I recently engaged in a discussion which allowed me to rant about things that angered me. Of course, talking about why music today sucks is going to attract some heated arguments against my points. After mentioning that the last new band I heard that I liked was the Dresden Dolls, people became distracted by that single statement, ignoring everything else I said. They attempted the excuse everything away by saying that I was just not looking hard enough for good, new music, which was not my point at all. My point is that I have heard the music of today, and it is lacking something that its predecessors had. I came back to explain my points further. The resulting two posts are duplicated (with some editing to help for context) here for your consumption:
“I’m not necessarily a fan of cabaret music, just (what I define as) good music. It can be punk, jazz, blues, rock, alternative, industrial, goth, post-punk, new wave, pop, electronica, or whatever… I’m just not finding anything nowadays that matches up to the quality of stuff that I like from the 90’s (like Marilyn Manson, Tori Amos, Tool, Le Tigre, Hole, etc…). I mean, as far as I’ve seen, the new Kathleen Hanna/Tori Amos/Marilyn Manson/Maynard James Keenan hasn’t reared their head yet, and music is suffering for it. Florence and the Machine was interesting, but doesn’t really hold up next to stuff from the 90’s. Queens of the Stone Age is awesome, but they technically came out of the 90’s as well. Brody Dalle (of Sourpuss/The Distillers/Spinnerette) used to be hardcore, now she’s trying to go the sell-out-pop-hipster-rock route that just sounds like everything else and I just don’t think it sounds good. People tried to paint Lady GaGa as a new Tori Amos, saying that they’re part of the same thread of evolution, but as far as I’m concerned, that would be DE-evolution. I’m happy to hear Garbage’s new album was pretty much up to standard as their other albums, which rock, but, again, they’re 90’s. No one seems to be breaking new ground. I guess you just have to go way underground to find good new stuff.
The funniest/most depressing thing to me is when people say, “If you like this artist, you’ll like this artist.” The unspoken ending to that statement is usually, “because they’re a cheap, talentless imitation of that artist you like.” People kept telling me, “If you like Joy Division, you’ll like She Wants Revenge.” That band is just Joy Division’s music ripped off, with lyrics that hold no substance. The thing I love about most artists is their originality and their substance. Don’t give me pop versions of visionaries. I want depth and innovation. I want PASSION and ORIGINALITY, not soulless reverb played while some kid whines about how his shoe lace broke in front of a girl he liked.”
Then, of course, came more arguments that missed the point: “Those bands are derivative, too.” “Riot Grrrl is just basic punk.” What people got out of my post was that, “Oh, so you’re saying that the 90’s are the best musical decade?” This led me to wonder if they were actually reading, or just skimming over and picking up keywords. I responded with this:
“I’m just saying that the 90’s had my favorite music in it, and that, to me, it seems to be the last era that really had creativity and soul to it. I also love the Dead Kennedys (80’s), Joy Division (70’s), Stevie Nicks (70’s/80’s), The Cure (80’s, mostly) and Nick Cave (80’s/90’s). So I’m definitely not saying one era is better than another.
It’s not about it being a derivative, musically: It’s about the content. The argument that Manson was just ripping off more obscure Industrial bands is moot, in my opinion, because he did some really groundbreaking stuff. His music has depth to it, which, as far as I’m concerned, a lot of the industrial bands that are listed as being better because they’re obscure, lack. Just because you were the first to do something doesn’t make you the best at it. Trial and error. You deserve credit for it, but it doesn’t mean you did the best version. And to say that Riot Grrrl is just punk, seems to me to be missing the point. The Riot Grrrl movement was about reviving feminism, which people were already calling “dead.” Go watch the documentary “The Punk Singer” about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, and you’ll understand it better.
The truth is, there are only so many different notes and sounds. Queens of the Stone Age borrows heavily from Iggy Pop, Tori Amos from Kate Bush, Nirvana from the Pixies, Hole from Stevie Nicks and Sonic Youth. Having influences is not the point. I’d argue that Tori Amos is better than Kate Bush, honestly. It’s all about the message, to me. I’m not saying influences are bad: I’m just saying that the huge majority of the music nowadays is not being inspired by their predecessors: I’m saying they’re imitating their predecessors by not adding any passion or soul of their own. What’s the difference between Kate Bush and Tori Amos? Tori had a new voice. She wasn’t Kate Bush. She took influences from Kate Bush, as well as Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Carole King, and so on, but she added her own experiences, trials and passion to it. When I listen to music today, I don’t hear that: I hear a bunch of kids who never developed mentally or emotionally past 12 years old, and who all want to sound like each other.”
Like an Ouroboros/Endless Human Centipede, the music of today is primarily a bunch of imitations of imitations. Some band named Vampire Weekend/My Morning Jacket/Baked Potatoes Rule comes out sounding bland and pointless, and then it spawns a millions of imitation bands, trying to sound like another bland band in a sad attempt to get signed. At least when punk bands imitated each other, if they did, it was not to get signed and get rich, because it was pretty much guaranteed by Ronald Reagan that you would not be signed (at least by a US label). The point of the youth is to rebel against the unjust laws and restrictions of the previous generation. This is where the music movement of today falls short. Hipster music is the new movement, following Hippies, Punk, Grunge, Riot Grrrl, Goth… and now Hipster? This music does not rebel against anything in any way. And it isn’t for lack of injustice in the world. So why do Hipsters mostly sing about “boys” and “girls” who refused to go to the prom with them? Well… my analysis of that would be best saved for a later date. Until then, go watch “The Punk Singer” documentary about Kathleen Hanna, and listen to Joy Division. Just because.