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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rock and Roll By The Books

Rock and roll (or punk rock, synth punk, etc..) is loud, visceral, and the embodiment of chaos. It is a great three-headed dog that devours everything it is path. It moans and wails and squeals and points down at you like an angry God.

In other words, rock and roll and its variants is unapologetic and ignorant of all things. While I do not believe that anyone would argue that rock is the devil's music (though it most certainly is) I do believe that, much like video games, fantasy novels, and comic books most people would assume it is a lower sort that create it. The people in the band are not artists but rather lowly entertainers.

Now, there are certainly bands that embody that idea (such as Motley Crue or Limp Biskit or Def Leopard) most rock musicians and punkers are smart, thoughtful, and well-read.

To fans of these bands I'm sure you are thinking, "well no shit. It's plain as fuck to see." However, as I said, music is not always viewed seriously and there are various reasons for the this. One is, of course, that people are trapped in the past.

We've all heard someone say, "Music today sucks, only the 70's were good" or "Only the 90's mattered, man."

Now, holding back on the urge to punch whoever has said that in the mouth, we can see that, to one extent or the other, there are those that like to believe that only certain bands or periods of music had people that were true artists (though, oddly, not many people say that about popular music in the 80's),

Baring that thought, however, why else would someone not look at music seriously and see our song writers as our new poets or see our musicians as our new composers?

To a degree this is due to the fact that there is a generation, and let us call them the "Pitchfork Generation," that attaches itself like a leech to music that has been deemed cool only to abandon the project after it has been sucked dry, bones picked and tossed aside.

However, a true fan of music, much like a true lover of fantasy or of film, does not listen primarily because something is cool or because of some escapist desire. No, a true fan listens deeper, hearing the themes and listening to the stories of pain, joy, love, and loss of these poets.

Or else we travel, through the machine of music, to some magic place that is just for us. A place that connects us to the world around us in a special way.

When Kurt Cobain wrote he wrote with the same irony and cynicism of William S. Burroughs. He treated the life of the everyday middle class male growing up and going through divorce with a special lens. He would make things that seemed boring and normal strange in the same way that David Lynch does in "Blue Velvet" or "Muhalland Drive."

Then we have Ian Curtis, who writes with the same existential artistry of Albert Camus. Or Nick Cave who ranges from the strange terror of Lovecraft or Poe to the beautiful or Elliot or Berrymen.

Or Steve Albini, the humanist who writes of horrible things, not because he is in love with them but because he fears them. Because without that expression of what darkness lurks within us we would surly succumb to it.

And, on the other end, bands like Suicide or Crystal Castles that, despite their darkness are so greatly connected with life that it is almost a celebration, even more than bands like the Japandroids.

But why is all of this important to you? Well, the reason I believe that this is important is because art, more so than anything else, bridges gaps of age, race, religion, and so on. It is through our artists (and our critics) that we see the world for what it is or what it could be.

It is important that we have bands like Lightning Bolt, whose music explodes with color and fury, to make us feel happy and connected with the world around us. Without these connections then we, as a race, would fall apart. We would disconnect and die the death of indifference.

That is why it is important and must be said that the "Pitchfork culture" is horrid and detrimental to music. Art cannot be reduced to something so simple as what is cool and uncool, but rather, what has meaning and why.