Whenever there is a movement in music, or in other arenas, it starts out strong. It’s not nearly at the height of its popularity yet, but it’s in the purest form…it has just evolved from an idea to a reality. Alternative rock was at first just that. It wasn’t pop, it wasn’t hair metal but most importantly it was not mainstream. Bands like the Pixies, The Smiths, Violent Femmes, R.E.M., were broadcasted on college radio stations, promoting the label “college rock”. In the 80s it was underground, it became hip, and then in the 90s it exploded. Nirvana birthed Grunge, a dirty and raw solace for teens and heroin addicts. Oasis gave rise to Britpop.
Alternative Rock demigods, The Pixies
And suddenly the FM radio stations all over the country began to tune everyone in on the new majesty of “Alternative Rock”. But that’s just the thing. If it is alternative it cannot be on the goddamned big-joe radio stations. The name itself implies outside of the mainstream, but seeing as though the kids sure liked it the big-joe’s thought “Well, shit, we can make bank off of this.” And they did, but they also killed it. After a few years of stations like 99.1HFS in the running, the whole style of music changed. And it usually sucked. Most of the original bands of the movement were long gone by the end of the 90s. And what came to replace them on the radio stations were sorely lacking in originality. Matchbox 20? Creed? This is what you give us to replace The Pixies!?!
Modest Mouse's "This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About"
However, deeper underground, there was music that was not labeled “Alternative”, although it really was emulating the appropriate definition. It was something else, maybe heavy metal, maybe post-punk, but largely what was now on college radio was called Indie rock. Modest Mouse, the early years, Belle and Sebastian, Neutral Milk Hotel, Yo La Tengo. It was good, the golden days of Indie rock.
Like Alternative, it was barely heard of at its impetus, and that was the beauty of it. Then it became hip. Not totally mainstream like Alt Rock had become, but a snobbish hip. So the rise of the Hipster came. They rose to the point where they became a sad cliche in too-tight pants. Indie music becomes a joke as Modest Mouse breaks the bank with a handful of top 40s hits. And their music showed that they had commercialized. Bands like Death Cab and Postal Service popularize and make the sound of Indie appear poppy and soft. TV shows from the WB to Fox capitalize on the new trend. Indie rock still exists, but that label, Indie and Hipster, have acquired bad connotations; the sound more known indie bands have lost their zeal. There are still great bands on independent labels, but you wouldn’t go around calling them “indie” most of the time. It’s a weak word. Probably due to the cutesy shortening?
So what’s next? What’s the next big movement in Rock and Roll that we will be seeing? Or is it true what they say–that it had really died with The Clash, and all we have now is just a ghost of the past?
But I’ve seen it. The rock that lives now. I don’t know what it is called, but the trick, it seems, to keeping rock and roll genre’s from generally getting brutally murdered by unoriginal imbeciles posing as musicians is to keep the corporate side the fuck out of it. This is Rock ‘n’ fucking Roll. This ain’t Wall St. Therein lies the fallacy, that to be a musician is to be poor and dream of one day making it rich and famous. Well, man, once you do get that big hit, you might still be able to keep your pride. But then the fat-cat labels are going to come knocking, and they don’t love the music, they love the money it makes. And so they’ll soften it, make it more accessible to everyone, take away whatever edge you might have. Then you’ll be making shittier music so the Man can make more money. AND ISN’T ROCK AND ROLL ABOUT SAYING “FUCK THE MAN!!”??
In order to mean it, you gotta say “Fuck the money.”