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“2010: The Year Rock Died”

Rock and roll and technology just never got along. Just ask the ’80’s.

And no real pinpointed beacon of gadgetry necessarily took over around the turn of this last decade, it’s more that our anger just died down from the war — or namely, the war ended. Nothing makes for a more fructifying get-up-stand-up protest arena than a large-scale humanitarian atrocity going on, and in the wake of this we sort of just settled into our everyday lives. We envisioned sameness, not change, and it was monotony against which we strove to safeguard, not calamity.
A couple important electronica albums came around a few years ago, helping to essentially spell the death knell of rock. Among them were Four Tet’s There is Love in You, Caribou’s Swim, Ikonika’s Concact, Love, Want, Have, and all the work of John Talabot. More to the point, though to less artistic revelation, unfortunately, many bands, and “scenes,” pardon me, have switched from guitar to synth-and-beat aesthetics. LA is ground zero for examination’s potential of this phenomenon, furnishing HEALTH, Liars and Abe Vigoda who each underwent this change sometime in the last 10 years. New York is the “scene” I’m talking about, the perhaps ironically “poppier” New York, home of The Velvet Underground, The Strokes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and White Rabbits, only the latter of which employed a predominantly futuristic aesthetic for their catchy and infectious juke box dominance.
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Addenda 1: The California Drought, and the Musical Zeitgeist It’s Spawned
This is something I’ve discussed in a past post, but in this post I’d like to make the point that the music coming out of California now seems designed especially for Californians, to get them through this tough time, and not for the necessary anthemic imbibing of the rest of the country, the type of thing obviated by say Kanye’s “Jesus Walks” or Jay-Z’s “Dirt off Your Shoulders.” But then, LA isn’t exactly the middle of nowhere: it is a place in which lots of us are interested, so even its niche brands usually entice on a large scale. I’m separating Flying Lotus, and even Actress, Glasser and Julia Holter, from the recent “drought wave,” partly for their lack of output in 2015, and partly because electronica/dance is the reigning genre of our current times, its amassing does not imply anachronism, the way do these recent ostensible “tribute” bands do, entertaining as they are, like the Tijuana Panthers and The Garden.
Punk and jazz-informed hip-hop are the obvious vehicles of this recent tribute wave. The hip-hop is generally unabashedly antipathetic, which granted, it’s always been in LA, with N.W.A.’s violent misanthropy and Cypress Hill’s onslaught of cop homicide doctrine. At no point out west do you get unifying statements even of the smallest scale, and I’m talking about things like “These are the breaks,” or the Beasties’ song “Unite” on Hello Nasty. Also, the rap out there is lacking in slang. 37 years after hip-hop’s invention, and 24 after its artistic pinnacle, it’s only logic that LA being as big as it is would have SOME say in the hip-hop compendium, but let’s just say it’s getting by on theory and technical skill, rather than communal culture.
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Addenda 2: Rock Band Breakups
Supergrass, Living Things and Oxford Collapse all broke up in the last 10 years (and No Age might as well have broken up, based on their last album). It’s like when the Colorado Rockies made the world series in 2007, only to get swept by the evil empire, the Boston Red Sox. What can you do? Just try to find a way to move on. Everybody has their own method of doing this. And hell, The National helps, a very ambient but technically gifted sort of backdrop for times of reflection.
Oxford Collapse was one of the last bands to mix punk and FUN, like The Offspring, Green Day or Goldfinger. The best music is almost non-music: the sounds, the hits, the guitar stabs, they’re all secondary to the shape of the overall artistic statement, and that’s what Oxford Collapse understood impeccably, along with their blistering sense of humor [1].
Props to Supergrass for living on in infamy in that Frosted Mini-Wheats commercial with their debut album hit “Alright” from 1994, a song which also made it into the Clueless movie soundtrack, but they seemed almost checked out on their penultimate album Road to Rouen, which happens to be currently my favorite Supergrass album: “‘Cause in three days I’ll be outta here / And it’s not a day too soon.”
Living Things are one of the most intrinsically contradictory bands of all time. They were praised by Rolling Stone, but condemned by mainstream radio, probably deemed “fa**ots” for their anti-war stance and lack of heterosexual empiricism. “Keep it ‘til You Fold” is a favorite from their first album, boasting a chord progression that perplexes even me, and I got an A+ in music theory at IU without ever opening the textbook. Luck, I guess. Condemned by the pitchfork/indie world, maybe for being from St. Louis, I dunno, they saw their second album get essentially no press, despite being released by New York’s Jive just like their first (maybe that in itself was another pillar of their villainy), but when I listen to it I’m reminded that art in the Midwest NECESSITATES liveliness. And the aesthetic, and passion for putting together an album is there 100% with these guys, the sounds echoing and interweaving in labyrinthine, incomprehensible patterns. It’s a labor of love, but folks, not after 2010.
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[1] Some favorite lines include “My love came back from Sweden / Brought me some bathroom reading”; “They’ll never be more than siblings / And I blew it with all of mine.”

 

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