Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Without A Song

When the decline of rock as a popular genre is discussed, sociology and/or economics usually enter the discussion. Audience fragmentation, the dispersement of rock fans into separate and mutually exclusive entities, is often mentioned as a culprit. Or, it will be argued that there is simply too much competition from other media (the Internet, video games, etc.) for rock ever to be the central point in popular culture that it once was.

I get all those of those reasons, and I agree with them to varying extents. But I have a simpler reason. Most current rock bands don’t write truly great and memorable songs.

I’m thinking about this in regards to the new Kings of Leon album, Because of the Times. I was made aware of the April release of the record from a thread I read yesterday in the Velvet Rope (a music industry website), where the praise for the release was almost unanimous. I got kind of excited – maybe they stepped up their game and have really improved. So I got my hands on a copy of the album (shit, why lie – I downloaded an advance copy off of Bit Torrent) and I listened to the whole thing about six or seven times all the way through yesterday. And you know what? When I woke up this morning, I thought about it, and I realized that I couldn't hum or remember a line, a hook or a chorus in any of the songs. Not one song left any lasting impression on me! The album sounds cool – the production is moody in a sort of sexy way and I like the vibe of it – but where are the great songs? Because despite everything that’s occurred in the music industry in the past few years, one thing has not changed – this is still a business of songs. And amongst "credible" rock bands, great songs have been in very short supply.

I’ve had these thoughts occur with many other critically acclaimed new albums by bands like the Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, the Shins and others. It’s not that I find these albums to be bad – they’re often sonically inventive and interesting and I can tell that there’s a real personal vision in the albums. I can find enjoyment in listening to them. But they’re ultimately unsatisfying to me, because at the end of the day, I want songs that are impactful, with hooks and choruses that draw me in and engage me, instead of songs that I can barely remember -even after I’ve listened to them ten times.

Great new rock isn’t dead. It’s in hibernation. All it needs is a band with great personality to write truly great songs – and if that happens, it will make a rock renaissance seem like it had been a in the cards all along.


Anonymous said...

I find it a little absurd that you openly admit to downloading on Bit Torrent meanwhile blogging about and knowing damn well the problems and current state of the record business.
Even if Kings of Leon aren't the savior of rock n roll don't you think you should have spent the 10 bucks to check it out?

Ben Lazar said...

Well, for one, I get my records for free from friends at record companies, or I'm on mailing lists. And secondly, the Kings record isn't even out yet, so it would have been impossible to spend the 10 bucks to check it out. That being said, I'll admit to being totally spoiled - I've been in the very privileged position for years of not having to pay for 95% of the music I get.