First off, let me say that the state of rock n roll is just fine. Many folks I talk to somewhat lament the lack of hard rocking bands. They mention the Foo Fighters as the only one left standing. Bands like fun and Imagine Dragons and MGMT and Lorde and the plethora of "x" the "y" bands dominate the charts. Looking at the current Billboard Top 0 in Rock, the only two bands I think qualify are Pearl Jam and to a much-lesser-extent The Arctic Monkeys. The rest of these acts are not rock acts. They are pop acts.
What these folks are talking about is the lack of rock acts on the radio. There is a TON of great guitar-driven music out there. Right now I am listening to a record by two young women from California called DeapVally. It's bluesy, gritty, sloppy rock like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. It's great ROCK music. And I will bet you haven't heard of it! LOSER!
HA! I jest. That's not your fault at all. It simply involves seeking it out. You are not going to hear Deap Vally, or any of the bands on my top 10 list (commencing later today), on the radio. If you get exposed to them it's going to be through your own efforts, your own searching them out. There are ton's of places to find it, especially on the internet. There are plenty of websites to scour. I know, I am scouring them!!
Radio is a wasteland. There are outliers sure but for the most part big city radio is a dumping ground for the lowest common denominator. That's fine. Radio exists to make money for the people in charge. Being on the cusp of up and coming rock n roll is not a money-making opportunity. I think there is a great opportunity for satellite radio to fill this role but even Sirius and XM shy away from it. Little Steven's Underground Garage is a station I often turn to in the car, but the ratio of old-to-new is about 75-25. I really wish it would switch because there are so many great bands out there to be heard.
From yesterday's blog I think we are going to see that happening amongst less and less people. Music has become a background event for the majority of folks and their desire to spend time with music and only music is dwindling rapidly.
There's a line in Almost Famous that I love. One of the band-aids says it to Cameron Crowe's stand-in near the end, as they watch the new girls arrive backstage. She says "They don't even know what it is to be fan. Y'know? To love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts."
I think that line says a ton about the state of music today. Bands are not followed, admired, or to use a stupid word worshiped like they once were. You can argue and say well look at Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift or Beyonce. They are huge!! But with their fans I do not believe the music is central. The image is central. The vibe, the party, the fact that it blends into the background of the gathering. That is where the connection is made. The song itself is secondary to the individual swirls it is the soundtrack to. Nobody lights a candle and sits in the dark and sees their future when they listen to Justin Bieber.
All that said...all that pessimism...and I am convinced that rock n roll at its core is fine. Big labels and record producers and svengalis are not needed anymore to make rock happen. It is happening at a local level with the amazing bands I have met and played with here in DC. It is happening on the internet, as bands are able to get their music out to the people who are searching it out. There is so much music out there it it difficult to stand-out these days. And like at the birth of rock n roll and in its heyday, a great band needs a lot of talent and a basket of great songs and they need a shitload of luck. That's the way it has always been and that is what makes it so cool.
Later today I am going to start my countdown of my top 10 favorite records of 2013. I'll do a post for each album in turn. There will be a bunch of metal records, there will be some garage rock records, there will be some mellow stuff for the quiet times. What I hope most is that the list, along with my usual ramblings, inspire you to check these bands out. I think they are worth the time you can give them.