is going to call Jack White a talented vocalist, but the same could be said about Dylan, Petty and Orbison. He is probably the closest thing to a ‘talent’ of that nature to come out of the past decade.

But on the whole, It’s like the majority of bands are just emulating the second stringers of the late 80’s. Oh but for a Hendrix, a Walsh, or even a Nuge.

deathshadow wrote on August 29th, 2009 at 8:15 AM PST:

addendum – almost forgot.

You mentioned “They care more about their XBoX and nailing others rather than the problems of the world”…

The first half – game consoles – I think can show just how good todays music is – Answer me this: How many songs on the three versions of Guitar Hero were made after 1995?

As to the second half, well – how many classic songs are about nailing some random chick. From “Who wears short shorts” to “Let me put my love into You”, songs about getting laid or checking out some hotty has been the cornerstone of rock for ages.

I’m wondering if the reason we’re not getting anything good is these kids are all actually getting some, instead of having to use their music as an outlet for repressed feelings.

Might also help explain why Nickleback’s music has less emotional investment than Chuck Berry’s “My Ding A Ling”. So hard rocking Blind Melon would kick their ass.

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Eugenia wrote on August 29th, 2009 at 12:02 PM PST:

>Every generation thinks that their music is the most important stuff around.

Not true. Most people agree that the ’80s sucked musically compared to the ’60s/70s/90s.

Vikram Sharma wrote on August 29th, 2009 at 11:47 PM PST:

Nostalgia does play an important factor in judging the kind of music, movies or just plain social culture of a society. It’s always the good ol’ days. That being said there has been a sharp decline in the quality of rock music, we don’t have the Pink Floyd. The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Queen of the yesteryears, rock used to be about addressing issues that affect us. Rock music to me is not just loud music but also the quality of lyrics, that seems to have gone down with time. There are bands like Foo Fighters, Pearl jam, System of Down, Placebo, Radiohead, not to forget Stone Temple Pilots that really good rock bands of today, rocks bands with substance. Each generation has it’s fair share of music that rocks and music that really sucks. Just my opinion.

Vast Majority wrote on August 30th, 2009 at 2:08 AM PST:

Personally, the best music transcends time (and generations). But you have to find it. For me I choose as markers, in order of exposure, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Can, Brian Eno, The Stooges, Magazine, Wire, Gang of Four, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Peter Gabriel, Killing Joke, Chrome, Neil Young, Zoviet France, The Cocteau Twins, The Pixies, African Head Charge, Terminal Cheesecake, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Rapoon, Lecanoscope, The Orb, Future Sound Of London, Tipsy, William Orbit, Air, Boards Of Canada, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols, The Submarines, . Sorry, just the tip here, but you get the idea.

Stephen B. wrote on August 30th, 2009 at 10:21 AM PST:

For my money, the best thing about the stagnation of current music is that it makes looking back more attractive. About ten years ago, I started digging through my dad’s LP collection – mostly in frustration over a string of weak/mediocre records by some of my favourite bands a few years back (Tea Party, Radiohead, Tragically Hip).

It was really eye-opening to discover musicians like Leon Redbone, Johnny Winter, Django Rheinhardt, Taj Mahal, etc, and groups like Toots & The Maytals. Musicians that sounds polished without having to rely on gimmicky crutches like auto-tune – and who could make music that was upbeat (sad-bastardism gets really tiresome after a while) without seeming cloying and saccharine.

Fast-forward ten years and now I find that listening to most contemporary music is equivalent to eating Salisbury steak after living on fillet mignon. Most of what I hear on the radio has the musical complexity of a nursery rhyme and is either self-indulgent “woe is me” whining, or the musical equivalent of soft-porn (I now find that even a lot of “classic” rock just sounds like blues with a lot of unnecessary crap layered on top of it).

I truly feel sorry for people raised on the crap of the last 10 years – you don’t have to look far to find some truly ridiculous notions about what makes “good music.” E.g., recently I came across a youtube clip of Louis Armstrong – according the commenter, Armstrong sucked because he made funny faces while singing & he would be laughed off stage if he auditioned for American Idol.

Don Swanson wrote on August 30th, 2009 at 1:14 PM PST:

Rock music unofficially came to an end when Donna Summer released ‘I Feel Love’ as a single in Europe around 1979.

Jim wrote on August 30th, 2009 at 5:08 PM PST:

I have to violently disagree with Don Swanson.
It did officially end in 1979 with Donna Summer and has been rotting ever since.
Now I am saying Rock as a movement or rock as a style of music. There have been many great recordings since then, but Rock on the whole has died with a few reminders since then of its past life

deathshadow wrote on August 30th, 2009 at 10:36 PM PST:

I would disagree on ’79 – while certainly Donna Summer is an atrocity worthy of assembling a war crimes tribunal, I think that same time period was balanced by talents like Pat Benetar. You’re talking the same year as “Heartbreaker” and a year before the “Crimes of Passion” album.

People badmouth the music of the 80’s, but look at the good stuff – The 80’s started out with AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, Benetar’s “Treat me Right”, and Joan Jett’s post Runaways solo career taking off. By the end of the decade you had Metallica before the one with talent died, really kicking off the movement away from the lame spandex clad hair-metal era. (Praise be). In-between we had Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Travelling Willbury’s, Aerosmith churned out two flops but also turned out two mega platinum albums… Permanant Vacation being better in my opinion by the album which followed (that sold better) – prior to that the best album would have to have been 76’s “Rocks”. Are you going to say that Rush’s “Moving Pictures” album sucked – giving us such classics as “YYZ” and “Tom Sawyer”? Hell, on my local rock station (NOT the classic rock one) you still hear more Rush than you do any band of the past ten years! How about the Police’s “Syncronicity”? Talking Heads “Speaking in Tongues”? Mellancamp’s solo album “Centerfield”?

… and even the stuff that “sucked” – from the “Safety Dance” to “Down Under” have a tongue in cheek aspect to them which makes them fun today… I can understand it being easy to get lost behind all the Pop crap, the 80’s certainly had it’s share of rubbish – Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Culture Club (yes, I really do want to hurt him – badly), but you have to remember just how much good music came from that same time period.

I’m not certain any of the whiney angst coming from the majority of pansies making rock today would meet up to those standards.

In case you couldn’t guess, I’m an old fart… I’m as likely to listen to the Troggs, Cream and the Chocolate Watchband as I am to listen to Motorhead and Biohazard. I’m also a musician so I know when a band is ‘tight’ and when they are just going through the motions – and I really feel like the majority of music post… eh, I guess I’d draw the line at 1995… is the latter. Whiney metrosexual EMU angst… and yes, I mean EMU, not EMO. Emo’s are the kids who started the trend becuase they were actually rebelling, EMU’s are the rich kids who emulate the behavior because it’s trendy – usually having mommy and daddy buy out the stock at Hot Topic for them with their biggest problem being should daddy buy them a Mercedes E-Class or an Audi TT.

You know, the difference between Punk and Poser. One Saturday I took a walk to Zipperhead – I met a girl there and she almost knocked me dead…

Lately I find myself looking for something ‘new’ to listen to, and instead going back to old stuff I never even heard of or stuff that was ‘way out on the fringe’… I’ve always had a thing for Texas Blues/Rock so I’ve been gathering up old Omar and the Howlers and Delbert McClinton albums. For a harder edge I’ve been listening to experimental groups like In Extremo and NiN. Hell, it’s reached the point I’m even listening to Pat Boone’s “In a Metal Mood” and Paul Anka’s “Rock Swings”.

Don Swanson wrote on August 31st, 2009 at 12:57 PM PST:

“It did officially end in 1979 with Donna Summer and has been rotting ever since.”

The question posed by Eugenia relates to innovation or influence of artists in the area of rock music.

Donna Summers ‘I Feel Love’ was foundational because it was real pop music made without musicians. The future of commercial music was that of a singer/image and a producer. When this record came out it *scared people* especially musicians that now feel like dinosaurs. Kraftwerks ‘Trans Europe Express’ was an important foundational record but it wasn’t mainstream pop. Really the end of the evolution might be Kraftwerks ‘Computerwelt’ 1981.

Everything in rock now is IMO more or less a nostalgic remix of pre-1981. The subjective aspect of like or dislike is not the issue here.

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