I feel invigorated listening to a lot of 90’s alternative music, and this feeling is strongest at the same points in songs each time I listen to them. It’s a different feeling than I get from any modern pop music. And I never appreciated it in the 90’s - I’ve only come to like these bands and sounds as an adult.
Listen to these:
- the break at 2:08 in Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy”
- the last chorus at 3:10 in Live’s “Iris”
- every chorus in Alice In Chains’ “Got Me Wrong” from MTV Unplugged
- most songs by Social Distortion
- Phish’s “Wilson” from A Live One (an odd choice given the others, I know)
- Counting Crows’ “Angels of the Silences” from Across A Wire (live)
- Lit’s “Something to Someone” (technically from 2001, but it’s a 90’s band)
Now, for comparison, listen to:
- The White Stripes
- John Mayer
- Any song ever featured in an iPod commercial
- Whatever else people listen to in 2007
Notice the difference? It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I’ve finally figured it out: the real grunge and rock bands were trying.
All of my awesome-moment choices are high-energy, full-spectrum songs in which the singers seem to temporarily forget that they’re rock stars. It sounds like they’re actually trying to become rock stars and expressing real emotion. They’re invigorated and rocking out, so I feel that way, too.
But new music doesn’t have that appeal. It’s out of style. New bands are brands, not musicians. The performers don’t act like they’re putting any effort into their music.
And they aren’t, really. They don’t need to. Since the 90’s, record companies have consolidated their rosters because they realized that a small number of mega-hits is more profitable than a large, varied catalog. Audioslave and Velvet Revolver aren’t organically grown bands with real musicians: they were scientifically crafted for maximum profit, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, and became completely watered down and formulaic. These “bands” are as real as a Big Mac and as organic as JP Morgan Chase.
They’re hardly even trying anymore.