Friday, May 09, 2008

don't believe the hype

I have been bored with most of the new music I have heard lately. There have been too many rehashes of something original yesterday or yesteryear, too many reminders of other/ better artists* and too much music influenced by Grey's Anatomy and the sad whiny folk scene or its Wimp Rock cousin.

Much of the newer alt country is terribly unoriginal as if it is entering its own Nashville in the 70s stage with each new artist a little duller and unoriginal than the last and too much inauthentic twang. Strangely Bright Eyes captured the true spirit of alt country better last year than most new artists (I leave room for Oakley Hall, which gets it). It reminds me that I can go back and listen to Uncle Tupelo or better yet Marty Robbins and George Jones.

Don't get me wrong, bands like The Weepies are fine, with charming arrangements and some insightful lyrical content, but are they the second coming of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan? No. They are okay- standing out in a mediocre field (like the NL in baseball). That is it.

Even Bon Iver, the artist behind one of the better albums of the year cannot live up to the hype behind his very fine, but not supernatural new album. The chick singer phenomena is overwhelming me right now. They all sound like Feist or Regina Spektor, without the songs (they may have 1 or 2 good songs, but not an entire album).

Call me grouchy, but I think too many bloggers and music fans are settling for less than they should and not appreciating true artisanship and originality. Even me.

But music is not in as dire shape as Hillary's presidential bid. There is some good stuff out there right now. The bands influenced by punk and traditional European music are releasing wonderful sounds and a potent hip hop scene is emerging from Africa that can only be described as awesome (more on that next week). While I have heard only a few artists recently that will have the career arc of a Wilco, Radiohead, or REM (not even trying to get U2 or Bruce), there are other great developments, but we need to be looking harder. For every Arcade Fire (potential pantheon artist) and Josh Ritter, there are dozens of Maroon 5s and - John Mayers (and I thought Hillary was pandering with her gas tax holiday).

Lets demand more from our bands. When a band with the potential of Coldplay** plays it safe and releases drivel like X&Y after showing us great possibilities with Rush of Blood to the Head, we buy their castoff and settle as if we are voting for the president in 2004 (I mean it could be worse. right?). When Dave Matthews Band starts putting out nonsense we should not continue going to their shows hoping for the best. We should boycott them and demand our money back on their websites. We should not allow them to let us down, unless it is by striving too hard.

I know. I sound like an old fart hearkening back to the good old days, which I am. But I am also looking to the future of music, so my kids have more choices than Disneyfied pablum, Cock Rock, Wimp Rock and inauthentic corporate Rap.

I may be grouchy because I checked out some music recommended on a few friend's blogs and it was boring and unoriginal. I also may be grouchy because I read a great article this morning in Paste on one of the greatest bands of all time, The Replacements and long for something like that to loom on the horizon (of course I am probably too old to appreciate or notice such a development). Here is the article on The Replacements (please read).

by the way. here is some of the good stuff I am listening to presently...

Nick Cave
Vampire Weekend
Frightened Rabbit

I am looking forward to the newest by Eef Barzelay, My Morning Jacket, Shearwater and Fleet Foxes.

* reminders are a good thing, when it is reminding you of The Beach Boys, The Beatles or Al Green without rehashing their music. It is quite another thing to remind you of how much better an artist from the last couple of years was than the one you are presently listening to. Remind me, don't ape their music (and just Pantheon artists, not average artists)

**I am holding out hope for new Coldplay on the strength of the first single


Mike said...

Thanks for the 'mats article, Rick. I saw them play a big summer festival in Chicago-- one of their last shows. It was a kind of sad train wreck, but it was an honor to see such an amazing band live.

mike said...

hey grumpy. i am sorry but i have to disagree. there is plenty of good "new country" out there. it just aint on the radio much. out here we have KPIG (look it up on the googles and stream it a few times to get a flavor). they mix the old and the new and i am yet to hear a single tune of the usual crap pretending to be country.

another good example is the country you find in bands that aren't usually country like Over The Rhine and Damien Jurado. and of course there is Niko Case.

plus, you noted Bright Eyes who makes me want to puke. when i am on a job site and someone has BE on their iPod i sneak over and delete it.

Rick said...

Mike- everyone you mention is not new alt country, which proves my point. BE is loved by some and hated by others. I stand in the middle. I think his latest is musically brilliant and captures the traditional musically styles of America (esp. country) in surprising ways.

Listen to No One Would Riot for Less on his webpage.

My problem with most of the alt country from the past years is safety and boredom. It sounds safe and light, with little power. I could go on.

Rick said...

I meant Four Winds by Bright Eyes

mike said...

hmm. i guess i don't know what you mean by alt country then. i would put drunkards prayer (OTR) and where shall you take me (DJ) and all of Niko Case's stuff in the alt country genre. or am i mistaken?

Rick said...

I would def see Neko as alt country and OTR could be considered it to me also.

I was just meaning that they were not new alt country. They are established as great artists in the genre. Much of what I am not impressed with is the new stuff by newer artists in that (and other) genre.

Does that make sense?

mike said...