Archive for September 7th, 2004

Where is the music? (Rock is Dead redux)

Sep 07, 2004 in Music

Marilyn Manson, that erudite shock-rock philosopher, once pointed out on the eve of George W’s election: “I think music and all art really flourishes and becomes much more exciting under a conservative president because there’s a need to react against limitations.”

The history of rock music in the 20th century certainly bears out Mr. Manson’s observation. During times of national dischord and general youth malaise, rock music has responded with a burst of unbridled creativity, furthering the genre into new and exciting musical territories. Witness the timeless music of the late 60’s, the roar of punk rock that took root in the post-Nixon years and flowered through the Reagan eighties, and the culmination of punk’s spirit and creativity that resulted in a phenomenon known as grunge and alternative music in the post-Gulf War nineties.

Today, in a time that is more turbulent than any period since the Vietnam era, one thing seems to be missing. Where is the music? Where are today’s Beatles, Hendrix, Joplin, Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, or Nirvana? Where is the wellspring of underground creativity that threatens to burst into the mainstream, unhindered by that mainstream’s rules and values? Where is the movement that threatens to change rock, to take it in exciting new directions? Will today’s kids grow up without their own equivalent of the Grunge Era, the Punk Era, or the Summer of Love?

Perhaps this is a symptom of what I have long pondered: Perhaps rock is dead? It seems to me as if rock music has reached the end of it’s evolutionary cycle, and there’s nothing more to do at this point than to simply rehash what has been done before as authentically as possible. Witness the latest generation of protest music, which borrows so much from it’s sixties counterpart as to be almost indistinguishable from the music of that era.

While musicians of all genres are speaking out against Bush and the War in Iraq, there has yet to be a bubbling cauldron of new acts to seize the spirit of the day. Those musicians today who are politically motivated have, in many cases, been around long enough to see the previously-mentioned revolutions in popular music, and have often been a part of them. This time around, it seems that Mr. Manson’s observation has yet to bear fruit.

So kids, pick up a guitar, get creative and get pissed! Stop trying to sound like your favorite bands, and try re-interpreting them instead. If every band since 1965 tried to sound like the Beatles, we wouldn’t have the sheer diversity of music that we do today. It’s time to create some new genres of music that truly reflect the 21st century.