I just read through my girlfriend’s December-January edition of Rolling Stone. Why I didn’t take that time to find some new, free web-comics is beyond me (most people wouldn’t even believe how many great ones are out there; they just require digging). A bit disappointed in myself. This being the last issue of the year, the magazine of course needs to flex its “2008- The Year In Music” muscle. If music magazines were high schoolers Rolling Stone would be the asshole who lifts a ton of weights and bangs everyone’s little sister. That bastard. As always, there were a few things in this issue that chapped my ass a bit. The one I’ll discuss now though is on the second page in the “2008- The Year In Music” section: where the main article of the page exclaims “Can’t Stop The Rock”.
Let me preface this though. The spirit of Rock & Roll, the REAL spirit of Rock & Roll, will never die. Ever. Ironically, like the spirit of Christmas. As much as O’Reilly shouts out his rallying call (from the top of a boulder holding a torch like that one Orc in The Two Towers), “there is a WAR on Christmas from the far-left!!”, X-Mas will never die. Neither will the X-Men. Rock & Roll will always soldier on. It has since the beginning and will ’til the end. It’s alive every time a teenager discovers Zeppelin for the first time. Every time the middle-aged man, married with kids, breaks out his old Marshall when the wife and kids are gone and CRANKS it. It’s there when fresh guitar players first improvise “Voodoo Chile”, or when fresh drummers take their first stab at “Moby Dick”. It’s there when normally conservative women let loose and get drunk at the bar to Joan Jett or Janis on the juke. When everything else fades or passes, it remains. Broken, bloodied, tired, weary… maybe, but never dead or gone.
I’m referring to, as I said, the true spirit of Rock & Roll. This Rolling Stone article is making the case that this was the year “rock” returned to its glory. The year which Rock finally seized and people actually noticed and cared. Why? What evidence do they submit to prove this point? Listed in order of appearance:
- New albums from Metallica, AC/DC, and Guns & Roses, in what they’re calling “Rocktober” and “Rockvember”.
- Kid Rock “had his biggest year ever”.
- Bon Jovi and Motley Crue raked in a whole bunch of cash and sold out a ton of shows on the road.
- Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band were sold in the hundreds of thousands.
- A special Aerosmith Guitar Hero grossed more than $25 million in its first week.
- David Cook, a “rocker”, won American Idol.
- 3 of the years Top 10 selling albums were Rock.
Really Jann S. Wenner (Chairman, Editor, and Publisher)? Those are your reasons for why 2008 was the year Pop Culture “[couldn't] stop the Rock”? Alright, alright. Fair enough. I’ll start with the videogame thing since it’s the only thing taking up two of those bullet points.
Games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band are HURTING Rock & Roll, and what Rock & Roll means (especially to the mainstream). I know you don’t like to hear that since the main headquarters over in New York just got the Wii version of Rock Band, but it’s fucking true. What could be more stifling to the future of Rock & Roll than these games? “Hey kids! Do you want the feeling of being in a rock band, or shredding on the guitar, without having to spend all that time and energy drinking beer and getting high with your friends, or learning an instrument?!? Are you sick of picking up your ax only to not be nearly as good as the greats?!? Then you need [one of these shitty video games]!!! Call now, and don’t forget to tell Mom and Dad!” There was a time when Rock & Roll scared the piss out of parents. A time where if a kid came home from his friends house with a guitar Mom and Dad would ask each other: “would you ever had thought he’d turn into such a punk/hell-raiser?”. Thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band, the Rock & Roll experience is becoming as family and user friendly as Trivial Pursuit or LIFE. This way, there are no ringing ears, no drug experimentation, no sexual aspects, no pushing and shoving, and no real life experience as only Rock & Roll can deliver.
Speaking of ringing ears, 4 pages after “Can’t Stop the Rock” strolls an article entitled “Fans Say Rock Music Too Loud”. It talks about how producers have begun to use a trick known as “dynamic range compression”. A digital technique which broadens the volume range; it makes quiets very quiet, and louds very loud, essentially. In the case of ear-splitting louds, this can cause a distortion on the Master. I don’t like this simply because it seems like a cheap ploy to make a record sound more dynamic than it actually is. However, most people don’t like it because it’s been making their rock records too loud for their ears. Hey (need to look up the name again) Jann S. Wenner: don’t you find it ironic that your magazine has a section which features one article entitled “Can’t Stop The Rock”, and one “Fans Say Rock Music Too Loud”?? Or do you find it ironic that you’re magazine cites AC/DC’s return, the band who wrote “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, as a reason Rock is alive and well while also featuring “Fans Say Rock Music Too Loud”?? I mean, this is shit you’d find in The Onion for God’s sake.
Now the rest of it. AC/DC has and always will kick ass. AND, the new Metallica record actually ain’t half bad. Guns & Roses I could give two shits about at this point in their careers. I’ll say this: it’s fucking weak that AC/DC made a deal with Walmart to exclusively sell their CD, thank God Metallica finally got rid of Bob Rock, and fuck G & R. Kid Rock?? Seriously? I haven’t even heard that guys name this year until now. I know he’s touring, and playing some sort of Warren Zevon/Skynard mash-up, but he didn’t seem to make that big of a splash. Presumably because he’s too “rebellious” for the mainstream. To say that Rock ruled the road this year because of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue’s tours is so lame. I feel so bad for anyone who went through young adulthood in the 1980′s and these two are their version of Dylan and the Stones. David Cook sings glorified assembly line mush that I’d hardly consider true Rock & Roll. 3 of the Top 10?!? Well- considering the Top 10 features T.I., Lil’ Wayne, and TWO Taylor Swift albums, I’d say that’s not saying a whole lot.
Like I said before, Rock never “went away” and it never will. And all these things combined point to the “mainstreaming” of Rock & Roll, which would be good if it were pure, but it isn’t. Do you know how the term came about? Why it was so scary for suburban whites in the cozy 50s to see their children become infatuated with it? Because “rock & roll” was a term used by black dudes and gals back in the day to refer to fucking. Ya know, back when human beings weren’t allowed to drink from certain fountains, or even marry each other. Well- we’ve come a long way from what it means to the mainstream haven’t we? I don’t even think the term “rock band” refers to a rock band anymore.