Glorious Noise Continues to Diligently Track the Course of Pop Music

Johnny Loftus

Everyone – except for maybe Jonathan Davis – knows Nu Metal is so close to buying the farm, the realtor is calling to negotiate closing fees. Sure, Creed is going strong. And Linkin Park’s {Hybrid Theory} was the best-selling album of 2001. But these standouts don’t represent the vitality of the genre as a whole. Creed is a glorified (no pun intended) sports bar power trio whose sonic trailer park vibe would appeal to Camaro-driving weight lifters in any era of music, Nu Metal or not. And Linkin Park is already distancing itself from its Nu Metal packaging, as LP MC Mike Shinoda can be found rapping on the new X-Ecutioners record and branching into side projects. Remove the success of these types, and Nu Metal’s hurting. It’s no wonder. After all, you can only rage against the machine for so long. Shit, Rage Against The Machine isn’t even raging against the machine anymore. So where does that leave a bunch of dirt-asses like Puddle of Mudd? Likely wallowing in their much-maligned name choice as they take your drive-thru order.

In the last few months, thanks to the inevitably cyclical nature of pop music (not to mention a serious commitment from M2), a diversified group of bands have been giving Nu Metal a swirly in the back of the visitors’ locker room. The Strokes, The White Stripes, Gorillaz, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Kweller, Starsailor, Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, and most recently Clinic have all weighed in as heavyweights in this new group of artists, who can only be compared to the eclectic early 90’s heyday of MTV’s 120 Minutes. Like a smarter, stripped-down version of Perry Farrell’s visionary Lollapalooza tours of yore, genuinely diverse acts with actual talent have begun a slow-burn takeover of American popular music. Though markets and tastes are completely different in the two countries, it can be said that the UK embraced this trend first. Many of the bands above – English or not – have enjoyed monstrous UK success over the past couple of years. And now, just like downloadable ring tones, America is finally catching up to what Europe has known about since before Wes Borland left Limp Bizkit: musical variety is where it’s at, chum.

The question is, what will happen next? If you recall the backlash to Nirvana, thousands of committed, talented bands were embraced by the Big Five, only to be cornholed, kicked to the curb, or worse. Now, the industry hasn’t changed. They still rip out spines on a daily basis. But two things may separate this latest wave of rockers from their forebears: the Internet, and hindsight. The former has readjusted the tenets of the DIY aesthetic, re-wiring the punk ethos into a multifunctioning mixture of marketing savvy, low-cost, broad-based communication, and of course technology. Hindsight feeds dot com DIYism. A band like Jimmy Eat World, established on their own before the majors ever came calling, has the ability to leverage their established market into a creatively beneficial (and maybe more lucrative) contract. What would the average alternative rockers have to offer an A & R guy in 1994 besides a few crusty flannels and a soundman named Pisser? The White Stripes are another example. Already having worked successfully within the independent culture, their growing domestic success is just gravy. There’s nothing wrong with appearing on Conan or having a single on the Billboard 200. Of course not. Jack and Meg White’s music deserves to be heard. But don’t think for a second that those two are letting an industry hack with big shoes walk all over them. It’s their hindsight – and one foot buried in the indie rock community – that will save them from a major label flame out when tastes change again in 1 or 2 years.

But in the meantime, why not enjoy it? Us AND them. If M2 is the new 120 Minutes, and I can hear Del Tha Funky Homosapien rapping with Damon Albarn as I wash my hands in the restroom at Hot n’ Now, then things are getting a little better. Sooner or later, a real rain’ll come and wash all the filth off the streets. But until then, why not revel in the irony of hearing “Fell In Love With A Girl” booming out a jeep?


3 thoughts on “THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMIN’!”

  1. Good article, Johnny, I enjoyed it. Despite the fact that I have refused to buy the Strokes album because it’s too commercial (and burned it from a friend instead), and despite the fact that I was a little pissed off when I first heard “Fell in Love with a Girl” on “The Zone” (making them suddenly commercial) and had to justify it by thinking “well, that’s not their best song, anyway,” it is pretty cool to be able to listen to the radio on the way to work and hear “Last Nite” or “Fell in Love with a Girl” or even that Jimmy Eat World Song and at least most of the time avoid Creed or Linkin Park. That being said, after my first trip to the UK recently, I must say that Americans are still behind the Europeans in terms of the music we listen to. For example, I just called Reckless Records to see if they had the new Lucksmiths album, and after spelliing l-u-c-k-s-m-i-t-h-s 4 times and repeating the name of the album and the label, the guy said “No…we don’t have anything by that band.” By contrast, in London a few weeks ago, I was at a Record Store, called Reckless Records interestingly enough, and the guy checking me out was having an argument with his co-workers about listening to Belle & Sebastian and looking down at my stack of used Go-Betweens cds that I found in the “British indie” section, he looked at me and said, “YOU don’t have a problem with Belle & Sebastian, do you?” Anyway, the point of my story is that I find that even employees at “indie” record stores, who should be knowledgable about all types of music, never seem to have any clue about anything I’m looking for or purchasing — but then again, maybe that guy in London wouldn’t have known about the White Stripes. Nonetheless, I do agree that what gets played on the radio lately, including the bands you mentioned now and the British bands you wrote about a few weeks ago, suggests that Americans are paying attention to more diverse and more interesting music, and maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on my fellow Americans or such a snob about commercial radio.

Leave a Reply