The Killers Suck and Coldplay Are Boring
Last night I checked out the second disc from the dvd of the original Woodstock concert (thank you for the loan, Randee Riot!). I'd seen alot of the performances before but not all of them. It was an eye-opener. Watching this footage in 2006, it occurred to me, rather depressingly, that the sheer intensity of the playing and the raw soul that burned incandescently off those musicians in 1969 is something that is all but extinct today.
The level of talent, vision, fearlessness and commitment exhibited by those bands was staggering. I mean, the bass player -- the BASS player -- from Alvin Lee's Ten Years After dug into "I'm Going Home" with more all-or-nothing fury than all of the members of Maroon 5, Matchbox 20, Sum 41 and Blink 182 combined. And nobody even knows that guy's name.
Jimi Hendrix's apocalyptic rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," without saying a single word, delivers a more poignant and affecting anti-war protest than the entire lyric sheet of Green Day's well-intentioned American Idiot album. I'm not knocking Green Day at all, either. It's just that watching Hendrix do what he does in that performance makes your blood run cold.
Hearing Janis Joplin tear her heart out onstage with a naked emotion and near-desperation that almost makes you embarrassed to be watching her makes you wonder how people like Beyonce and Alicia Keys can summon the nerve to call themselves "soul" singers. A thimbleful of Janis is more potent and intense than a year's worth of MTV. By today's standards, she's almost too much to bear.
I don't understand why anyone's showing up for today's top-selling artists. Is the produced-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life, minor key blandness of Evanescence as close as we're gonna get to "angst"? And how can anyone stay awake long enough to make it through one Coldplay song, let alone an album? These guys are selling out stadiums?!
Is the singer from nu-wave hacks The Killers supposed to be the epitome of bad boy rock star androgyny in the 00's? He looks like the Class President with a splash of eyeliner and a skinny tie. A very nice boy you can bring home to mother. Yawn.
I'm not saying there aren't great artists out there today. There are, of course. I'm just asking, why are we crowding around such a tepid lot? Fall Out Boy? Avril Levigne? How did we get duped this badly? Why are King's X still struggling to put food on the table? How come no one's heard of Nellie McKay? And why does Nickelback still have a job?
Most of today's mainstream rock music is like a bootlegged copy, seven or eight generations down, of something that was once good in its original form. It's like xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes; the colors are all faded, the nuances gone. You keep adding water to it every year and every year it tastes a little blander.
In the new millennium, the shortcomings of untalented singers are easily patched up by Auto-Tuner, the Hardest Working Software in Show Business. The incompetence of the rhythm section is neatly ironed out in the Pro-Tools quantizing. It gets easier and easier to be a rock star every day.
And what's the difference, anyway? It's only music; it's not worth anything anymore. You download a few songs onto your Ipod or have your friend burn you the disc, which you then add to your collection of generic CD-Rs, which stand in unmarked stacks around your apartment. You don't even know what the artwork is supposed to look like for most of these albums.
What did you say? You don't know what an album is? Well, an album is what musicians used to make back in the olden times when people still considered music to be valuable, and would pay good money to own it and to support artists they believed in. Back in the time when the songs you listened to were written by the same people who appeared on the album cover and the posters.
What? You don't know what a song is? Well, nowadays we just call them "ringtones."