Rock & Roll Never Dies: Or, Your Old Music Sucks

Tony Sig

My manager at work is a great guy, I really think he is a great person. But he is latest in a series of people who pine over the glory days of music. By which they generally mean, whenever it was when they grew up. For this manager in particular, and most people who are about 5-10 years older than me it is stuff from the late 70’s and on through the 80’s. Even music that they admit was not great music is magically transported to “better-than-music-these-days” because they were “better guitar players.” Right.

The thing about players from the 80’s that people forget was that they were so wasted on drugs and alcohol that half the time fans came out for shows they were disappointed because the band couldn’t pull it together enough to play a show all the way through. Ever see some of the shows that Guns & Roses played? Or rather half-played as Slash fell apart at the seams with his lame hat and sunglasses which couldn’t hide the fact that he was completely gone. No, music was not better then, it is nastalgic for you now. To add injury to insult this particular manager admits that HE ONLY LISTENS TO THE RADIO!!!! If those words ever come out of your mouth you are automatically disqualified to have a musical discussion with me, much less decry the poor state of music these days. Lets have a real look at some of the bands playing and creating music these days shall we and see how it adds up realistically. It’s not a complete list, but it’s enough. And they are in no particular order either.

U2 – Even the Beatles didn’t reinvent themselves 3 times over for close to 30 years. Did I mention that Bono is sexy?

Radiohead – In Rainbows anyone? They still got it

Wilco – Blue Sky’s overhead my friends. European bands get electronicy, bands from Chicago wail on the guitar

Jack White – Anything he touches is gold. Slash vs White? White plays 8 guitars and a keyboard at the same time…he wins

Muse – Alright, fair enough, some of their stuff is lame, but what other rock singer in the world can play Rochmoninof? Nobody

MuteMath – Live show? Sober MuteMath kicks drunk VanHalen’s ass

Sigur Ros’ – Wagner eat your heart out

Sufjan Stevens – Plays 5 million instruments

Andrew Bird – Plays 4 million instruments

The Decemberists – Go Canada!

The Arcade Fire – Go Canada!

Fiest – Go Canada!

Beck – American electro-folk dance

Damien Rice – Irish

Glen Hansard – Better Irish

The Envy Corps – Iowa indie

Jars of Clay – That’s right, I said it…Jars of Clay

John Mayer – He is 30 times better on guitar that Poison could even fathom, if they can fathom at all

John Williams – Jaws, Star Wars, Indian Jones, Schindlers List, etc…

The Mars Volta – crazy

MeWithoutYou – screeching spoken word over post-rock awesomeness, usually accompanied by rose pedals

Pearl Jam – still jammin

David Bazan – ever hear him play hymns right after a song about infidelity?

Red Hot Chili Peppers – but only with John Frusciante

Ryan Adams – how many ways can one play the guitar? Lots

Starflyer 59 – Saviour of Tooth & Nail?

(name of your favorite indie/local band here) – they are probably only half as good as you think they are but they are still better than Aha

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30 Comments

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The bit about their music being nostalgic for them and that is why they think it is so good is true. Great piece right here!

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  2. You didn’t mention Maroon 5, Creed, or Nickleback.;)

    ps: sorry about bumping your post down for the second time. we need to coordinate better.

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  3. Tony,

    You are making me all twitchy. You have Jars of Clay (That’s right YOU said it) on a list with RHCP (Blood Sugar Sex Magik is one of my favorite albums EVER). You remember that Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong”? Can you guess where I am going with this? I feel like the rest of your list is pretty solid, though. Especially U2 and Pearl Jam.

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  4. “You didn’t mention Maroon 5, Creed, or Nickleback.;)

    ps: sorry about bumping your post down for the second time. we need to coordinate better.”

    thats a joke right?

    i’m pretty sure it is. But you never know.

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  5. Again, it’s not a complete list, it was just the stuff I thought of off the top of my head. I could have added several of the new bands, Fleet Foxes among them.

    Shawn,

    What can I say? Jars of Clay are good songwriters. I still get made fun of all the time because I listen to some of my old Christian music. But only the good stuff I swear. lol

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  6. Sorry your right with the music you compaired it too, but wrong in the music you missed. The 70’s in particular was a nightmare for rock music. And its likely that those you know supported disco and pop music well into the 80s.

    I’ll stack any band you want against these in vocals, lyrics or musicianship:
    Bowie, Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, Lou Reed, Steely Dan, Emerson, Lake and Palmer(ELP), Jackson Browne, Deep Purple, Yes,King Crimson, Aerosmith, The Boss,Billy Joel,The Police, Dire Straits,Talking Heads,The Cars,ZZ Top,and the Eurythmics.

    Now if I could only get the The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos to take up some jazz numbers that would be music.

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  7. quickbeamofangorn,

    Far be it from me to impugne the character of Zeppelin, et al. All of those bands above are quite exemplary. The point was not so much to decry all “old” music. In fact I do think that the 60’s was a righteous era in rock&roll history. But, when people fuss about “music these days” I know that they are only talking about stuff they have heard on the radio. There is good stuff out there, it simply takes desire to find it.

    So let it not be said that I insult Bowie or The Doors or whoever. So long as one does not without thinking accept the music of their youth as the ultimate standard (that’s a convoluted sentence) of rockiness.

    p.s. – Indeed. I can just see the monks in their cassocks bangin’ on an upright bass

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  8. I feel like I am gonna get slaughtered on this, but I must speak my conscience. I’ll actually publically support Maroon 5 – they are solid musicians. They do musically difficult/interesting stuff, especially with bass lines.

    “You didn’t mention Maroon 5, Creed, or Nickleback.;)

    ps: sorry about bumping your post down for the second time. we need to coordinate better.”

    thats a joke right?

    i’m pretty sure it is. But you never know.”

    Reply

  9. As already stated, this list is

    a – incomplete, I just thought of a few bands off the top of my head

    b – about people writing today. There are plenty of composers who I know, but they’re all dead, so they don’t make the list

    c – Jars of Clay write good songs, musically speaking. Not everyone is a home run, but almost nobody hits a home run every time.

    d – Starflyer 59 is a band on Tooth and Nail who write big, spacious rock. sometimes they drift into 10 minute droning ballads, sometimes they crank up the distortion and rock for a couple minutes. The point is that they have been writing for along time and very rarely disappoint.

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  10. Prog. Rock band that has been writing awesome songs for a decade and gets NO play time.

    King’s X

    know them, love them.

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  11. I hate to sound like a broken record (and I have a few broken records), but I must proclaim the gospel of Bob “His Royal Bobness” Dylan. There is absolutely no one in any genre of music who has successfully reinvented him/her/them-self(ves) more times than Bob Dylan. What’s more, in terms of pure pathos and authenticity can anyone compare? Of the list above only Jack White gives me goosebumps even half as big as the goosebumps I get from Bob, and he’s from Hibbings, and he’s Jewish, and he was converted to evangelical Christianity by Kieth Green (though subsequently stopped talking about it).

    Enjoyable post, indeed.

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  12. I agree, King’s X should have made the list.

    And U2? – Okay, I’ll give you that one, but it’s sad that 80% of all “worship” music has simply decided to rip off one of their trademarks ‘sounds’. I hate showing up to worship practice and it’s like:

    “Hey, you’re the electric guitar player, so you know what to do, right?”

    “Uh, well… I came here to -”

    “Give me that U2 sound, cool?”

    “Fine.”

    It’ never, “give me that Weezer sound,” which would be awesome for worship, or “give me that Pearl Jam sound,” which would also work, or even “give me that RHCP sound.” Nope, we have decided to sound like U2 for the last 10 + years. I think it needs to stop. Bono is not Jesus, alright people!

    I feel like anything more on your list.. well… oh I must, I must write a response post to this.

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  13. Warning: I have strong opinions about music, but they don’t reflect on my opinion about you, personally.

    Okay, so to respond to a few of the bands you list that I disagree with (for I will be making my own list):

    Jack White? In an MP3 trade, I got two full albums from each of The White Stripes and The Racontoueiers. I listened to each twice to give them a fair shake. As of now, I can stand two White Stripes songs and maybe one and a half from the Racontoueeririersrs. He’s simply irritating, especially the White Stripes stuff.

    “Oh, I can sing about any boring, mundane thing I want cause I’m all foreign and creative.”

    Andrew Bird? Another MP3 trade offering, I found his music okay for background music. Nothing like I would put on a best-of anything list.

    I disagree with your entire Canadian group there. I dare say Rush has done more for music than all three of those artists combined. Sure, Rush is cheesy and my wife always thinks Geddy Lee is a girl singer, but musically they broke a lot of new ground.

    Beck: Oh, I agree totally. He is awesome.

    I’ve never heard of your Irish buddies so I can’t comment. In fact, many of these I’ve never heard of. And of course, if I’ve never heard of them, they can’t be THAT good.

    🙂

    j/k

    John Mayer *is* a fantastic guitar player. Live, he’s a blues monster…. but I would still find it hard to buy his CD. My body is not a wonderland, Mr. Mayer.

    Mars Volta? Another MP3 trade, I got 3 full albums. I find them completely unclassifiable and unlistenable. It just strikes me as noisy, squeally, weird music with no purpose at all. I can’t listen to it casually, because it demands attention, but when I give it attention, it is musically boring or irritating.

    Pearl Jam… well, I just never warmed up to the guys voice. I like the music, but… well, for instance, I can’t give you a single line from Yellow Ledbetter. He sings like he’s had a stroke.

    And I second, what is a Starflyer?

    Okay, the rant is over.

    Are we still friends?

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  14. I feel like a good Irish quote is in order

    “Aw for foocks sake!”

    Let the post be what is was. An ad hoc list of random artists; not complete or comprehensive in any way; meant only to stir up angst against those who in willful ignorance speak ill of “music these days.”

    Tony, I always love someone who is passionate about music or coffee or beer, especially when they disagree with me.

    Sure John Mayer drifts off into pop-crappiness as you say. But his last album was stellar, his “John Mayer Trio” is rippin’, and as you say, he is a blues machine live.

    Mars Volta is utterly brilliant, you just need to have a little more patience with them. The first Radiohead song I heard was “Paranoid Android” and I almost gave up after that! But after a while their brilliance became apparent.

    The fact that you can feel free to rip on Jack White is utter blasphemy. The man singlehandedly defends rock & roll from the likes of “Jet” and other would-be-AC/DC-cover-bands.

    Andrew Bird is like a fine tobacco, smooth, delicate, quirky and complex. If you cannot tell that yet, perhaps you need to smoke some more?

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  15. Okay, I can certainly give some of these guys a fair shake, say, another listen, in light of the Radiohead comparison. I, too, was quite put off by my first Radiohead experience, Kid A, followed by Amnesiac.

    But Jack White.. gosh… I dunno. I really wanted to like his stuff, given the handful of riffs and tunes I’d heard commercially, but those albums…

    We’ll see. 🙂 Regardless, glad we’re still on good terms!

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  16. James,

    I grow weary of your Bob rants. You guys accuse Eddy Vedder of singing like he’s had a stroke and wallow in Bob Dylan’s “awesomeness”? I might have a stroke, if you keep this crap up.

    Tony (Jacques),

    You have my unending respect for knowing King’s X, but immediately put it into danger by questioning Bono’s messiah-ness. However, you make a great point about protestant worship. I hated it, I quit it for precisely those reasons – now all my worship music sounds like Bach and Mozart (oh, wait, they are Bach and Mozart).

    Shawn

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  17. Shawn,

    Well, the thing is, U2 has reinvented themelves a few times, I’ll give you that. But with King’s X, every album is different and still, somehow, trademark King’s X. Talk about reinventing your band, try doing it with every single album.

    Right from their debut, Out of the Silent Planet (a reference to CS Lewis’ space trilogy) they established a very unique tonal palette of vocal dissonances and harmonies, a singular approach to guitar lines and riffs that has always been mind blowing, and Pinnick’s 12-string bass tone will never fail to make me smile.

    Yet every new album that comes out, at first I hate it for how different it is, but then it ends up right there on my constant playlist. This was most pointed with Manic Moonlight, the moment I heard a drum loop I skipped to the next track, and the next, and the next. I was ready to chuck it out the window of my car when I got Skeptical Winds. What an infectious groove. And now the whole thing has grown on me, its one of my favorites lately.

    But…. With U2, I can take or leave *half* their catalog. I usually dig about half the tracks on any given album, and then there’s stuff like Zooropa and Pop, with maybe 1 1/2 good songs between the two albums.

    About worship: Well, I fully intend to pump some rock and roll into the mix wherever I can. There’s no reason we can’t break free of the U2 mold and get some amp feedback, for crying out loud.

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  18. After nearly 10 years of leading worship, and having gone through many phases, I am so done with “rockin'” worship. I’m gettin more and more old fashioned.

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  19. I’m a rocker at heart, man. What can I say?

    But in all seriousness, I wonder a lot about worship in the musical setting (note, I didn’t say music in the worship setting). What it should sound/look/feel like.

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  20. Tony (Jacques),

    You and I can now be BFF’s. I have sworn (along with some friends from college) to /1/ proliferate the King’s X fan-base in any way I can and /2/ be bff’s with anyone who loves King’s X as much as we do – and you, sir, seem to qualify.

    My three favorite albums are “Dogman,” “Ear Candy,” and “Tape head” – however, I have to qualify that list, though, by saying that I can listen to ANY song on any album and be completely happy.

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  21. Wow. Finally, a real BFF.

    🙂

    My favorite albums are probably Gretchen Goes To Nebraska (being the first one I ever heard… I’m young) Dogman, then Faith Hope Love.

    But I agree, any song, any time, an I’m content.

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  22. I know the bass player who played with Andrew Bird on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno just a couple days back. He totally shook Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hand. I gotta talk to that cat.

    Reply

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