Genre Destruction and Pop Culture
There have always been bands that have tried to duplicate other bands. The 70s were filled with several Led Zeppelin wannabes, the 80s had lots of Cyndi Lauper, Van Halen, and Metallica clones, and the 90s have had their share of Nirvana, Belly, and Bosstones cover bands. Until recently, though, these types of bands either yielded their own personalities (Stone Temple Pilots or Juliana Hatfield) or were quickly shipped off to oblivion (Ugly Kid Joe or Reel Big Fish).
Apparently, the rules applying to bands such as these have been declared void. Faux bands are becoming more popular by the minute and, unfortunately, there is a large supply of them to go around. There has been an unprecedented surge of groups that sound incredibly alike and make no attempt to break new ground that operate under the monikers "modern rock" and (shudder) "alternative." One is hard-pressed to find a noticeable difference between Third Eye Blind, Eve 6, and Matchbox 20 other than the genres they bastardize ("alternative," punk, and folk rock, respectively). Speaking of which, the aping of genres seems to have become standard practice among any band trying to make it big. Not even ten years ago, "rock" meant rock, "punk" meant punk, and both types of music were instantly recognizable. Now, in the "alternative" revolution, these forms of music, as well as genres as diverse as ska, rap, metal, and grunge, have been stripped of their attitudes, simplified, diluted, and mixed together (with disastrous results) in an attempt to make the music more digestable yet still "adventurous." When compared to their original counterparts, No Doubt, Creed, or Limp Bizkit come off as as shoddy sequels to the Bosstones, Pearl Jam, or Korn, bands that retain a sense of originality and freshness in today's market but are overlooked by fickle consumers. You'd think that hearing the fantastic guitarwork of Jerry Cantrell next to the "heavy acoustic" style of riffing that Days of the New employs in every song, a style pioneered (and done better, no less) by Cantrell on the classic AiC EPs Sap and Jar of Flies, would clue the MTV generation in on who the better musician is, but it appears that true, electric guitar-driven rock has been overshadowed by the incredible amount of ripping off and genre mixing that bands seem to play off of in order to be considered relevant.
The "grunge" style of rock, despite Creed and Days of the New's best effort, is not modern rock's most bastardized genre. That "honor" belongs to ska, a beautiful, vital art form that has been reduced to cute pop hooks and simplistic, saccharine rhythms that fail to recognize the glory of such ska legends as the Specials or even Operation Ivy. What's more, ska bands are so insistent upon projecting the ska image - two-tone suits and horns that seem, frankly, incredibly tacked on - that they fail to form their own identity or sound. This attitude seems to result in the writing of ridiculously cliched songs that have no meaning or intelligence and seem to be put together as pointless fodder for the general public, who have gradually cleaved onto this "new style of music (that has in reality existed for decades)." Ex-Black Flag member and current Rollins Band member Henry Rollins was quoted as saying this on the subject:
"They should learn what ska really is and learn that the rhythm is really
complex. These guys are hilarious when they oversimplify. Real ska is some
real deep shit, and when I hear these corny people sayin', 'We're a ska
band,' I'm thinkin', 'No, motherfucker, you're an insult to ska; you're an
insult to music; You're gonna be a cop in Seal Beach in two years, so put
down the horn.'"
Ultimately, whether the rip-off revolution continues is up to the mass audience. If MTV is any indication, that's a risky proposition at best. Despite evidence to the contrary, I believe that, in the end, dignity, talent, and skill will prevail and all of these so-called musicians will get theirs and be thrown back into the working class like so many pathetic bands in the past. Hey, call me a crazy optimist.
Do you think Joe has a valid point? Did he come off as a complete ass with an axe to grind? Did you simply enjoy the way it was written and how the opinion was expressed? Any way you slice it, Joe would greatly appreciate your well thought out, constructively critical, or simply appreciative feedback. Remember to denote "Hey Ah Na Na" in the subject. Thanks!