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Monday, June 19, 2006

Nevermind

Inspired by a comment left by Mr. Atrocity on Jason's post on classic rock, I think it's time I share this theory I have with music's impact on a younger audience in the last six years. First, the comment:
Every once in a while a band like Nirvana comes along who are good enough to have a couple of their songs added to the roster, but generally the repertoire remains pretty constant.

I agree, so I'm wondering what people will be saying in ten years about what's happening right now. What will be considered prime for classic rock radio? Moreover, what will be generalized views of this part of rock history? Here's what I'm thinking: there was no one major sea change in 2001; there were two minor ones. Where did this all begin? I argue that they started with At the Drive-In.

In September 2000, At the Drive-In released their third album, Relationship of Command. For various reasons, this album was considered the equivalent to Nirvana's Nevermind in 1991. I would say the biggest reason why is that this album was seen as a great rock album with a wide appeal. When I mean "wide," I don't mean just 13-17 year-old suburban teenagers. I mean teenagers, along with jaded twenty and thirty-somethings, could come to a common ground on this record. Well, that kind of happened.

Relationship of Command sold well and a wide variety of people liked it. Hell, it was even ranked in the Village Voice's prestigious year-end Pazz & Jop poll at #22. However, when it comes to greatest-albums-of-all-time lists, the album is nowhere to be found. The "relevancy" of the band has been mostly posthumous as the band called it a day in early '01. I think another major factor is because of two totally different sounds coming into the mainstream roughly at the same time.

2001 saw the release of the Strokes' Is This It? and the White Stripes' White Blood Cells. In a time of goofball nu-metal and cheesehead rock, this stripped-down version of rock & roll was a major breath of fresh air. Yet in this same year, a commodifed version of poppy post-hardcore known as emo came into the mainstream. Records like Full Collapse by Thursday, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most by Dashboard Confessional and Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World were released. I think for a lot of younger people, you either liked the garage-y rock bands or the emo-ish bands more; common ground was rare.

From what I remember, the college crowd went for the Strokes and the White Stripes while the teenagers went ga-ga for Thursday, Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World. Sure, there was some blurring between genres with fans, but there wasn't a lot of it going on. The people that I knew that were into the Strokes definitely weren't into Dashboard Confessional. Dashboard was the soundtrack to teenagers' first major case of a broken heart while Jimmy Eat World and Thursday were the soundtrack to general teen angst. The Strokes and the White Stripes had a wider appeal, but they didn't have the same kind of appeal like Nirvana or Pearl Jam did in '92.

My point is this: if you want to know why there was no single defining rock sound for the new millennium, blame it on further factioning off of things. A big Strokes fan wasn't a big Jimmy Eat World fan too. As much as I hate generalizations, I believe this was the case. I know I'm in a minority view with the music that I like, but I liked both genres in those days. Why I liked those genres were for very different reasons. Acts like the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives showed that modern rock could still kick ass and reach a mainstream audience. With acts like Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional and Thursday, they morphed the mid-'90s post-hardcore into an even more melodic direction. This was something that I enjoyed, but seeing the subsequent proliferation of horrible mall emo bands in the following years makes me feel a little dirty. I still think albums like Full Collapse and Bleed American are great, but I doubt I'll see them on any best-of-all-time lists any time soon. Why? Demographics.

As I read AP every month, the one band that is always cited as a major influence on these up-and-coming bands is Jimmy Eat World. Jimmy Eat World spoke to a younger generation way better than Creed could ever speak to them and in a different way than the White Stripes could. With Bleed American being their most accessible release, I understand its importance as a gateway album for a lot of people. Bleed American spawned a radio staple, "The Middle," a song that sounded more like Guided By Voices than Christie Front Drive, but the mainstream just saw this all as emo.

How all of this will play out in time will be interesting. I can imagine a band like the White Stripes getting some airplay on classic rock radio, but I highly doubt that will happen for Thursday. When matters come to the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I'm sure we'll see Is This It? and White Blood Cells on there somewhere, but I doubt we'll see Relationship of Command or Bleed American. Why? Because these records seemed to be synonymous with a certain version of teenage angst. The carryover into adulthood is slim because we don't carry all of our teen angst with us into adulthood. We only experience our first crush and usual/inevitable break-up once, so what makes us think that people want to relive that well into adulthood? But again, time will give us a verdict.

2 comments:

Kev said...

Here's something I've always wondered: In ten years, will there be a classic rap station? Imagine a velvety voice beckoning Gen Y-ers to reminisce upon "the rap you grew up on."

Eric said...

Grubbs...I take a week off and you have great posts like this one...

I think it also has to do with pop culture marketing of music. How many bands were there with the ability to release records in 1960? 1970? 2006? Infinately more today than way back when. Media seems much more about pushing a product and selling an image than they do about quality. Its about oversaturating the market for the quick hit and profit. You mention the factioning off of sub-genres and I agree that is part of it. I'm not sure that new band that "comes of age" in today's music landscape will ever be capable of the widespread appeal necessary for classic rock approval.