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Modern Rock Is Awful And That's Okay




Late last Friday evening, when most people have better things to do than scour the internet, I came across an interesting article on Grantland, the intriguing offshoot of ESPN launched by Bill Simmons. It asked the question “Is Anyone Willing To Defend Modern Rock?” To which I quickly blurted out, “Why the fuck would they?!”

Let’s be honest here, modern rock — which is to say mainstream radio rock — has sucked a giant cock for well over a decade now. It’s hard to say when the exact turning point was. Some would pin it on the death of Kurt Cobain, others on the rise of nu-metal acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit, while others would look to everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Nickelback — responsible for some of the blandest music ever made — as the reason why rock radio has sounded like one big endless, plodding stream of dogshit since about 2001. All of these answers would have a bit of truth to them, but they all lead us to the same conclusion, that listening to rock on the radio is a giant waste of time.

Nickleback, seen here, being easy to ignore

There’s been lots of talk about the possibility for a potential savior of the genre, and in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney stakes the claim that his band can enter the fray. He astutely points out that one of the biggest reasons for rock radio’s decline is that “people became ok with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world”. There’s definitely some truth to that; no one cares who the biggest band in the world is, primarily because the 2000s were the decade that indie music stopped being so damned indie. Thanks to music blogs, and mp3s, the radio stopped being an inescapable force, and people discovered new music on their own. Which leads me to ask: does it actually matter how much rock radio sucks? And does modern rock need anyone to save it?

If this was the late 80s, and everyone was stuck listening to Trixter and Warrant because they hadn’t heard about Dinosaur, Jr. and Sonic Youth, I’d say yes. That was why Nirvana breaking into the mainstream was so damn important. But these days, there’s no band you can’t discover overnight thanks to the internet. You can go from saying “who the fuck are Destroyer?” to “OMG I fucking love Destroyer” in a matter of minutes. I like the Black Keys, and I love that a band is ambitious and angry enough to want to take over the radio, but I feel that ambition is a bit misplaced. If the Black Keys break into the mainstream (and with two #1 radio hits, they really already have), it will make them popular with the same people who like Nickelback, but it won’t start a revolution.

This is fine, because we don’t need one. And thank God we don’t. Think of what happened the last time — Kurt Cobain blew his head off — and many have speculated that one of his motivations was that he couldn’t stand being listened to by the same assholes who were into Motley Crue and Bon Jovi two years earlier. In that sense, Cobain was the ultimate hipster. Thankfully, no one will need to carry that burden again.

Rather than bemoan how terrible mainstream music has gotten, let’s be glad that it’s no longer an issue. Sure, Nickelback sucks, but you can avoid them. And if you happen to like them, and think all the indie bands I listen to are pretentious dicks, that’s fine, too. We’ve finally reached an age where music fans can take a “you stay on your side, I’ll stay on mine” approach to listening, without it being a big deal. Modern rock will continue to suck, but it just doesn’t matter. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some Hungarian post-classical neo-country metalcore emo rap to listen to.


  • Louis

    The great majority of music is bland and average (Nickelback is no more bland and boring than half of the music I hear in my classical composition studio), while a good portion of it sucks, and then you get the minority of music that is great (i.e. from Beethoven to the Beatles).

    This is actually just true for all forms of art. The last ten years haven’t been more radically different than the last hundred, artistically.

  • Brian

    So wait, Nickelback sucks? What am I going to do with all of the posters on my ceiling?

  • RobThomas

    Rob Lowe tweeted that the fact that there’s no obvious choice to play half time of the Super Bowl tells you the state of music today. I can’t fucking believe I just said that.

  • admin

    Rob Thomas…isn’t this partially your fault? And more important, what does Chad Lowe say about this?

  • RobThomas

    I’m not the real RobThomas. But my opinion has always been that it started with :P uff Daddy. Keep searching, though. Remember, you don’t have a choice anymore. You’ve become a significant threat to the music business structure. They would’ve killed you already, but you got a lot of light on you. Instead, they’re gonna destroy your credibility; they already have in many circles in this town. Be honest -the best chance you got is come up with a case, something, anything, make arrests, stir the shitstorm. You gotta hope to reach a point of critical mass where other people will come forward and the music business will crack. Remember, fundamentally people are suckers for the truth, and the truth is on your side, ‘bubba. I hope you get a break..

  • hmm

    I still listen to the radio. I only listen to oldies, depending on what they play it’s like comfort music. And I listen to NPR, including their weekend blues shows.

    Popular rock music seems to go in phases, usually one or two pretty cool bands come out and then everyone is influenced by them, then attempting to copy their sound.

    BTW has Nirvana ever been used to sell anything yet? Or are they too dark for car comercials.

  • http://vectorpress.blogspot.com Trevor

    I’d be more than happy to bury this debate. I once worked in one of those awful indie music stores and the constant stream of “It’s not mainstream so it must be brilliant!” noise turned me off to all modern music for about two years straight. Which come to think of it wasn’t that bad…

  • RobThomas

    I only listen to old school r&b stations. The California central valley has the best. Fresno, Bakersfield, etc. Chicanos know their freakin old school.

  • Diablo

    All I know is that today, I heard the most insanely retarded shit in the world, known as “Madison Rising”. Its “Libertarian, Pro-American, Pro-Constitutional” rock band according to its members. It takes the exploitation of veterans to 11.

  • Gamerarocks

    Dumbass blows his head off and he’s the greatest musician ever? So if Hugar blows his head off he’ll be the greatest……………well something, ever? Just asking

  • http://www.buffalobeast.com/ John Hugar

    Don’t give me any ideas.

  • Adam

    I think you pretty much nailed it here. It’s obvious people don’t really care what’s on the radio when bands like Grizzly Bear can have top-selling stuff. Even if bands I dig start popping up on the radio more frequently, it’s not like I’ll start listening to it.

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