As I sit down to write, Nelson's delightfully poppy
1990 album, "After The Rain" fills the room. "Why the fuck are
you listening to Nelson?" you might ask, and in truth I'm not sure. I
found a copy of the tape lying in the hallway of my apartment building
(right next to a deceased transsexual heroin abuser) and decided to procure
it simply for the pure sappiness of its content, but I'm actually starting
to be drawn into it's oh-so-affirming lyricism and the sweetest melodic
hooks this side of The Archies. Perhaps I'm finding new life in the album
because of the mild euphoria I've achieved by drinking a sixteen ounce
Jolt cola or maybe it's a feeble attempt on my part to combat the dreary
pessimism of 90's music (granted, a fad standing on its last legs as the
grunge and gangsta rap of yesterday hands over its crown to Lilith Fair
queens and positive rap groups of the Hieroglyphics breed.) Or perhaps
I have finally gone insane.
I have a very shameful confession to make, I actually wrote this
piece two years ago. In preparing this issue of AL I realized
I'd not written anything and decided to pull this delightful analysis
of rock music from my archives. After all, it's quite entertaining
and should be shared with the masses. Nonetheless, please ignore
any outdated references to the ninieties that make it sound as
if that is the current decade. I'm well aware that it is now 2015
and that decade ended over fifteen years ago.
Your tolerance for my many faults is appreciated,
I've been thinking a lot about Rock and pop music
these days. Specifically I've been wondering whether it's time to bring
the hatchet down on these two strains of pop culture and call it a day.
"Kill Rock and Roll," you squeal. "Why would we want to do that?" Well,
metaphorically, for the same reasons the government wants to kill Microsoft.
It's bloated, stifles competition and has lost it's creative edge. Not
to mention Rock music is getting old. Hell it's been going strong for
almost fifty years now. Jazz only had a reputable heyday of twenty years
or so, before it turned into glassy toned pop-jazz of the George Benson
variety or dirge-like fusion. (Though I will personally slay anyone
who doesn't sing along to Weather Report's "Birdland."). Blues has only
enjoyed brief spurts of popular acclaim, usually the result of accolades
laid on it by rock stars. Dixieland? Country? Folk? None of them have
maintained the consistent popularity of Rock and Pop, but rather fade
in and out of the public consciousness.
Don't get me wrong, I love Rock and Roll, and it
has certainly, in its various forms, been the defining music of my life.
Part of me would like to say that it's going to be around forever, as
intoned by the millions of screaming, "Rock and Roll will never die"
fans at an Ozzy concert. But, honestly… maybe it should die. Is Rock
and Roll still around because
it's a vibrant, legitimate art form, or because its bloated corpse is
one hell of a cash cow for commercial interests? And I don't say that
in some sort of 'Punk Rock,' anti-establishment, socialistic fervor,
hell, for the most part I've always been a free-market kind of guy.
But I can't help recognize the trends in rock, its fondness for taking
something old, redressing in a contemporary look, and parading it out
to the consumer. Almost all recent successes have been reinterpretations
of the past. Nirvana was toned down 80's punk. Jewel is a an extension
of the female songwriter archetype going back to Carol King. Guns and
Roses were a continuation of the host of "bad boy" bands whose lineage
points to Aerosmith, AC/DC and the Stones. Marilyn Manson is a pasty
Alice Cooper. The new focus on power pop reminds us that we've been
listening to people attempt to recreate the Beatles for the past thirty
years. Even Rap and techno, arguably the only really "new" music of
the past fifteen years are dependent on samples from the past.
Why don't we get tired of
the repetitiveness of the whole thing? Because, by the time you start
to see the pattern, you're no longer the controlling audience. Pop music
has always been about selling it to the kids, the reason being that
most of them don't know any better. It all sounds new to them, it all
sounds fresh. It's easy to repackage a old Zombies song, add a little
more distortion andhave the new Smash Mouth hit.
The thing is, while most
people blame the decline of rock music on corporate interests, I look
in the other direction. Rock music has gone down the loo, not because
of commercial giants who are only interested in making a profit, but
because of exceptionally bad taste on the part of the American public.
Corporations exist to make a profit and to anyone with a slightly discerning
eye, that's a pretty obvious truth. But it's the sheep-like American
public (nay, world public) that empowers them by buying their swill.
Everyone wants to blame the singular entity of corporations like Warner
Brothers or EMI but ,just like Sandra Berhardt, they'd be nothing without
us. All they do is shovel food into the trough, whether the public chooses
to dine there is entirely the public's decision.
It'd be nice if the "underground"
music scene offered a sweet alternative, but for the most part it spits
out regurgitated sixties pop, surf tunes andpunk and garage music in the
mistaken belief that attempting to recreate the past is somehow "cool."
They offer occasional gems, yes, but for the most part the underground
is a area where hacks reign supreme, and create very little that is
It's not to say that the
nineties doesn't have any sort of unique sound. Though much of nineties
music is a reflection of Rock music's past, it does contain a darker
edge. But more than any other decade, the music of this era seems not
only indebted to its past, but trapped in it, fearfull of treading into
So if Rock and Roll dies,
what's next? Well, it's difficult to say, but the increased importance
of computers in the music industry, is bound to have some effect. Will
music, become cold and heartless, like the space age sound tracks to
sixties sci-fi films, or any good Kraftwerk album? Maybe, but in a way
that'd be a refreshing change from the showy emotionalism of every seething
alterna-star or screeching Folk/Pop siren. Frigid, metallic music slowly
eradicating all joy and eventually… draining… the… will… to… live…
"Yesterday don't matter
if its gone"
Rolling Stones Ruby Tuesday
"Day in, day out, all we
know is: Things go better with Rock."
Autograph Turn Up The Radio
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