(exact date lost)
I am the first person to jump in and say I love music, that music is essentially my life, my job, my pleasure – the reason I get up in the mornings. But I\’m also the first to say that there is nothing new in the music scene that is exciting.
The alternative/modern rock monster that was born with Nirvana now stumbles on with such mediocre bands as Fastball, Semisonic and others that are such flash in the pans that I can\’t even remember their names. It\’s AOR – Always On The Radio – but that doesn\’t mean it\’s any good. It\’s all just a re-hash of old pop guitar licks dating back to the surf bands of the \’60s, and the lyrics aren\’t much better. The songwriting is full of cliches; you can predict the chord progression before the band, as well as every tempo change, drum fill and fake ending. I used to moan the death of the guitar solo. Now I pray for them to end – or at least get interesting. But they are all formatted to about 10 seconds and 10 notes. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo, chorus, end. If Kurt Cobain – a man who forsaw the rejuevenation of the format – had been buried, he\’d be turning in his grave.
So, yes, it\’s a format. Yes, it sells. But for how long? And is it any good? We appear to have re-entered the world of one hit rock wonders. \’Oh, this one song here is good, buy the single because the rest of the album sounds exactly like the one song!\’ The proof is in the charts – Billboards\’ 200 is littered with soundtracks headlined by old giants like Aerosmith (Armageddon) or newer giants like Alanis Morissette (City Of Angels) and Celine Dion (Titanic), as well as re-hashes of old, brilliant favorites (Puff Daddy). And of course, country and R&B/Dance still flood the Top 40 with the same old, but I want my rock n roll!
Well, what about the new swing craze, they all say? What about it? For starters, that\’s not bloody swing music, so stop calling it that! Swing is Louis Armstrong, Glen Miller, Count Basie. What you are so quick to call swing is actually a little thing called jump blues. A hybrid of swing, yes, but still, not true swing. Zoot suits? That style actually was only popular for about four years, not the two, three decades that swing and all it\’s hybrid children were the most popular. Not knowing how to do the Lindy Hop or the Charleston in those years was like not knowing how to do the Hustle in the \’70s, the Moonwalk in the \’80s and the Macarena in the \’90s.
Now, I have nothing against swing/jump blues – don\’t get me wrong. I think it\’s great that once again it is popular to have upbeat music, nice clothes and partner dancing, but it just doesn\’t move me. This new brand of swing music is a re-hash of yesterday. Remember when rock n roll was supposed to piss your parents off – when that was the whole idea? And now we are listening to the music of our grandparents… (Recently my grandmother dug out pictures of me as a child, standing on her toes as she danced about. My grandmother was a dance teacher before she married. She met my grandfather at a jive lesson.) Today\’s \’swing\’ music is bigger, bolder, and some say better then what we had in the \’20s, \’30s and \’40s (nay, nay I say!) but it is essentially the same. And as I love old music, I tend to prefer the originals to the re-mixes, re-hashes and covers of today. I\’m a music vampire – I need fresh, talented new songs to survive.
The only hope I see is in the new sophomore, plus releases from the always fresh Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, Garbage, Liz Phair, Tori Amos, Madonna, Bjork, Portishead, Moloko, and Curve, and the upcoming black tape for a blue girl, Cat Power, Rasputina, PJ Harvey, Soul Coughing, Combustible Edison, and Cypress Hill albums. New music that has excited me recently? Solex! And then the new-to-me sounds of Belle & Sebastian, and the Medeaval Baebes (not a spelling err).
As you can tell from my record player, I think music is getting ready to branch off into two big directions. The big, in your face noise with all the dubbing you can get (Garbage, Beastie Boys) and the toned down, almost simplistic, instrument based (Rasputina, btfabg, Portishead). Female vocals are no longer the whispered accompaniment of the acoustic guitars of the Lilith Fair, they play an actual role. Actual instruments are becoming important again, versus the two guitars, a bass and a drum kit sound of \’alternative rock\’. Strings, piano, synthesizers and harmonizing vocals are \’back in style\’, as they say.
If there is to be hope for the future of music, it lies more with the ever evolving pros than with the new flesh on the scene.