I feel like I always hear someone saying somewhere that “Rock is finally dead.” It’s usually someone’s dad who is still waiting on the world’s next Zeppelin, or that kid from high school whose hair was way too long and always wore Nirvana and Pearl Jam shirts. I guess that maybe what people mean when they say that is that there’s really no electric guitars on popular radio. Literally the only bands currently on top 40 charts that have at any point been referred to as “rock” are Twenty One Pilots and Maroon 5, neither of which really uses electric guitars anymore. If the lack of rock music on popular radio is your way of justifying the belief that “rock is dead,” then it’s time to rethink your criteria because that is really quite a lazy judgment. To the dad rockers, 80s metalheads, and 90s grunge kids who find themselves weeping at the grave of rock music I have one thing to say:
You aren’t looking hard enough.
They might not be on your radio, or on the front page of Spotify or Apple Music, but bubbling just below the surface are tons of great rock bands just waiting for you to give them a listen. I want to quickly highlight two albums that have been released in the past few months to get you started down the path to discovering more rock music for you to love.
Japandroids’ Near To The Wild Heart Of Life and The Menzingers’ After The Party were released only a week apart from each other. As a huge fan of both of these bands, the 1-2 punch of these consecutive Fridays hit me hard and put me down for the count. What I love about both of these records is that there is no real sub-genre of rock that you can pin them too, it is just rock music. There is something for everyone. There are strong punk influences, but not so much that it’s off-putting to someone who steers away from punk. Both bands are very clearly huge Springsteen fans, each song tinged with his signature nostalgic song-writing style. There are ballads, and there are songs that could be played by a U2 cover band. Each song seems like it was handwritten to be performed in a dark sweaty club, filled with several hundred people singing along and several more hundred PBRs. They are rowdy, and they are raw, and they are everything that rock music feels it should be.
In the current situation we are in (you know, the one where the most powerful man in the world is a misogynistic-bigoted-narcissist?), I think rock music plays a huge role. It needs to be the voice of a group of people that are not satisfied with what’s happening and an encouragement to stand up for what you think is right. Now, don’t think I’m saying that either of these records or bands are political at all, because they aren’t. But music is all about how the listener interprets it and how it hits you personally, and for me hearing the opening lines of these records in the weeks after the inauguration was an encouragement; an encouragement saying ‘You aren’t the only one who feels like this’ and ‘We are all gonna make it through together.’
So, I know I’m rambling and not making much sense. I’m not really even talking about what I was originally talking about when I started writing. I guess my point is that no, rock music is not dead. In fact, I think it’s more alive than ever, and it may be just about as important now as it’s ever been. So don’t give up on it. Search it out. Find new bands. Try new things. Don’t cling to the past and scoff at the future. Trust me, there is enough of that going around already.