Pardon me if none of this goes anywhere.
I don't listen to the radio much these days. It doesn't offer me a lot. Most stations are playing today's streamlined and easily-digestable but ultimately flavorless pop/rock/alternative music that I find so mundane. Worse yet, some stations (mostly college, but some commercial,) have gone off the deep-end of indie culture and scraped the bottom of the nigh-unidentifiable-as-music bin just for the sake of sounding different. I'd almost rather listen to a lot of mainstream stuff.
Anyway, my new car has this feature that whenever I eject a CD, it automatically turns the radio on. This might seem commonplace, and it probably is, but this was something my previous automobile didn't do. So, whether I like it or not, I am occasionally these days subjected to the whims of nationally syndicated and owned, but desperately trying to sound local, radio (damn Telecommunications Act of 1996.)
So I've been hearing pieces of the local "new alternative" station, and have been shocked to hear nothing very new. In just the past few days, I've caught pieces of vintage Stone Temple Pilots (seriously, will people get over "Plush" already?) Rancid, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Sandman-era Metallica, Motley Crue (*shudder,*) Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Bush (a Gavin Rosdale sighting? Unglaublich!) Every now and again I'll hear something new, but most of it not so much.
This game me a few harrowing thoughts. First: Is it really possible that there's no new music to replace all these classics from back in the day? Or was the grunge era simply the best that popular music has had to offer in almost forty years? How sad.
Second: Is this station predicating its playlist on the idea that my generation is coming to financial fruition, and so they're pumping out our favorite tunes hoping that we stay for the commercials?
Third: How can you even quantify "alternative" as a genre? The very definition of the word suggests that alternative should be something that doesn't sound like anything else. Back when the Stooges got called alternative, it made sense. If you have a whole genre of bands that sound like each other, guess what, it's not alternative anymore. Okay, I'm getting carried away.
Anyway, the whole episode got me thinking about the evolution of popular music. Seems the popular songs from almost twenty years are in vogue again. This gave some validation to a theory that I came up with a long time ago, and I hope holds true into the future.
In roughly two and a half more years, we're going to see popular rock/metal become worth listening to again. Bear with me.
In the 1990's, the hot bands of the day were Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, so on and so forth. To a man, those bands claimed their primary influences to be bands from the 1970's: AC/DC, KISS, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin.
In the 1970's, Led Zeppelin, KISS, AC/DC, Aerosmith claimed their primary influences to be musicians from the 1950's: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Link Wray.
In the 1950's, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Link Wray claimed their primary influences to be musicians from the 1930's: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Howlin' Wolf, other blues icons in any era.
If my theory holds true, come 2011-12, it might be worthwhile to at least see what's out there, as bands come to bear who claim their influences to be Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, etc. The cycle seems to take a full generation of twenty years before the next crop comes of age.
Some of the signs are already pointing up. Bands like Priestess and Airbourne give me at least a little optimism that mainstream music will improve in the coming years. Even so, the new mainstream rock has improved from ear-bleedingly awful to palatably boring. It's not much of a step, but it's a step.
Although, side note to Shinedown and Apocalyptica: Listen up, the window is closing on emotional rock/metal. We're done with it. Shape up or shut up. Stop giving me new singles that make me remember Staind. I thought we were past that. Side note to other bands: Hey, I like "Dirt," too. In fact, I think that's one of the best albums ever put together. But it was a once in a lifetime album, stop trying to reproduce that feeling. What makes that album so amazing is that it was basically Layne Staley's life recorded to CD. You don't have the life experience to make convincing songs like that. You'd be much better off, to quote Jurassic 5, singing about "wine, women and chaos."
So hope, my friends. We may be almost out of the woods.
-I heard some pieces of the new Sepultura album, "A-Lex." Stop. No, seriously guys, stop it.
-I also heard about half the new Viking Skull album "Doom, Gloom, Heartache & Whiskey." If you like Motorhead, or if you followed my advice and gave The Cursed a spin, give this a listen, too. I could get behind this.
-Pretension alert, the nominations for the Swedish metal awards have been announced. Yngwie gets one despite awful cover art. Best thing I saw on the list was the punk/ska category, where Millencolin was nominated. I always felt that band was an attempt by the members to say "see, we don't all play music about frost giants!"
-Apparently the Tygers of Pan Tang played at the Hard Rock Hell festival in the UK. Are you kidding me? Are they really still around? What, did they open for Bolt Thrower? I don't know how to feel about this.
-Best story of the day: Singer Cristina Balzano of Italian heavy metal band Soul Cry stabs her guitar player for screwing up a solo during a recording session. She's now charged with attempted murder. We're two steps away from a Mayhem redux, everyone!