Thursday, July 17, 2008

Observations of the Evolution of Rock Music from the 1980's to Present

In our culture and society, observing music can tell us alot about the times in which we live, the condition of our society, and even about ourselves. That was no less true in the 1950's and 60's than it is today. Attitudes are communicated through many media, but none so clearly as in music. I first noticed this when I was a teenager, because music indelibly impacted my life. Let me explain some observations I've made over time about music...

Having "been there" in the '80's, I can say that most of the hair bands had a "positive attitude." Their cry was, "sex & drugs & rock -n- roll! YEAH!" But their over abundance of happy go lucky wailing and jamming over the length of the decade became so self indulgent and arrogant that it got old and cheesy. Can you say "Motley Crue?" Someone could also point out "Twisted Sister." We can probably add Krokus, WhiteSnake, maybe G&R, and a host of others.

Finally, in the early 1990's, along came a brooding, introspective, unkempt rocker who let loose another cry. It was no less self-centered, but it was anything but positive! Kurt Cobain cried out, "Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll! WHATEVER!" And the "grunge" era was born. It became about the music again -- a dark, negative, and tightly wound Rock that didn't care about -- and even hated -- the Glam Rock of the hair Bands. With Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit," grunge was off and running...

Then came Pearl Jam and their "Jeremy," and Queensryche whose evolution from the 80's to the 90's gave us "Silent Lucidity," along with the Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden and others. As the 90's came to a close, Cobain finally ended his misery with a shotgun to his head (he was married to Courtney Love, after all!) and grunge gave way to a musical form best described as Alternative Rock, or "New Rock," which kept much of the tightness of the musicality in Grunge, but these band's learned to "have fun" again, or to be at least a little upbeat and positive sometimes. The Foo Fighters, Creed, and Three Doors Down represent a good cross section of these bands.

But, music is not static. And Rock -n- Roll is always evolving. It's art reflects society and in some sense prods it on -- whether the message is good or bad. While leftists had every reason to be happy in the Clinton 90's, the music of this crowd tended to be downcast and dark. And in light of the challenge of our days, it's no wonder the bands of today sound and "uncertain trumpet," or rather, lead guitar, that alternates between vicious anger, vile living, and sometimes almost spiritual positivism.

Music has been said to "tame the savage beast." But I believe it can also "inflame the savage beast." That's why if we ignore it, we do so at our own risk. But at the same time, if we LISTEN to it, we do so at our own risk as well.



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