You. I'm talking to you. Yeah, you. The guy in the corner with the perpetually arrogant know-it-all smirk on your face. The one that says your shit don't stink and you know all there is to know about rock music. You, the one who claims some unknown band currently playing at the local dive in Encino is "the next Nirvana, maybe better." The guy that says Binaural is Pearl Jam's only tolerable disc. And while we're at it, I'm also talking to you indie girl. The one that just seems so 'cute' and 'feisty', what with all of your quirky and interesting single song selections from a variety of rock bands usually featuring a girl-guy combo on vocals.
I'm talking to you.
Listen, I'm not telling you to change your music tastes. In fact, I would emphatically state that we need you to keep the fire burning for unknown, talented bands that aren't getting the airplay they deserve. What I am asking you to do is to stop sneering at what you consider "commercial" and "vanilla" rock bands. Because what you don't realize is, you and I both need them. And Coldplay is the perfect example. Here's why...
I shuffled through the usual mail this morning, lost in a blitzkrieg of crappy pizza delivery ads, credit card offers, and thick catalogs masquerading as magazines, was the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Yes, Rolling Stone Magazine. The patriarch of all things rock, even if it is reduced to the size of tabloid fodder-laden magazines like People and Star.
Now, full disclosure, I'm an arena, anthemic rock fan. To be clear, I willfully and happily check out all forms of rock music, but the melodramatic lyrics and sing-along verses pull me in most. I suppose you could say I still naively believe rock and roll can change the world. I count The Beatles, Pearl Jam, U2, and yes, Coldplay amongst my favorite bands. This isn't to say I don't appreciate more indie-centric fare, quite the opposite. Friends give me new records to digest all the time, and sometimes I find them exciting and fresh, like the time many years ago my friend ZZ railed with great passion over this band known as The Black Keys. Other times, I scratch my head and try to figure out the appeal (I'm looking at you The Hold Steady).
Through all of this, one of my favorite pastimes includes heavy and intense debates with musician friends over the relevance of a band such as The Kings of Leon. Any argument in the name of rock music is more than appreciated by me, and as my musician friends have found out, you better be prepared to come back with something more substantial than "it sucks", or "it's so generic."
Quite frankly, I think they're missing the point.
In this month's Rolling Stone (the Geore Clooney cover), near the front, there is an article: "Rock Radio Takes a Another Hit". This isn't the first such article I've seen shining a spotlight on the decline of rock. Sadly, I've been seeing a consistent surge in them for well over a decade, and the free fall of rock is very much a real thing. It's no longer an eyesore we can clean up, it's systematic and threatening to erode the entire landscape unless we do something about it.
And sad as it may be for some of you music snobs out there, it includes rallying around bands you may soon rather use as a spittoon in the conscious of your musical standards.
The internet has made 'being cool' into an even larger sense of hipster megalomania. Everything sucks, and everyone turns on what they actually like, corroded by the fear of having your own opinion which others may disagree with. I remember for many years hearing about this band called Kings of Leon. I heard they were Southern Rock at their most raw, with energy and an enigmatic frontman. Look back at a collection of Spin and Rolling Stone magazines from their early era, and you'll find nothing but love from critics and music snobs alike. Kings of Leon hadn't yet broke in America, certainly not until a little radio hit called "Sex on Fire" slowly took over the airwaves and infested itself into everyone's collective ears. They became huge rock stars instantly, even if like any other good story, it was anything but instant.
For a while, it seemed like KOL fans were celebrating in their band's ascent to a larger audience. They had worked hard, through relentless touring and hardship to capture the flag. Rock fans rejoiced.
It lasted for about six months, and suddenly everyone seemed to turn on the Followhill boys. This was before their recent and questionable antics. I listened to friend after friend, previous supporters of KOL, suddenly change their opinion. To them, KOL had sold out, the worst sin possible by a band of integrity. Their music was no longer the same. To them, it was far more generic. And although certainly a case could be made that the sound of KOL altered just a bit, it's also safe to say it wasn't a giant leap in content. Was Only By The Night so much different from Youth and Young Manhood? The changes were incremental, and certainly could be attributed by some as a sign of growth. Not for nothing, but KOL was never exactly Led Zepplin. Their slight melodic changes weren't the same as Garth Brooks suddenly doing Chris Gaines.
And that's okay.
And instead of standing behind them, rock fans fled. Sure, maybe you didn't enjoy the new album Come Around Sundown, but did that mean you now thought they should be erased from all rock formats? Extinguished from everyone's collective hip factor?
Even if you did, it wouldn't matter.
Because there are no rock formats anymore. It's dying.
Which is the reasoning behind the Rolling Stone article, as Clear Channel has nationalized even more radio stations, firing legendary DJs who broke iconic bands like The Doors and Tom Petty. Per the article, a number one rock hit reaches 13 million people, compared to the 138 million a top 40 hit attains.
Rock is dying before our eyes, and we're too busy fighting about what's cool to realize it has a larger effect on all of our bands.
Think of music formats, especially rock, like a food chain. If you eliminate one species, all suffer. You see, a band like Coldplay generates sales. As Coldplay succeeds, so does the faith of music executives in other rock bands. When those bands succeed, more money flows into the coffers. More money directly attributed to rock music. When this happens, more spending happens. Spending on that same unknown band in Encino who otherwise might just break up because they can't find an audience now has a shot at making a difference. A shot at bringing rock back.
You know, like that little band known as Nirvana did.
In today's age, Nirvana might never get a shot. Which means they'd never have a chance to crush bands that you despise (the god-awful Nickelbacks, etc) and change the game all over again.
Wish is what has always baffled me about music fans of a certain ilk. I certainly understand the unique ability to see a band like Arcade Fire in a near empty dive bar and realizing you've just seen the next biggest thing. I get it. It's similar to having a small plot of sandy beach all to yourself. But what I've never comprehended is the complete and utter desertion of that same band when they finally break through and in the process, bring their personal music which you find so appealing to the ears of those with less taste. This should be a good thing, seen as a celebration and nothing less. If anything, it has the power to broaden someone's musical taste.
Years ago, people used to complain that bands like Coldplay were the only rock they heard on the radio (a comment given often when talking about KOL and "Use Somebody".
What you're failing to see is that there is no complaining anymore, because they aren't playing anything new!
Let's take a look at the current top 10 rock singles on iTunes....
1. When We Stand Together Nickelback 2. Black Betty Ram Jam 3. Headstrong Trapt 4. Crazy Train Ozzy Osbourne 5. Down with the Sickness Disturbed 6. Iris Goo Goo Dolls 7. Closing Time Semisonic 8. Crawling Back to You Daughtry 9. Under the Bridge Red Hot Chili Peppers 10. Don't Stop Believing.
That's right rock fans, motherfucking Semisonic is in the top 10 with a song they released in the 90's. SEMISONIC???????
You got what you wanted rock snob, only now instead of playing lots of Wilco or The Avett Brothers, radio stations play the Biebers and the Katy Perry's of the world. Consider yourself lucky if you live in Los Angeles and New York, where at least some form of major rock stations exist.
Those same bands you religiously love but don't get the respect and adulation you want? Guess what, if radio stations were playing more Coldplay, than your band would obvious get more love as well. Sigh... how can you not see that it's a parasitic relationship and that we now have almost none at all?
We need the Coldplays and the Kings of Leon of the world, or face complete extinction on a large canvas. And quite frankly, my opinion remains that rock and roll, whether you call it grunge, alternative, indie, or any other popular buzz word... rock music... Rock and Roll. Rock and roll is the most important modern-day music genre of the last 100 years. Nothing can touch it.
And if we don't band together, neither one of us will survive.
Yes, I'm sure you enjoy the satellite stations that get little to no audience and play the bands you know but few others do. Keep them. Just learn to support rock in any form, because we all can benefit from that. Next time someone talks to you at a party about their musical tastes, especially if they lean more mainstream, rather than shame them, try to educate them on the music you like, while still respecting their opinions. I'm always willing to listen to you rock snob... just listen to me.
Even if you need Coldplay to get your own message across.
And the next time a cool rock band hits big, support them. Because I'm really doubting that the next Black Keys album is going to be shit just because more brainwaves accept the message.
For God's sake man, I don't want to be stuck with The Black Eyed Peas another five years, are Coldplay and Kings of Leon really that bad?
It's a food chain man.
And we, the rock fans, are swimming for our lives.
Kurt Edward Larson just published his first book, Finding the Super-Hero Within, which has many music anecdotes that occur along the way of his own personal journey. For instance, he was devastated when his Mother casually threw Pearl Jam's latest disc Vitalogy at him one Christmas morning, incomplete with no wrapping paper.
His Mother did not realize the importance of such an album, especially in the wake of Cobain's death.
He could have done without the track foxymophandlemomma though.
Regardless, you can buy his book in print or ebook form by CLICKING HERE.