Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When do we become irrelevant?

A couple months ago I was listening to Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, the newest album from 1980s Punk band Social Distortion. I loved the sound. Mike Ness did what I had imagined impossible: make an album that is a good fusion of folk/country with punk.
Of course it’s not exactly as if this were the first time Ness has done this. It’s kind of what he does. It just amazes me every time that it can be done.
At any rate, I really enjoyed the album. It is an album that is very easy to listen from beginning to end – an attribute that I appreciate. It has sounds reminiscent of older Rolling Stones, especially the tracks that feature female backup singers. It is fun and it feels real.

I attended High School in rural northern Utah. It was a backwards place, where in the end years of the 90s it was still common to hear people listening to Guns n’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Def Leppard, and even Poison. Sometimes I was one of those people.
In 1996 Def Leppard came out with a new sound album – Slang. It was awful. It had no heart, it had no soul. It was full of trite lyrics and heavier bass lines. The band tried to repent and in 1999 they came out with an album that was a return to form – Euphoria. It was worse: More trite lyrics on top of guitar riffs that were 10 years out of place. It was completely and helplessly irrelevant.
In 1997 Metallica released Reload (I actually like Load . . . I know, I know . . . but I’m going to leave it alone just the same). It wasn’t their old music and it wasn’t good – weaker guitar riffs, less screaming, more guttural non-singing. Then in 2003 they came out with their newer sound – St. Anger. Oh my hell how did that abomination happen? It is completely un-listen-to-able: Light on the bass drum, heavy on the cowbell . . . even more useless guttural non-singing, songs that drift from one idea to the next without definition and completely without reason. Irrelevant.

Today on my way to work I streamed Foo Fighters new album Wasting Light. It’s good. I have only listened to the first handful of tracks, but it starts like a Foo Fighters’ album should – heavy and loud. It then drifts between hard rock anthems and rock ballads. It is heavy but optimistic.
The horrific thought occurs to me. There were die-hard fans of Def Leppard that loved Slang and Euphoria. There existed aficionados of anything-Metallica that would actually claim St. Anger was good – and hold a straight face while they said it.
Have my musical tastes become helplessly irrelevant?


  1. You're complaining about cowbell? Heresy! :)

  2. Good point, the cowbell can stay.