Is rock the new jazz?
December 2, 2016 11:03 AM   Subscribe

PopMatters thought so in 2012. Now Brooklyn Vegan blames it on The Strokes.

Rock, as a living cultural force, appears to be on the decline. Oddly enough, there are now schools dedicated to the genre, owing in no small part to the eponynmous movie and the growing desire of the generation raised on it to preserve the vestiges of their youth. The popularity of classic rock is growing, indicating the establishment of a canon not unlike classical repertoire or jazz standards. There's even a term for it. Does this mean rock is doomed to the same fate of critical overexamination and cultural irrelevance? Is that a bad thing?
posted by grumpybear69 (107 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Brooklyn Vegan: You’re more likely to find rap, R&B, and EDM, genres that are still moving forward at a rapid pace, while maintaining a large fanbase.

IOW, disco (or its grandchild EDM) killed rock and roll. Or at least stabbed one of the steely knives.
posted by bonehead at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Z is the new Y was the new X was the new W was the new V was the...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


tying a genre to a particular cultural identity was a pretty good way to guarantee its eventual irrelevance
posted by beerperson at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


It’s easy to understand why people feel this way. New rock bands very rarely top charts, headline festivals, or get played on (non-satellite) radio.

It's the idea that something has to be massive and relentlessly overexposed to have "cultural relevance" that's dying, finally. I saw a lot of great, inspiring shows this year of stuff that was nominally jazz or nominally rock (or classical, or country), but actually crossed genres and didn't really fit in neatly anywhere, all of which people showed up for, bought records at, etc.

Lots of really vital culture is still happening, it just isn't happening in the context of a mid-20th c. style mass culture anymore.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:15 AM on December 2, 2016 [29 favorites]


Can't we blame Jack White?
posted by My Dad at 11:16 AM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


They name-check artists that were making more "groundbreaking" albums in 2001 like System Of A Down and Jimmy Eat World, but they're ignoring the fairly observable fact that not nearly as many people listen to that stuff 15 years later as compared to the listenership of something like Is This It (which still seems pretty well-liked.)
posted by dreamlanding at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


So what's the Nu Jazz of Rock?
posted by Kabanos at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2016


I love jazz.
posted by ducky l'orange at 11:22 AM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Does this make death metal hard bop or cool jazz?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:22 AM on December 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


In all seriousness, I think of what my 14-year-old son listens to now (EDM on Soundcloud) compared to what I listened to at his age 30 years ago ("Metal Shop" every Thursday night on 99.9FM KISW, playing Maiden, Judas Priest, Sabbath, Metallica, Saxon etc etc) and it's... weird. He's a popular, outgoing kid but doesn't go to the high school dance--something I never missed. And the music they played at the high school dance had all sorts of music that became a common cultural touchstone, from Duran Duran to Billy Idol and Prince and even Led Zeppelin (do they even close down high school dances with Led Zeppelin anymore?)

Interestingly, the one place my son and I connect musically is with jazz. He's a total band rat (he plays the trumpet), and while my musical tastes are pretty eclectic, and include some EDM-y things (listening to Simian Mobile Disco right now), he, for obvious reasons, does not like my music. But he does get interested in the jazz I like (Monk, Gillespie). So that's nice.
posted by My Dad at 11:28 AM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


"JazzRock is not dead, it just smells funny." - Frank Zappa
posted by SansPoint at 11:31 AM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, there are now schools dedicated to the genre, owing in no small part to the eponynmous movie and the growing desire of the generation raised on it to preserve the vestiges of their youth.

My daughter takes voice lessons at one of these schools (Rock N Roll High School, Apex NC) and is a member of a rock band as well as the school's audition-only House Band which pays gigs not only at the school, but also at local events, festivals, and recently at a new all-ages rock venue in town. They play a pretty decent range of music though - lots of rock, metal & punk, a decent amount of pop, some blues, and she's been pushing to get some hip-hop into their set.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:33 AM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


They name-check artists that were making more "groundbreaking" albums in 2001 like System Of A Down and Jimmy Eat World

I didn't need to look up the author of the Brooklyn Vegan piece was around 12 years old in 2001. But I did look it up, and looks like he was. Because only someone who was a tween or early teen at that exact time would view those albums as groundbreaking.
posted by malphigian at 11:34 AM on December 2, 2016 [36 favorites]


I grew up listening to now-classic groups like Shortbread, Janice Spix and the Sick Sticks, Triple View, The Italics... all my kids want to listen to is the sound of a pair of scissors caught in a garbage disposal (I am spending way too much money on scissors guys).
posted by beerperson at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


It’s easy to understand why people feel this way. New rock bands very rarely top charts, headline festivals, or get played on (non-satellite) radio.

It's funny to think one of the signs that rock has lost its cultural relevance is that new rock bands don't get played on the radio. How much cultural relevance does radio have these days?
posted by layceepee at 12:01 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've kind of thought that the Strokes (one of my favorite bands, FYI) killed rock music for a long time. But reading this made me thing of a counter-argument: What if the Strokes did not kill rock music, but were the last gasp of rock's rear guard? Consider that hip hop and EDM had already broken through to mainstream popularity well before then, to the point where, when nu-metal got big in 1999, MTV ran shows called "Return of the Rock". Rock was already in the process of being eclipsed when "Is This It" came out, and possibly the Strokes just saved some time for rock to be relevant. Maybe if it weren't for "Is This It", rock would have lost its relevance in 2002. Discuss.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2016




I dunno. Judging by the amazing music being played on a nearby student-run high school station, rock's doing just fine. It just doesn't sound like mom and dad's rock.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:08 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


That was the same year that less critically-adored but more groundbreaking albums were released by System of a Down (Toxicity), Thursday (Full Collapse), Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American), and Tool (Lateralus), to name a few. Those four albums may have suffered for being less fashionable than Is This It, but not because they were less original.

I don't know what the author is talking about, I'm about a year older than he is and the albums listed there by SoaD, Tool, and Jimmy Eat World were the biggest, most ubiquitous contemporary rock albums my freshman year of highschool (and the subsequent years) everyone I knew had a copy of all three, burnt or otherwise then. The Strokes were simply "OK" but SoaD and Tool were on the local alt-rock station all day everyday and anytime people were getting together there'd be someone nearby ready and eager to put on any one of those three albums and ten other kids who were totally on board to hear 'em too!
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:12 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


hey hey my my
posted by philip-random at 12:22 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


You can't kill rock.
posted by stevil at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2016


Radio? The commercial space that was once occupied by cock-rock strutting and guy-with-a -big-heart mid-tempo ballads seems to have moved to country stations. The commercial country is basically now formulaic AOR, but with all the singers always using that twang thing, and Nashville values in the production. Songs about getting drunk and fingerbanged in trucks. Perfect guitar solos. A little fiddle and pedal steel, like old-timey decor hanging on the walls of a chain restaurant.
posted by thelonius at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Is rock the new jazz?

No.
posted by spilon at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


The last time I remember feeling really enthusiastic over rock music was when Songs For The Deaf and DeLoused In The Comatorium came out, so .... 2003-ish?

A friend and I were recently batting around the possibilities for top ten albums list for the year and the only ones that would have qualified as rock were Puscifer (technically a 2015 album, middle fingers up to the list police) and, if you're willing to really stretch the definition of rock, Radiohead.
posted by mannequito at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2016


Not sure the discussion in this thread has much to do with the arguments the article writers are trying to make, but whatevs.

One of the more unique and unprecedented but under the radar rock records of the year is Kvelertak‘s Nattesferd, which is certainly a metal album but a very poppy one.

Encyclopaedia Metallum has decided that Kvelertak isn't metal, but that doesn't stop the band from being fucking excellent. Here, have some Nattesferd. If you get a chance to see them on tour, don't miss it. They're fantastic live, with the right audience.

(What genre that is? "Kvelertak represent a version of what music might have sounded like if it had never been walled off into hierarchical subcultures, if music had never become identity.")
posted by effbot at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


phillip-random: This version of "Hey Hey My My" is better.
posted by SansPoint at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


My gut reaction is to formulate some defense, both of rock, and of The Strokes, and some of the other stuff the author bad mouths, based on: that Is This It didn't ask to be a movement defining record and still holds up; and two, his idea of what is qualitatively good seems to say more about the idiosyncrasies of his personal tastes and the exact point he grew up at in the generational spectrum than any widely agreed upon standards.

But then, after Leonard Cohen died and I listened to You Want It Darker for a few days, I was surprised to realize I hadn't listened to any pop or rock music by white people in weeks, if not longer. Since the election, I'm on a strict soul/hip hop diet. Soul for when I need love and hope, hip hop for when I need defiance.

Even reaching back a bit further in my listening, I've been more likely to listen to Americana the last few years. Not so much rock. I had chalked my increasing disinterest in rock to getting older, but maybe rock is letting me down.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:51 PM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I find it interesting that articles on the death of Rock fail to acknowledge that Rock is a very white genre (as well as straight and largely male, to boot). EDM and Hip-Hop are genres with a more diverse audience of creators, and with younger audiences looking for more representation, rock's pantheon of largely old white dudes isn't going to provide it.

(Says a white guy who grew up on and still listens to rock, but is more into old school electronic music.)
posted by SansPoint at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


This article vastly overestimates the critical significance of the fucking NME, a "magazine" that has recently joined the throng of obstacles in the enormous ARG version of Frogger that now comprises one's walk to work in any major British city. Can you dodge seven morose distributors, each trying to thrust two copies of some freesheet shite into your hand by carefully hiding one inside the other? can. you. fuck.

In short, leave the Strokes alone, they're fine. The NME is, and was, and will ever be, fucking bollocks, and taking it seriously won't help you analyse the history of popular music.
posted by howfar at 12:54 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


FWIW, The Strokes absolutely never claimed to be reinventing the wheel. They were just spinning the hell out of the old one. How well that worked for other people as a thesis for or against the future of rock music is irrelevant to how good their music is or isn't, and really, is a bunch of stupid bullshit to try and hang on some guys just trying to play songs about girls, liquor, and feeling churlish.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


The core jazz repertoire consists of these long repeating sequences of chords which players are expected to improvise over the upper extensions of at sometimes extreme tempos.

It's like the genre was designed to train musicians. I think it will have some staying power in music schools.
posted by floppyroofing at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


@SansPoint: How do you explain the popularity of country, then? It's a sales behemoth and the most popular radio format in the United States while managing to appeal almost exclusively to whites and seemingly having pride for running a Nashville/countrypolitan sound into the ground for the past 40 years? Even when something innovative like alt country pops up, the Nashville establishment does their best to exclude it.
posted by koavf at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2016


Pop country is essentially a tarted-up version of 70s/80s pop/rock, aimed to satisfy the cultural and musical preferences of white people with pickup trucks who live near a mall. It has a helluva lot more to do with the Eagles than Hank Williams.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:07 PM on December 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


koavf: Contemporary country is popular with certain populations of white people, but not with musical tastemakers (aka the Brooklyn Hipster Types). There's certainly enough of an audience for Nashville to sell records and concert tickets to, but they haven't had much luck breaking out of the niche. The hipster types prefer old school country music, or alt-country. (Robbie Fulks FTW.)
posted by SansPoint at 1:07 PM on December 2, 2016


disco (or its grandchild EDM)
EDM and Hip-Hop are genres with a more diverse audience of creators
You’re more likely to find rap, R&B, and EDM, genres that are still moving forward at a rapid pace, while maintaining a large fanbase.

Hmm, I wonder if everyone's been hearing a different EDM than me. Whereas disco and house were black, gay, progressive/political, and inner city, EDM seems super white, rich (or at least upper-middle-class), suburban, and purely party-focused. It's the genre where superstar DJs like Calvin Harris can make $400,000 from a single gig and $63 million in annual income. Unlike hip-hop it doesn't feel gritty, radical, or boundary-pushing, it's just the sound of bros on molly raging down at an outdoor festival or Las Vegas nightclub. I'd like to hear a spirited defense of the genre, because I'm sure I will be humbled by it and will have to admit I'm wrong and closed-minded.
posted by naju at 1:15 PM on December 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


naju: I freely admit that I'm not super up on my EDM, since my electronic tastes are closer to Kraftwerk than Calvin Harris. Even if it's not as diverse as other up and coming genres, there's still a bit more diversity in what I've seen of the EDM space than elsewhere. Music industry nonsense, of course, means the most boring, whitebread, artists get the most exposure, though.
posted by SansPoint at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2016


This article vastly overestimates the critical significance of the fucking NME, a "magazine" that has recently joined the throng of obstacles in the enormous ARG version of Frogger that now comprises one's walk to work in any major British city. Can you dodge seven morose distributors, each trying to thrust two copies of some freesheet shite into your hand by carefully hiding one inside the other?

The publishers of the new freesheet NME missed a trick by not paying attention to the details of who hands it out. The paper is named and branded after the legendary Indie Bible that defined credible rock in the years from punk to Britpop; meanwhile, the vendors appear to be oblivious to what the brand stands for; they're mostly middle-aged, quite possibly poor migrants from a labour exchange, attired in branded plastic jackets that could just as easily bear the name of any other promotional leaflet, and don't look like anyone who is familiar with alternative rock. You'd think that the promoters would have had the nous to hire students and instruct them to dress like classic subcultural fashion plates (punks, hairspray goths, Britpop Mods, 1980s bowlie anoraks or some variant on Jarvis Cocker perhaps).
posted by acb at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2016


They name-check artists that were making more "groundbreaking" albums in 2001 like System Of A Down and Jimmy Eat World, but they're ignoring the fairly observable fact that not nearly as many people listen to that stuff 15 years later as compared to the listenership of something like Is This It (which still seems pretty well-liked.)

Is this true? I mean you may well have streaming figures that say it is - all I know is here in my mid-late 20s I can imagine people I know playing those first two, strictly nostalgically, more easily that I can imagine people I know listening to The Strokes.

Hmm, I wonder if everyone's been hearing a different EDM than me. Whereas disco and house were black, gay, progressive/political, and inner city, EDM seems super white, rich (or at least upper-middle-class), suburban, and purely party-focused.

I was just gonna say this kinda depends on whether by EDM you mean "electronic dance music" or "EDM."
posted by atoxyl at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


atoxyl: I was just gonna say this kinda depends on whether by EDM you mean "electronic dance music" or "EDM."

Ah, yeah, good point. I'm meaning "electronic dance music" more than "EDM"
posted by SansPoint at 1:33 PM on December 2, 2016


Yeah, I keep wondering whether everyone else is confused about what EDM is, or I am. Has all electronic music with a beat you would hear at a club been subsumed under the "EDM" banner now? Because I am still thinking of it as a very specific set of musical and cultural signifiers.
posted by naju at 1:34 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Like in the same way, not all emotional music is emo, and not all intelligent dance music is IDM, and not all house music made by witches is witch house)
posted by naju at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


naju: Music genres are complicated, and the insane specificity some music nerds have about specific genres is mind-blowing. Ask a metal fan the difference between Black Metal and Death Metal for example.
posted by SansPoint at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2016


I totally get that, but this isn't quibbling between subgenres, EDM is supposed to be huge like hip-hop and R&B. it would be as if half of everyone who heard the term "hip-hop" thought it was referring to Aphex Twin and Lady Gaga.
posted by naju at 1:48 PM on December 2, 2016


When I hear "EDM" I think Skrillex, Diplo, Deadmau5. Wub-wub-wub and the like. Not Vektroid or Absrdst.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:53 PM on December 2, 2016


grumpybeard69: I thought those three were Dubstep, not EDM. (See, this is the problem!)
posted by SansPoint at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2016


To answer the questions in the FPP, rock is not the new jazz, if it was The Strokes didn't "do" it (how can one band possibly do that), and the reason that rock isn't popular is that if you're 15 then your dad likes it and it's gross (unless you're a grumpy Gus 15 year old who wants to differentiate themselves from their peers, in which case you're probably walking around in a Strokes shirt, saying how much better Julian Casablancas is than these manufactured phonies).
posted by codacorolla at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I keep wondering whether everyone else is confused about what EDM is, or I am. Has all electronic music with a beat you would hear at a club been subsumed under the "EDM" banner now? Because I am still thinking of it as a very specific set of musical and cultural signifiers.

I feel like it was kind of... un-subsumed? Like - "electronic dance music" as a description that attempts to encapsulate house/techno/dnb/hardcore/whatever has been around for a bit. "EDM" is just an abbreviation of "electronic dance music" and I was all for its use at first because neither "dance music" or "electronic music" are ideal generic terms. But since that initialism was used so heavily by the people pushing the bro-ey scene everybody else in dance music came to reject it.
posted by atoxyl at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think Skrillex, Diplo and Deadmau5 certainly qualify as EDM. Dubstep doesn't really seem like a thing anymore / most of its superstars have moved on to a broader EDM sound, with the same emphasis on drops, bendy fat basslines, etc. Some of the other big power players are people like Avicii, David Guetta, Disclosure, Flume, Kaskade, Bassnectar, Afrojack, Tiesto, Zedd...
posted by naju at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


LOL. Meanwhile, in today's Guardian:
If a teenager from London in 2006 came to survey youth culture in 2016, they would be confused, perhaps appalled. While their adolescence would have been populated by cocksure indie bands in drainpipe jeans playing packed all-ages concerts in warehouses and squats, the past decade has seen London lose many of its semi-legit venues as rampant gentrification and tighter regulation have spread through the city. That has meant it’s become harder to put on an impromptu show with no money. At the same time, there’s been a reaction against the masculinity of guitar bands. Young music types are more likely to be producers or weird arty savants like FKA twigs, who exist primarily online and are as likely to work with brands as their mates. Anarchic DIY groups such as Fat White Family do occasionally emerge, but tend to be older and more grizzled. The era of young fun bands seems to have stopped.

But quietly, the movement is resurfacing. In the pubs and community spaces of Peckham and Brixton there are a group of young bands who just want to hang out.

[...]

This scene feels as if it will outlast what happened in 2006. Firstly, the music is so much more important: bands haven’t just cribbed some Television chords so they can sing about girls they fancy. On Country Sleaze, Goat Girl demand “Touch my body, touch my soul/ Touch that deep and disused hole”, a guttural cry that would feel as true in the deep south as it does in Dulwich.
Sam Wolfson, Goat Girl: the band rebuilding London’s indie scene, The Guardian (2 December 2016).
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2016


Also, look at any of the headliners of festivals that make a shitload of money, and I bet you'll find names from 90s to early 2000s rock radio (like this abomination) because those are the people who have money.
posted by codacorolla at 2:02 PM on December 2, 2016


Here's one definition of EDM.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2016


atoxyl: And so you get the Metal genre problem under Electronic Dance Music which encompasses genres as diverse as Synthpop, Coldwave, Darkwave, Synthwave, Electroclash, Chiptune, House, Jungle, Trance, Hardcore, Triphop, Dubstep, Grime, and way more
posted by SansPoint at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ask a metal fan the difference between Black Metal and Death Metal for example.

happy to be of assistance
posted by atoxyl at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sonny Jim: That does remind me of another factor that I think helped contribute to the rise of electronic music over Rock: touring a rock band is expensive. A one or two-person electronic act has much lower overhead in terms of touring expenses.
posted by SansPoint at 2:05 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ask a metal fan the difference between Black Metal and Death Metal for example.

If you cannot tell the difference between pure examples of those two styles, you're not even trying :-)

(I guess you didn't click on the "if music had never become identity" link I posted earlier, which discusses that the genre multiplication in metal, and explains why an endless amount of labels might actually be necessary to model the modern metal universe, due to the insane amount of exploration takes place there these days.)
posted by effbot at 2:05 PM on December 2, 2016


On Country Sleaze, Goat Girl demand “Touch my body, touch my soul/ Touch that deep and disused hole”, a guttural cry that would feel as true in the deep south as it does in Dulwich.

"Tonight, Indie Club brings you Colon, the most talked about new act since Kurt Cobain did some interior decorating with a gun and his brain."
posted by howfar at 2:10 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sonny Jim: That does remind me of another factor that I think helped contribute to the rise of electronic music over Rock: touring a rock band is expensive. A one or two-person electronic act has much lower overhead in terms of touring expenses.

Definitely, or even go to the more basic setup. Having a band with guitar, drums, bass, vocals, maybe a synth player, and mics / recording equipment, and a reliable practice space (rent money) seems quite expensive in a city these days. Everyone's got a laptop and headphones and an apartment, and that's all you need for electronic music, even the kind that fills amphitheaters with massive sound. We're definitely in recession practicality mode.
posted by naju at 2:11 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


touring a rock band is expensive. A one or two-person electronic act has much lower overhead in terms of touring expenses

Sure, that's got to be a factor. Touring economics finished off big band music, after all.

Also, the barrier to entry for making some music with controllers and a DAW or DJ software is a lot lower than it is for learning guitar, trying to find bandmates, dealing with hauling drum sets around town, and big amps, finding rehearsal space with no problems from noise complaints, etc. It's probably harder for young bands to find places to play now than it used to be, too.
posted by thelonius at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


This person thinks "Full Collapse" by Thursday and "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World were groundbreaking albums? Huh? I mean, in their respective genres, maybe ("War All The Time" is more groundbreaking than "Full Collapse" in my opinion), but across the board I do not remember them being considered groundbreaking at all, especially versus "Lateralus". This is such a weird statement to me.
posted by gucci mane at 2:14 PM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


What can you want now you've got it all
The whole scene is obscene
Time will strip it away


- Time for Heroes, The Libertines, 2003
posted by elsietheeel at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2016


Fuck I'm old.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Seriously, though, I think what the main article is talking about (with respect to the Strokes) is rock archivalism. Which, let's face it, has been going on longer than many of us on this thread have been alive. I grew up with '80s/'90s New Zealand indie guitar rock—so much of that was about trying to recover the music, aesthetics, and attitude of a kind of lost, idealised '60s psychedelia. The whole Dunedin scene was, to a large extent, a kind of city-wide, decade-long VU revival. So many scenes that we now regard as movements in their own right were "revivals," informed by the same modes of stylistic nostalgia and painstaking archivalism. I think almost the last gasp of that on a commercially significant level was a band like the Long Blondes, whose aesthetics of '60s fetishism (in music, film, fashion, and literary references) I took for granted at the time, because it's what I encountered at university in the early '90s and then lived in my 20s and early 30s, but which, in the 8 years since their break up, has come to seem retrospectively odd and old-fashioned. And I think this is what the Guardian piece I linked to is getting at. Painstaking reconstruction and archivalism has less cultural capital now really than ever, because the internet makes it trivial really to encounter that earlier stuff, where in the '80s and early '90s, it was materially scarce and one had to make significant efforts and sacrifices to get at it. So what happens instead is ... well, music that doesn't need to genuflect to the past so much.

Anyway, while I'm sympathetic to a lot of the sentiment in the article and the thread, I have to kick back against the idea that there isn't good rock being made any more. There's so much, maybe more than ever—it just tends to happen in other, less visible genres. Metal, for instance, is a hugely vibrant and creative scene right now. I haven't really listened to much straightforward new "rock" this year, but I have listened to a ton of new metal, and much of it has blown my mind in a way the Strokes and their ilk never did for me.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:17 PM on December 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Maybe groundbreaking is overselling it, but Full Collapse was the introduction to screamo for many, and Bleed American was the introduction to mainstream emo for many (note the qualifier "mainstream", don't yell at me!) So they can be called landmark albums without much controversy I think.
posted by naju at 2:17 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


We're definitely in recession practicality mode
Fully. Hence the popularity and rise of the rock two-piece over the past few years, a la Black Keys and Royal Blood.
posted by Sonny Jim at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sonny Jim: And Japandroids, who are finally working on a third album!
posted by SansPoint at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Did everyone stop reading before they got to the "I’m not suggesting those albums didn’t get their fair share of good reviews, and I’m certainly not suggesting that they weren’t popular. But their legacy certainly isn’t reinforced like Is This It‘s is." bit?
posted by effbot at 2:23 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Whereas disco and house were black, gay, progressive/political, and inner city, EDM seems super white, rich (or at least upper-middle-class), suburban, and purely party-focused"

You could say something similar (except for gay, because it was the 50s) about R&B "race records" and early rock n roll. Ike Turner and Pat Boone...

"A one or two-person electronic act has much lower overhead"

I seem to recall a Jay-Z interview where he made that exact point explaining the rise of DJing in hip hop.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Avicii, David Guetta, Disclosure, Flume, Kaskade, Bassnectar, Afrojack, Tiesto, Zedd...

This list illustrates the difficulty of trying to draw a hard line between "EDM" and the rest of dance music though. Many of those people have roots in specific dance genres - they're just the most mainstream stars - and it's not like Tiesto sounds like Bassnectar sounds like Disclosure. Some of them have actually been popular since before "EDM" was a thing. I think there are some performers now - like Guetta or the Chainsmokers or whatever - who really don't fit into anything but "EDM" but mostly the term signifies more culturally than musically (except that there will be a drop).
posted by atoxyl at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Speaking of metal as jazz makes me think of this one. Stereotypical metal vocals with more pianos and less guitars. Moments of pure pop beauty and grating raw noise all in one song. One of my favorite tracks in recent memory:

Vampilla - Good Religion

My 16 yr old niece, who loves Mayday Parade more than life itself, asked me to take her to Warped this year. I was easily one of the oldest people there but had a great time. Thought a lot about cultural relevance watching the teens and early 20s who were the bulk of the 16,000+ audience. It was weird watching people, young enough to be my children, dress in ways I wouldn't have found odd in the slightest in 1999, listening to bands who, for the most part, didn't stand out from their late 90s / early 00s counterparts.

Felt very time warp-y, like a bunch of teens ironically LARPing their parents' culture, but everyone there was completely passionate about it. Found it interesting something relatively frozen in time could still be part (increasingly small?) of youth culture today.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:09 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I’ve thought for years that rock was on its way to becoming a heritage artform like jazz. Just because I would hear new rock albums by new young bands, and they didn’t sound new.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:15 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


(but I’m deeply musically illiterate)
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2016


There are so many great local bands in my area (Central New Jersey), but the audience for live local music is very limited and mostly consists of other (young, broke) musicians.

The main musical touchstones seems to be pop-punk and a smattering of other commercially successful bands from the 90s like System of Down, Linkin Park, (early) Maroon 5, etc. Quite a lot of very talented piano players who operate in a cabaret/theatrical mode, or folky bluegrass folks playing banjos, etc, too. The quality of the musicianship is REALLY high and it's sometimes surprising how few people come out for the shows, but I think the article is right that dance clubs are the new communal musical space, not venues. Maybe the cost of entry at a venue is too high when so much recorded music is available, everywhere, for free.

Radio is still really important in urban communities BTW, or at least it's important at the urban high school where I teach. EDM with interesting/adventurous production is what the kids are listening to, and "underground" rap. I think the kids are looking for something "fresh" and EDM provides that because the sounds are custom-created by the DJs, and rap provides that because the beats and lyrics are transgressive. The pop rock just isn't "fresh" anymore.

Fingers crossed that my local punk rock bar doesn't close down, sob sob.
posted by subdee at 3:31 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I’ve thought for years that rock was on its way to becoming a heritage artform like jazz. Just because I would hear new rock albums by new young bands, and they didn’t sound new.

Yeah, I've been saying this increasingly for 20 years, but I don't feel like people understand the idea. It's not at all "new Rock sucks and old Rock was better". New Jazz doesn't suck, there's lots of great Jazz being made, but as a whole it is not at all what it was. Heritage artform is a good term, it's being preserved now.

I've often said the shift became really apparent in the late 90's when bands started describing themselves as "like X and Y" referring to other bands. Up until the early 90's one of the worst insults was to be compared to another band and no one would admit they sounded like someone else, much less offer it up themselves.
posted by bongo_x at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


As someone who grew up in the 70's listening to what is now being called a "heritage artform", reading this article and discussion thread made me feel exactly like Homer Simspon in the 1996 Homerpalooza episode.

"Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974, it's a scientific fact."
posted by bawanaal at 4:19 PM on December 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


The "heritage art form" argument is really solid. Like blues. Generally, the only "fresh" sounds in blues are long-standing things that somehow escaped recording/recognition, like the Fat Possum stuff from the turn of this century.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:50 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think the kids are looking for something "fresh" and EDM provides that because the sounds are custom-created by the DJs

Heh. Sorry this is a little inside baseball but not exactly - in many, many cases the sounds are created by synth nerds hoping to make a few bucks selling samples and presets to aspiring DJs. And they are probably only making a few bucks because piracy of this sort of thing is rampant and pretty much impossible to defend against. That's not universal though - somebody like Skrillex did pretty much make his career on original sounds nobody had heard before, combined with catchy pop writing.
posted by atoxyl at 5:02 PM on December 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are so many great local bands in my area (Central New Jersey), but the audience for live local music is very limited and mostly consists of other (young, broke) musicians.

People just aren't as into going to bars and seeing bands like they used to be, is my impression. I can think of a few reasons why that might be. Fewer people go out, period? Older people are often focused on work and family and they aren't into spending hours in a bar to see a band play at 11 PM on a weeknight. If they have children it's probably not going on the menu, in fact. There are lots of great bands touring in the small size theaters, and festivals, and that's where band audiences tend to go, instead of to local saloons that have live music? And, unfortunately for bands, a lot of younger people would rather go to a club with a DJ, now, it seems, when they do go out.
posted by thelonius at 5:11 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel like a nuanced analysis has yet to be made here, since the articles linked above all seem to consider rock primarily in its capacity as a recorded music genre. Which it is, but only primarily and not entirely. As a folk practice, it seems to still have a strong presence. Intuitively, I also want to think there's a difference between relative stylistic statis and ossification, but I don't pay enough attention to the genre to say with confidence that its current state (again, as a folk practice) is an instance of one or the other. Anyway, for those reasons, I remain suspicious that the trajectories of rock and jazz are currently or will ever be comparable, but I don't really have the evidence to make any sort of argument about it.
posted by invitapriore at 5:26 PM on December 2, 2016


People just aren't as into going to bars and seeing bands like they used to be, is my impression.

Speaking about NY/NJ, the bar band scene took a big hit in the 1980s, when the drinking age was raised first from 18 to 19, then to 21. You can see some of this in the documentary "We Are Twisted F-ing Sister", back in the 1970s bar bands could make some reasonable money just doing the local circuit.
posted by fings at 6:06 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have been around ever since rock began back in the fifties. Never liked it. Thought it would never go away. I will not miss it. Bird lives.
posted by charlesminus at 7:01 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I’ve thought for years that rock was on its way to becoming a heritage artform like jazz. Just because I would hear new rock albums by new young bands, and they didn’t sound new.

I feel like it's just been really boring for a long time, now. It's been disappointing to have heard the new thing the kids like, and had to go "hunh, that's a bit of Simon and Garfunkel, there" or "oh hey, the Kinks (yet again)". I didn't grow up in the 60s/70s, but it wasn't and still isn't possible to avoid ambient exposure to classic rock in Ontario. I mean they were clever about it, elements got shuffled around just enough, but that sound palette has just been worn out. I mean I knew it was for me - I can't even listen to the stuff I liked as a teen - but I guess it's true for everyone. I think the album that put the nail in the coffin for me was Kid A.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:47 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I read articles like this, I don't read "is rock becoming the new jazz," I read, "is rock losing the hegemonic power it had in my day as the primary pop / indie form?" Because rock becoming the new jazz is a non-sequitur. It's like a Slate think-piece asking if love is dying because people use Tinder (stupider, maybe). They're two different forms with different contexts and different meanings. If you're instead asking, "is rock becoming less of the single arbiter of popular / sub-mainstream musical expression," then I think the answer is yes, and the follow-up sentence is "thank Christ."
posted by codacorolla at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2016


Is there a Godwin-esque rule about how as online conversions about music progress the likelihood of their devolving into negotiating genre boundaries approaches 1
posted by beerperson at 9:17 PM on December 2, 2016


How else do you parse a conversation that starts with dumb nostalgia about "rock"? If you've taken the time to listen to music written by black people, women, queer folks, or really anyone except your rock-poet white man for the past (more than) decade, then you realize that the forms, ideas, and methods of rock are far from dead. They're being used by people you don't classify as ever doing rock music, and they're different from boring shit like the FPP gloirfies (e.g. Jimmy Eat World, who is just as, if not more derivative than the J. Casablancas indie boy band), but if you gave them half a chance then you would see that they're taking inspiration from, and improving on the tired canon that the editoralists in the FPP hold dear.
posted by codacorolla at 9:29 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I personally feel like I've heard enough of even just what an unadulterated guitar sounds like, no matter who's operating it. Just at the level of the kind of noise that instrument can make. But I'm open to suggestions if neat things are being done with it. Where would be a good place to start (anyone)?
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:01 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Also - birds, just done with them, enough already. Midlife is hard)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:46 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


all I know is here in my mid-late 20s I can imagine people I know playing [System of a Down and Jimmy Eat World], strictly nostalgically, more easily that I can imagine people I know listening to The Strokes.

In other words, in 2001 you were a child without taste. Those of us who were adults with taste will be over here nostalgically listening to the non-crap.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:15 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're instead asking, "is rock becoming less of the single arbiter of popular / sub-mainstream musical expression," then I think the answer is yes, and the follow-up sentence is "thank Christ."

I have to wonder to what extent this was ever true, and for how long it was ever really true. Even in the heyday of rock, you had plenty of older AM-style pop, soul, country, symphonic, and jazz music, much of it culturally important and often commercially successful.

Rock seems to have been dominant between, let's say the late 1950s and somewhere in the mid-to-late 1970s. Its seeming cultural hegemony beyond that time is an artifact of retrospective enshrinement by an especially large, thus influential generation.

The degree to which Rust Belt culture and later conservative talk radio retroactively "captured" classic rock says a lot about this; prior to a certain inflection point, it was often conservatives railing against rock 'n' roll on racial, religious, political, and sexual grounds. And so you get "rockism" solidified as a reactionary cultural politics. (Every old progressivism is converted into a conservatism eventually.)
posted by kewb at 3:06 AM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, there are no truly "dead" popular genres anymore. For dead American musical genres, you have to go back to the stuff so old we don't really have a *name* for the genre and it gets grandfathered in as "Americana music" or "traditional folk" or "jazz standards" because of the style in which later musicians covered them. Well and to utterly, rightly discredited stuff like minstrel songs (which have a particular musical style that's hard to reduce to folk or jazz).

These are the sorts of things that are only played by people self-consciously reenacting history, the sort of musical groups likely to be associated with a historical society or, at the very least, to dress in historical clothing when they play. Somewhere around the start of the twentieth century, or maybe the interwar period at the latest, popular U.S. musical genres simply stopped going away. They will likely only fade when the U.S. itself loses most of its cultural hegemony.
posted by kewb at 3:17 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


WFMU DJs effortlessly mix Rock and every other genre. They taught me that rock isn't dead but it's like red meat now - treat it like a condiment not the main dish!

Reading this thread made me realize something else about my music diet. I grew up in the 80s where college radio gave me a dozen ways to learn about new music. Then the Internet came along and file sharing and Internet radio did that. That got hosed and great outlets like WUB-FUR closed due to legal reasons. So I went back to college radio and the like but they got gutted by Internet radio and sound more like training grounds for Infinity or whatever.

The saving constant has been WFMU but they were subsidized by a large morning drive show that is leaving for strictly non terrestrial Internet radio and I fear for them too.

My nails are dug in to WFMU with all my might and I have learned to fund my faves (Blue included) so this doesn't happen again.
posted by drowsy at 6:46 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is Music the New Poetry?
Watch my YouTube channel on the subject:
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:45 AM on December 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sys Req, you've gotta be kidding with that "those of us who were adults" crap. System of a Down are a pretty ground-breaking band. Did you know they incorporate Armenian folk singing into their pop-metal songs? Or that the band's two frontmen split the songwriting credits?
posted by subdee at 2:27 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Uh, no. They were an overhyped, over-"imaged" shitty corporate trend-riding nu-metal one-hit wonder made up of forty-year-olds in JNCO jeans that tried their darndest to fill the "political angst" niche left by the breakup of Rage Against the Machine and failed miserably. They were a complete joke to absolutely everyone over the age of fifteen.

It was nice of them to "break ground" though -- it made burying them that much easier.

/your favourite band sucks
posted by Sys Rq at 3:15 PM on December 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


"But reading this made me thing of a counter-argument: What if the Strokes did not kill rock music, but were the last gasp of rock's rear guard?"

So, I was writing about music when Is This It dropped — specifically ROCK music, since that's what I was into at the time. I was in a college town a bit outside of Detroit, and the idea that The Strokes were "saving" rock was infuriating bullshit from people who didn't even like rock. They liked maundering, mid-tempo guitar-based pablum, and The Strokes were a perfect pastiche for them to project their imagined cool on. I mean, if you're looking for the band that killed rock, it's less likely to be The Strokes, who were haircuts with instruments and blue jeans, it was bands like Wilco, the critical favorites who made the Rolling Stone readers think that the main attribute for rock was how thoughtful it was.

The Strokes were the Stray Cats of '70s downtown rock, but it wasn't Setzer that killed rockabilly either.

What "killed" rock is the same thing that "killed" jazz: The good stuff got weird. I mean, the article wants to ground the death of jazz in the '80s, which, sure, mainstream jazz was dead then. But people had been complaining about the death of jazz since the mid-'60s, and plenty of the moldy figs thought that Bitches Brew had killed jazz in the '70s. Rock expanded outward, became so diffuse that the clear markers of rock were no longer held in common — it became basically any band with electric guitars who didn't wear cowboy hats. Remember that in retrospect, all sorts of disparate acts became "rock" after they were no longer contemporary — New Wave bands and punk noise bands and sweeping orchestral suites. Even punk was a reactionary movement against the nominal bloat of '70s rock bands like Led Zep, and punk "rock" fell apart entirely as soon as post-punk hit, with many of the same bands (e.g. Wire) being called "rock" while putting out very un-rocking albums — and NME was full of "Rock is Dead" whining then too.

And yeah, if you think that Tool, Jimmy Eat World or SoaD were "groundbreaking" in 2001, you were either 12 or terminally incurious. Acid Mothers Temple, McLusky, Polysics and Wolf Eyes all put out rock albums that year. Fugazi, Beta Band and Les Savvy Fav. Mouse on Mars and Microphones. But by then, rap had become a legacy genre, where "classic rap" radio stations and comps were coming out. And unlike jazz, no real fan of pop music was ignorant of contemporary rap.
posted by klangklangston at 6:05 PM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Who would've predicted this thread would result in a bunch of music nerd dick measuring
posted by naju at 7:42 PM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I like music where people sing the song about the new thing
posted by solarion at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2016


Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) has been harping on this pretty much forever, and (bless his heart), Siamese Dream, Melancholy, Adore, Machina, Zeitgeist, Oceania, and his latest called Monuments to an Elegy all move his band forward into new sounds and styles.

He also stubbornly refuses to stuff his performance set list with classics. He'll play a few, but his shows mostly feature his newer material. Don't like it? Tough.
posted by Beholder at 8:30 PM on December 3, 2016


If you've taken the time to listen to music written by black people, women, queer folks, or really anyone except your rock-poet white man for the past

Tons of Classic Rock was created by Black musicians, Female musicians, and Gay musicians.
posted by Beholder at 8:36 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like music where people sing the song about the new thing

Coke*??
*the soda, not the drug
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:12 PM on December 3, 2016


You guys remember crabcore?
posted by dagosto at 11:39 PM on December 3, 2016


And yeah, if you think that Tool, Jimmy Eat World or SoaD were "groundbreaking" in 2001, you were either 12 or terminally incurious.

I wouldn't call it groundbreaking, but I thought it was unusual at the time that Lateralus was able to break into the mainstream radio/video culture so heavily. I remember working delivering chinese on New Years 2001 in Toronto and the big alternative station (The Edge) had been doing a week long countdown of the top 100 albums of the year and they gave it #1, then played a good chunk of the album unedited.

Dunno, in retrospect, aside from Guns N Roses (and maybe some Metallica), were there other examples of bands getting 6-8 min. prog movements into regular rotation, high on the charts? Or was that a 20 year cycle thing going back to the Zeppelin and Rush era?
posted by mannequito at 1:22 AM on December 4, 2016


I wouldn't call it groundbreaking, but I thought it was unusual at the time that Lateralus was able to break into the mainstream radio/video culture so heavily.

Uhhh... It wasn't unusual at all. Tool had been on the mainstream rock charts and was getting regular radio and video rotation since the early nineties. Lateralus was their fourth platinum-selling record.

Dunno, in retrospect, aside from Guns N Roses (and maybe some Metallica), were there other examples of bands getting 6-8 min. prog movements into regular rotation, high on the charts?

Yes.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2016


Anybody who thinks rock is dead either hasn't heard Grimes or is firmly stuck in the 4 skinny white men with guitars mindset.
posted by signal at 2:22 PM on December 4, 2016


signal: I love Grimes, but she's squarely in the electronic music category for me, even if she's using some guitars on her latest album.
posted by SansPoint at 3:20 PM on December 4, 2016


Uhhh... It wasn't unusual at all. Tool had been on the mainstream rock charts and was getting regular radio and video rotation since the early nineties. Lateralus was their fourth platinum-selling record.

Yeah fair enough. I guess just from my little viewpoint as a teenager at the time - Undertow and Aenima were certainly popular records that charted, but they still felt a little niche at the time. They went platinum after Lateralus, in 2003 according to wikipedia. Mostly it seemed to be the people who were really into the heavier end of the grunge spectrum that were big on them. But Lateralus, man, that was everywhere that summer. I remember a total wtf moment coming out of a porta pottie at a bush rave to a drum n bass remix of Schism.

Saying that also got me thinking of how hugely popular Soundgarden got, particularly with Superunknown. They had a lot more classic / hair rock in them, and the singles in particular were a pretty traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure, but it was still weird hearing some of the deep, sludgy tracks pop on the mainstream stations.

Rock'll probably survive in the same way, occasionally bubbling up out of the swamp into the mainstream conscience, otherwise just sort of.. being there.
posted by mannequito at 1:12 AM on December 5, 2016


Yep, it's largely a heritage genre at this point. It's been heading in that direction for a long time, but (in my limited perception) it really started to happen after alternative rock peaked. That was the last popular rock movement which valued innovation and experimentation.

The dominant trend since then has been mining the past: garage rock, folk rock, Americana, various strains of 70s and 80s revivalism, etc.

(Obviously, you could list exceptions all day - and every art movement, including alternative rock, has drawn from the past. But rock as a whole, for at least the last decade, has shown a distinct trend away from innovation, and toward traditionalism.)

To quote another MeFite: "listening to classic rock in 2015 is like listening to 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy' in 1985". Which, y'know, if "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is your thing, then more power to you. But don't act surprised when The Youths roll their eyes at your big-band 78s. Time marches on.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:12 AM on December 5, 2016


"alternative rock" mostly collapsed into cliche and formulaic gesture by the mid 90's, imho, although of course there are exceptions.
posted by thelonius at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2016


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