Thursday, July 21, 2005

Same Old Song and Dance

I posted a little while back about the disturbing trend of making feature films out of old television shows. I didn't even mention the equally alarming practice of remaking old classic films "for a new generation" (Psycho, The Longest Yard, Bad News Bears, etc.) which to me seems just as pointless. Even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which from everything I've heard is actually an excellent remake, just feels sort of unnecessary to me. I wonder how many movies by up-and-coming writers and directors never get made as a result of studios trying to reinvent the wheel. And I wonder if Hollywood truly is out of ideas as I so glibly stated in the earlier post.
I've also noticed a similar trend in music. Now I do understand the appeal of nostalgia. When VH1 runs their "I Love the ::insert decade::" shows I eat 'em up. As a child of the late 70's/early 80's, I love seeing the commercials, television shows and ridiculous hairstyles that I remember from my youth. But that's where it ends. I certainly don't want to go back to those days. But there's a whole crop of new bands that seem to.
Interpol, Hot Hot Heat, The Killers, The Bravery, Franz Ferdinand, and Jet are examples of this. Any one of these bands could have come out in 1983 and fit right in with the contemporary music scene of the day. (Although Jet might have to go back a bit further; they're more like AC/DC when Bon Scott was still alive). Personally, I don't care for any of these bands. I hated crappy new wave music in the 80's, and it turns out I hate crappy new wave music here in the 21st century as well. I instead listened to crappy heavy metal, which pretty much precluded me from enjoying the wimpy new wave of the time. What bothers me about these bands isn't that I think the music is really that bad or boring (although in some cases I do) but rather that it's so painfully unoriginal.
I remember reading an article when I was in high school (In Keraang or Metallix or Metal Edge... my favored reading at the time) which interviewed Scott Ian, guitarist from Anthrax. He stated something along the lines of "there is only so much you can do with six strings and a limited number of frets. Pretty soon every single guitar lick will have been written. Everything will be derivative of something else, if it isn't already." Please note this is not an exact quote. It was a looong time ago people.
Anyway, I remember at the time this scared the hell out of me. Would there really be a day when there was truly no new music? Even though I was for the most part incredibly closed-minded to any music that wasn't metal (and real metal too, not that pretty boy, hair-farming cockrock poser crap) I was always within that genre looking for the next, different twist. Did rock and roll rebellion really have a limited shelf life?
Over the years as I grew up and my musical tastes expanded I sort of forgot about this fear. There were enough different styles and sub-genres of music that it seemed like I could find something new (at least to me) every day. Occasionally a band would come out that reminded me though... when Bush's (the band, not the psychotic president) first album came out, there were 2 or 3 songs where I could actually sing the lyrics from the Nirvana song it was based on right over the top. But it seemed like these bands were few and far between.
Unfortunately lately it seems to be the rule and not the exception. The biggest rock station where I live is KROQ, and they absolutely ADORE these bands. True, I tend to only listen to their morning show and switch to CD's when I want to hear music. But with so many of the bands that they play sounding like refugees from I Love the 80's, it's made me wonder again about the future of rock. I look back on the last 10 years or so and try to think of the truly original sounding bands that got to me. I think Primus, Soul Coughing, Cake, Morphine. They were weird. They were kind of different. When someone would ask me "what kind of music is it", I couldn't really answer them. And I loved that I couldn't. These bands were freaks. Even new bands that I really do like, like Thrice, I can relate to other things. If asked, I would say Thrice are very eclectic, sort of old school Metallica meets Bad Religion and Lagwagon. With a little emo/screamo on the side. Maybe that's the secret; if you're going to be derivative, take lots of different styles and cram 'em all together.
Is this just a trend? Are these bands consciously imitating 20 year old music, or is it the retro fad simply ingrained in their psyches? Is rock music as out of ideas as Hollywood?


Anonymous XhatemailX said...

I have to agree. Whereas the KROQ scene is all about (not so)New Wave, the station out here in Lost Wages is all about metal (picture KROQ and KNAC RIP in a blender) and there is a similar movement to reinvent the invented. There is a new song that I swear sounds so much like a Nirvana B-Side that I was confused (wanting to like it yet refusing to based upon the fact that it was so dirivitive). For what its worth though, it is possible to find the more original derivitive stuff.

Reggie and the Full Effect's Songs Not To Get Married To, is a great example. It is very based in new wave (pop punk sounding stuff with lots of synth) but if you listen to the first single, it sounds familiar, but to what, I'm not sure. It gives the feel of nostalgia but not of one particular band.

However another band that fits your arguement (and this is quite depressing actually because their first 2 albums were pretty good) is Avenged Sevenfold. They started as a point where metal and punk met. Not they are all about Guns and Roses song writing, Iron Maiden's solos, and weaker vocals than either of the 2. Derivitive of an era and a style that I enjoyed (sans Gn'R who I have always hated) but I'm not feeling the album at all.


11:33 AM  

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