“The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered.”
Recently, KISS bassist and washed-up rock capitalist Gene Simmons spoke with Esquire on a variety of industry-related topics, most of which he wasn’t qualified to speak on. During The Demon’s ramblings, he muttered the quote above and declared rock music as, “finally dead.” Simmons proceeded to condemn file-sharing – oooo, shocker, he’s upset about money – as the cold-blooded killer, and painted a 15-year-old boy on his computer as the reason for the decline in the music industry.
Now, although I think anyone who actively listens to modern music would know that the genre is far from dead – artists like Arcade Fire, Tame Impala, Radiohead, Jack White, and Ty Segall are doing just fine – Simmons does bring up an important point. In the past decade, rock music has sharply declined in commercial popularity, losing the smash singles and huge, multi-platinum record sales of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Few FM radio stations play rock music, and ones that do play a genre best described as “butt rock” mixed in with same tired Nirvana singles.
But, my concern isn’t about the lack of rock songs in the Billboard Top 40 or the decline in record sales, because true rock n’ roll has never been about that. My worries stem from the direction I see rock music facing: backwards.
Today, countless bands play music that could be ripped right out of the late-60’s, mid-70’s, or the late-80’s. I’m not branding this music as not good, I’m a huge fan artists like White and Segall, but repeating the past ad nauseam isn’t breaking any new ground. Art needs to continue to move forward or it’s destined to fade away, and condemning new technology and all electronically-based music isn’t smart, because like it or not, it is the future.
Now, I don’t think rock n’ roll has to embrace this new, trendy music with open arms, or even acknowledge it. Look at Imagine Dragons. Is this what you want? Because I sure don’t. But I do know that the genre needs to stop living solely in the past, and start experimenting with new instruments, sounds, and song structures. This is already being done with bands like My Bloody Valentine, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, and Swans. Artists who are aware of their music’s rich history, but aren’t afraid to twist and shape it into something radically different.
And, I say all this because I would hate to see a world where rock n’ roll is no longer relevant. Currently, rock is fighting a battle its set to lose, because ultimately, the music that strives forward, creates innovative sound, and helps define its own generation, is destined to win.