Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding Good Modern Rock and Roll

For anyone interested in rock and roll music, the USA is a wasteland...or at least that the way it seems. For example, look at a recent Billboard "Hot 100" list of songs.

By my count, there are only THREE performers on that list that even come close to rock and roll - Coldplay, Foster the People, and the Black Keys. You'll never mistake any of them for AC/DC, the Who, Chili Peppers, the Clash or similar. But, they are at least on the outer edges of being rock and roll. Other than that, it's all soul divas, techno synth rap, some country and, well, that's about it. 97 percent of the list is that.

Sure, there are "legacy" acts that still find success even if they aren't on a hot 100 list. You know, U2, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Metallica and similar. But people, these are bands who came into being and fame a good 20-30 years ago. Whatever they do now - good or bad - tends to be hailed as "rock is still alive." I don't think so. I think it says that some people from 30 years ago really are talented and have continued to come up with quality rock that nostalgia hounds continue to eat up. Hell, I'm one of them.

But, this does not mean rock is still "alive" in my opinion. For that, it would take new groups with new songs regenerating the form anew pretty regularly. You don't see that least not on the surface of things.

This leaves me often wondering where the good, new rock and roll is. I'm talking about new music by bands or performers starting out now...or within the last few years lets say. Turns out: a) it's out there, but b) it's hard to find.

Indeed, you have to do some homework, take a few risks and explore to find them. You have to, as Joe Strummer said, be "diggin' the new."

With that in mind, below are several new/recent bands that I've invested time in and think are the real deal. They key to me is that while they all exhibit their influences, they bring something new to the table in their sound primarily. I've done the work so you don't have to...
  • Mona - a combo of sounds from this band out of Nashville, this is a modern, new, talented, legit rock band in the best sense of it.
  • Howler - gritty with some pop hooks, this Minneapolis band is just coming on the scene and I'm liking them.
  • Funeral Party - rock and roll from today's Los Angeles - not a re-hash of 1980s Whiskey A Go Go Sunset Strip big hair LA rock.
  • The Gaslight Anthem - NJ band belting out well crafted rock using just the basics - guitar, drums, bass and heart felt vocals. The real deal.
  • Glasvegas - thoughtful, epic, emotional rock that takes on issues far beyond the normal set of topics.
  • British Sea Power - arty, angular, powerful rock music put together with sometimes odd and disconnected lyrical themes. Makes you think.
  • The Courteeners - from Manchester, this band's sound is somewhere between Oasis and Blur with a little Morrissey drama thrown in.
  • The Joy Formidable - female lead singer and guitarist belting out a powerful rock that reminds me a bit of Nirvana, but slightly more poppy.
Will we be talking about any of these bands in 10-20 years? Likely not given the odds of what it takes the "break trough" especially in the musical environment of the USA. But, that's not exactly the point I'm trying to make. No, I'm saying...real, vital and new rock and roll is indeed around. It lives in the moment, on stage and online rather than on the radio. You have to look to find it. But when you do, it's just as "alive" as ever. Get going people.  Rock on.

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