There’s been nothing new with rock music for a long time. All the exciting bands of today are totally indebted to nostalgia. They pay homage with riffs that sound like other riffs and melodies that sound like other melodies, without showing new possibilities or newfound heights. Rock music in 2018 has no sound.
Creatively, rock has been stagnant for years. Popular music festivals try to sprinkle in a dash of rock here and there but there’s no serious demand for rock at these shows, especially when compared to the Kendrick Lamars and Cardi Bs. Rock has retreated from its bombastic and outlandish identity for a blue-collar self-consciousness. Yesterday’s rock stars are today’s young rappers.
Rock music needs something
The “rock is dead” debate is no debate. The fact that the question was raised in the first place proved it was so.
Rock music needs something – anything – that sounds exciting, fresh and massive. Who will sweep us off our feet and take us on a ride, with the records, the live shows and in the press? Who will make us feel invincible and on top of the world again? Someone must come along and capture our ears and energy if rock is going to have a second life.
Australia might just be the place it comes. Currently, it’s home to many of the most exciting young rock groups today. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Murlocs, The Chats, Hockey Dad, The Dune Rats … Skater punk and psychedelic acid rock is in vogue down under. But North America is far too distracted by hip-hop to notice what critics could write off as passe and retro for retro’s sake.
Enter Jack White
Enter Jack White and his latest record Boarding House Reach due to drop tomorrow (March 23). This record is by far the most experimental and eclectic collection the former White Stripes leader has ever recorded.
White told Rolling Stone he wanted to take punk, hiphop and rock and roll and funnel it all into a 2018 time capsule. The singles are perfect evidence: they are genre spanning and strange, even for White. The fact a rock star – in today’s terms – wants to create something for today and beyond instead of retreating into the past is a sign of change.
Boarding House Reach has the potential to sound completely original – something rock desperately needs. The only thing stronger than its ambition – is the potential for failure. If it’s not good, it could be the sort of record that alienates and segregates fans in his camp, which would make the rock situation even more complicated.
The risk, though, ensures the reward. If successful, White could clean the slate and spark a new direction for modern rock.
But even if the slate is cleared and something new does come along, can a rock band still take over the world? Greta van Fleet will try, despite their obvious, tried-andtrue influence.
The Led Zeppelin sounding Michigan band is the most audacious attempt at mimicry in rock history. However, Greta van Fleet has some polish and charisma that separates them from previous Led Zeppelin sound-alikes.
It helps that they are young with plenty of sex appeal. And with howling vocals and reminiscent riffs, people are paying attention.
“Safari Song” made the boys, who look like the casting call for a new Camp Rock sequel, the third act ever to go to No. 1 in the mainstream rock charts with their first two entries. Then, the band announced a world tour. Now, they’re in the studio recording their first full-length LP, due later this year.
The way these lads have been marketed gives hope that the world can still be injected with youth and energy by rock and roll, like the Brits were with the Arctic Monkeys over a decade ago.
Rock music has the pieces in place for a resurrection. But, the messiah still cannot, and may never, be found. However, there’s reason to believe the major slumber of this rock era could end with these upcoming albums.
Meanwhile, let’s hold out hope that the next batch of meaningful rock music is coming. Lord knows we need to feel invincible again.
– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor