The case can be made that rock ‘n roll will never die, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also become a leprous, oozing, festering pustule of decay at the same time. Just cause it ain’t fuckin’ dead doesn’t mean it’s doing anything worth a shit after all, and I don’t buy into the generational disconnect bullshit- the flat-out truth is that post-90’s, post-00’s, whatever- we are left with a soulless void where everything has become acceptable so NOTHING is taking a fucking chance. Nothing is galvanizing, nothing is calling out in a vital scream of “here we are now”, and if it is it doesn’t feel worth hearing. To further my stubborn point that I’m not becoming a god damn old fuck screaming at the kids to “get the fuck off my lawn”, I’m not in the slightest bit out of touch. I’m even back on social media (for The Ghost Generation, but still) for god’s sake. I know what’s going on in music, I have fucking fantastic taste if I do say so myself, and I like to think I have a fairly decent handle on what should be considered “good”. There are flashes of “good”, sure. Bits of GREAT even, but is anything TRULY capable of igniting a revolution anymore? Are we all just too fucking dead inside?
To get a grip on the shit-stain we call culture in 2019, let’s take a trip down memory lane. The cultural abomination that was slavery in America gave birth to work songs. Those work songs gave birth to what eventually became the blues, and that shit was dangerous. A black person could get fucking KILLED for saying the wrong thing, singing too loud, or pretty much just being black out in fucking white “society”. Scary thing is, that doesn’t sound a fuck of a lot different than the sorry state of things RIGHT NOW in this country but I’ll save that for another post. I digress- the blues was fucking heavy, it was primal, and it was bad-ass. Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, etc. weren’t just breaking barriers-they were smashing those motherfuckers with a sledgehammer. It was empowering, it was a force of nature, and it went on to influence pretty much everything that came after it. From there, a few twists and turns later, we arrive at Elvis. In true “white people” fashion Elvis Aaron Presley appropriated the shit out of black culture, filed down the edges, sexed it up a bit, and gave birth to SOME of the first rock ‘n roll there ever was. There were others though- one can argue for days that it was REALLY Chuck Berry who kicked that shit off, but it was white-ass Elvis Presley that brought it to the masses. HE was dangerous because there was a time when shaking your hips on T.V. was the equivalent of what fucking a walrus in the ass while screaming “HAIL SATAN” on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy might be like nowadays. I don’t know, that might fly after 10 on Fox. Anyway…
Still with me kids? Good, this is shit you need to know. Around this same time something started happening that was called country music. That shit was dangerous too, cause at the time it was “music for the people”, it was working class music about working class shit and it was awesome. My first crush as a wee lad was Loretta Lynn, the relationship never materialized for some reason but I know I wore some trench-like grooves in my mom’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” record back in the day. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins- they took the blues and rock ‘n roll and filtered it through the plains & the Appalachian mountain towns and spoke to the people that weren’t being spoken too. It was NOT a bunch of muscled-up dudes in bedazzled jeans and lacrosse-moms singing about margaritas or whatever the fuck passes for modern country music these days, the shit came from the earth. Bluegrass? Even better. In parallel was something else entirely, you had the birth of protest music, the beats, this whole sort of proto-counterculture thing going on behind the scenes. I’m trying to cater to your short attention span here and give a concise but very brief all-encompassing history of modern music so fucking forgive me if I don’t touch on EVERYTHING in stunning detail (lookin’ at you Bob Dylan). In tandem with ALL THIS was soul and for that I’ll say three names and drop the mic- Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Sam Cooke- I could name drop influential and out-of-his-world amazing soul artists for hours but for the sake of brevity you get the short list. That shit was the blues filtered through a little bit of EVERYTHING else and it was dangerous too. This country was determined to demonize black people for shit that white people got a lifetime pass for, fucking pathetic but true. Anytime black voices got too loud some fucker like Elvis was there to steal the vibe and sell it back to white teenagers. Again, we’ll tackle racial politics in depth another time but for now- I move on. I could blather for days about where the The Beatles come in, and The Rolling Stones, The Who, etc. but we’ll skip ahead a bit to the hippie-ass late 60’s. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, etc. were dangerous too because, in the beautiful spirit of America, anything that preached a message of resistance, peace, love, or GOD FORBID something a little sexy, was grounds for cops to get out hoses, riot gear, and fucking tanks apparently. Nothing scares the shit out of fat-assed old politicians than liberal teenagers getting high after all, especially if they’re out there thinking for themselves. Most of the music was really good, some of it was awful, and nearly ALL of the message got lost in a fog of drugs but what I’m trying to do here is paint a picture of movements. Significant cultural movements brought on by musical evolution.
From the drug-addled optimism of the 60’s came the realization that, in some places, shit wasn’t all flowers and free love- sometimes life was factory smoke, bar brawls, and shitty jobs. Daisies and bell-bottoms made way for the Manson Family, and this is why we don’t have nice things. Enter Black Mother Fucking Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin. Sabbath was the bleakest, but this whole new crop was taking things in a much heavier direction and thank the universe forever that they did. I don’t give a fuck WHO you are, it can’t be denied that without the blues we wouldn’t have shit and without Black Sabbath we wouldn’t have metal and probably not punk either. Distorted guitars were dangerous as FUCK back then, and it was generally assumed that if you had long dark hair and a loud amp you were a direct channel to Lucifer himself. It was a call to the disillusioned, big sounds to elevate the people who felt small. It changed everything, just like all the movements that came before it.
I’m gonna assume that I don’t need to explain punk rock to you guys, and then I’m gonna do it anyway. The Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, etc. paved the way for an even louder and more “fuck you” voice than metal to emerge by way of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and the laundry list of influential and wildly creative bands to come screaming out of the late 70’s. It was glam rock for the gutter, it was metal for the kids who couldn’t play metal, and it was anti-fucking-everything. It was dangerous cause it was essentially a riot in musical form, challenging authority and tearing down the bloated arena-rock and coked-out rich dude schlock (yes I AM talking about the fucking Eagles) that had begun to infect the airwaves worldwide. And, it only got better. The ’77 shit paved the way for hardcore which was LOUDER, more political, and more in your fucking face. Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, etc. were dangerous because they didn’t give a FUCK and they challenged you to do the same. Bloated puritanical adults everywhere shuddered in terror. Same goes for thrash metal, speed metal, black metal, death metal, etc. Shit was scary, loud, and chock full ‘o Satan and it was awesome.
Hip-hop on the other hand, scared the shit out of people because (drumroll please) it gave yet another marginalized group a loud and defiant voice. Hip Hop and punk rock go hand in hand to me, and I love both in equal measure. The Ghost Generation are pretty big hip hop heads in fact and no “Top Ten Albums” list for me will ever be without Mos Def & Talib Kweli’s 1998 masterpiece Black Star album. Shit is dope, and the underground remains as vital as the early years and I’ll save my disdain for the modern shit for a bit later on. As with the rest of this post, I could give you an archival history but I’m trying to just catalog movements here.
I’m speeding the train up a little more here (and skipping over new wave, most of the 80’s, and shit like The Cure cause this post will take fucking days to write) so we can get to the 90’s, and the explosion of whatever the fuck you want to call THAT. Fuck “grunge”, the 90’s was the explosion of sonic freedom and diversity. It was the ear that gave us Tool, and Nirvana, and Fishbone, and P.J Harvey- see, fucking diversity of the highest order. It was dangerous because, again, it was shaking shit up and giving voice to weird kids like me who felt lost, alone, and unwanted. It was creative, it was beautiful, and the sounds of Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, and Bikini Kill would cover the earth…for a little while anyway. As always, shit got dark, and post-Kurt Cobain we got alot of bands TRYING to recreate the movement but in a more watered down fashion. Fucking vile shit like Puddle of Mudd, I’m not even gonna fuckin’ dignify that shit by talking about it. Eesh. We did, however, get shit like Deftones a little later which makes me very happy.
We’re not gonna veer into nu-metal, all the -cores, and all the batshit genre blending of the last 10 or so years here- and I know, this shit hasn’t been as concise as what fucking Jann Wenner or Cameron Crowe might have written but that’s not what I’m trying to do anyway. What I wanted to do was give you a snapshot of significant cultural and social movements that coincided with music. The 90’s was really the last big one, the last one that served as a rallying cry and a unification of voices that needed to be heard. Here we are in 2019, and I gotta ask-what the FUCK is gonna be next? Will we ever have a movement like the ones before? Our culture has been infected by the Kardashians, Soundcloud “rappers”, and this shit-stain we call influencer culture and (to me) the sounds I’m hearing are fucking pathetic. You telling me that that 6ix9ine kid is considered hip hop? That’s not fucking hip hop and nothing you do can change my mind about that fact. That is a fucking dude on pills yelling at me, there isn’t even any fucking lyricism in there, it’s just threats, gang shout outs, and the same fucking beat that everyone seems determined to use these days. How many “girl with wispy affected voice over dupstep beats” acts do we fucking need? I blame you Lorde, cause now every god damn singer seems to be doing your shit but worse. All the punks are old, Lamb of God fill arenas, and I’m pretty sure I saw someone’s grandma with a full sleeve. Soccer moms have pink hair, reality TV is rotting us from the inside out, and everyone thinks they are a C List celebrity for no reason other than they have 370 Facebook friends. The FUCK is this culture we have cultivated for ourselves? if there WAS to be another musical movement, what the fuck would it even look like? And this “woke” shit? All of sudden everyone is walking around giving themselves awards for not being shitty? “Oh, Katy Perry is woke now”, I actually saw that shit in an article somewhere. What the fuck does that even mean? Instead of singing about cupcakes and anal is she now going to start turing the kids on to the merits of Noam Chomsky? Will the marquee at her next show read “Katy Perry Presents: An Exposition on Dismantling The Corporate States of America”? No, it won’t. Cause this idea of “woke” is just another fucking buzzword to make people feel less ignorant than they may be in reality. I was never asleep, so go fuck yourself. I don’t need a pat on the back for not being racist. I don’t need a wink and a nod from you cause I’m not a homophobe. I’m perfectly confident in my level of non-ignorance and I don’t need anyone’s fucking applause for it. I don’t want my hip hop screamed at me by some gang member on cough syrup, I don’t want fake-ass politicized pop-stars, I don’t fucking want another skinny-jeaned, ironic-sweater, bland ass fucking ampire Weekend fan to tell me about their organic hate-free chicken recipes- I was something VITAL AND FUCKING DANGEROUS AGAIN. And not in that “this person killed people” way, I’m talking about a fire. Lit under our culture to bring voices out of the ashes that need to be hears. And sure, this year DID give us a new Tool album which I have unashamedly listened to approximately 677 times since release but it’ll be 2079 before they put out another one, Matt Skiba can only write SO many velvety smooth and wonderful songs about dead girls, and the great musical melting pot will continue to turn into a shit stew of confusion beciuse I think none of us know who the hell we are anymore. I think our world has become such a toxic place that nobody knows where to start. I think this is one of the ugliest times this country and most of the others will ever live through and without massive and pole-shifting changes the shit is only gonna get deeper. I don’t know what the sound to shake the Earth would be right now, but I’m ready. You’re ready too, even if you don’t know it yet. If you’re like us, you lived half your life pre-internet and the other half with Jon & Kate Plus 8, Tinder, and your A Tribe Called Quest was replaced with some white kid with face tattoos singing about his car. getting sad yet? Good. I fucking hope this shit makes you sad cause it fucking well should. We bought what we were sold, we believed the lie, and now were left with the wreckage. Even fuckin’ Mumford & Sons sold the fuck out, even Weezer is a fucking pop band now, and don’t get me FUCKING STARTED on Five Finger Death Punch. What the fuck guys? Are we all OK with letting “culture” disappear? Are we all OK with everything being meaningless? Are we all fucking DEAD INSIDE?
I’m gonna shut the fuck up, cause now I’m mad and I need a sandwich. I want to pose a question though-and really think before you answer: is this the BEST we can do? Think about it, cause we need a revolution, and we need it NOW. Does anyone even care? Do YOU even care? Fuck, do I even care? Now I’m depressed, christ. Where’s my fucking sandwich.
“Fuck that. When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children? I want my children to listen to people who fuckin’ ROCKED! I don’t care if they died in a puddle of their own VOMIT, I WANT SOMEONE WHO PLAYS FROM HIS FUCKIN’ HEART!”-Bill Hicks