Genres and labels have become a necessary yet arbitrary force in the music industry. A band is analyzed by their sound and then grouped with similar acts in order to forever place them in a cube of adjectives to help describe just what they sound like. It can be both good and bad, with the good being certain people who browse through these labels might find that specific artist, but bad if a band just wants to make music and all of a sudden they are labeled as something they didn’t even know they were or want to be associated with. That being said, an authority figure has to police the authenticity of certain genres, right? Welcome to Genre Benders, a fun and inventive column that uses wit and research to tackle just what it is that makes a genre well, a genre.
Currently as I am writing this the temperature outside is negative nine degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill totaling the vicious chill at -27 degrees. The current projected high is a t-shirt wearing temperature of 1 whole Fahrenheit degree. When the current temperature in your state is more frigid than Antarctica — which I get is in it’s summer months but still, that’s an entire continent of ice — it’s hard to find inspiration for anything creative because you’re afraid it might freeze before it reaches its full potential. You wake up in the morning and you’re cocooned and don’t want to lose the embrace of the blankets and when you do your body aches because you forgot to stretch out and make your blood flow to begin the internal heating process. Needless to say, it’s fucking cold.
Now something happened this particular winter that awoke a newfound love for a particular genre of music. Seeing as I am supposed to police the genres, I want to try and figure out why it clicked at the time it did. Unlike most people in the world, I did not listen to a lot of 60s music when I was younger. My dad had a thing for The Blues and Metal while my mom loved Fleetwood Mac and other artists that thrived in the 70s and onward (Rumours, obviously not their first LP). But onto the actual point of this.
Anecdote: It’s around 32 degrees Fahrenheit one afternoon and my friends and I are listening to The Beach Boys and disc golfing. We have beers in our hands and emptiness in our minds. It brought on the feeling of a wild adventure, much like that Fallout 4 commercial. Realistically, both my friends and the main protagonist are surrounded by desolate land and total annihilation, yet we have the will and carefree attitudes to take on whatever life throws at us. Whether it’s tackling mutants and other greedy assholes of the apocalypse or nailing a 60 foot putt, it established a feeling of warmth (that might have had something to do with the beer but bear with me) and joy that I recently had not found in music. Especially when the rest of the world is shivering and shriveled like a flower feeling frostbite for the first time.
Now I bring up the most ageless question about music that has been around since whenever a generation became pretentious and arrogant enough to question everything around them. Is Rock N Roll dead? If not, where did the leaves of the granddaddies of rock music fall too? It can’t be THAT far from the tree, right? They were booming babies out of people so fast that maybe all of it just got shoveled away like the snow from someone’s driveway. Either that or trampled on by thousands of kids beginning their hippie teenage rebellion years. What has become of the 1960s rock n roll? The very kind that made the beer flow faster and the disc golfs go in the basket and the air less chilled thatWednesday afternoon — is it still around?
Now let’s look at the 60s. America is caught in a war between itself (social issues) and overseas (Vietnam) and experiencing more losses than gains (assassinations, the Vietnam issue and the whole Cold War shenanigans). The country is all over the place with the sex (baby boomers) and the drug induced sabbaticals (acid) and the outlast across the country (Black Panthers, riots at schools, sit in movements) that it feels there is more of a tension between parents and children much more than Democracy against Communism. Musically, the 60s has the same kind of feel. There was the British Invasion and the folk rock and the surf rock and the blues rock and the soul. The 60s seemed to be the start of the many generations to come in music before losing power to the 80s glam and 90s ‘grunge.’ America was so invested in the counterculture arrival that the music was glorified and put on this wonderful pedestal. And rightfully so, that counterculture became many of our parents who would then shove this music down our throats at early ages so we at least can name drop these hippie groups. Thanks mom and dad for not doing this to me.
Back to the frostbitten flowers of winter. It was weird on that day when the sun was out and the temperature was continuously dropping yet I found a newfound comfort and warmth in this Surf Rock of The Beach Boys. For someone who loves idling and staying on my couch during a vicious snowstorm, it would make sense that I enjoy music that is lethargic. I become attached to music that seems to carry a heavier weight than the snow piling on the surface of the Earth. A perfect example from last year is Foxing’s Dealer. The music is graceful, carrying its own poetic value through its ambitious compositions — not this overly upbeat music being delivered through quadruple harmonies and catchy guitar chords. Put it this way, while inventive and deep, Foxing provide a more pristine and otherworldly vibe to them, establishing it as the perfect music for your mind to wander off too, while The Beach Boys and others like them provide the perfect music to forget about everything and hopelessly adventure along with. It’s like this; as the birth of Rock N’ Roll began in the 60’s, it evolved and grew more intellectual. Like my friends in Foxing, the rock became more self aware and less about trying to take girls home/political activism.
I’m not saying there are not modern rock bands who know hot to strip this modern thought. Take Rozwell Kid for example, their music is guitar centered but bloody great because they know they don’t have to be deep all the time. Diet Cig is another act that takes the brattiness of punk to a whole new level with their fun videos and songs about self discovery. Or there are the bands that took a heavy influence from these 60s acts like Diamond Youth. They warped their way into plenty of peoples hearts by taking the graces and roots of Rock N Roll and shapeshifting it into a modern sound. Regardless, there is something about that Fallout 4 commercial and that perfect track for adventuring that brought me through this whole rant/realization.
The 60s had so much happening in terms of expansion that just as people began to realize there is plenty more to do in the world than fight wars, the people began taking their fights to music. And thus, many of my favorite genres took shape in the 70s with Punk, Hardcore Punk and the early styling of aggressive metal. No, Rock N Roll isn’t dead. It has just evolved.
P.S. Thanks to that day I decided to start adventuring more, life is way more fun when you’re not backed into a corner the whole time. Follow Sean on Twitter @seanthecaptain
What genre should New Noise tackle next?