Women In Punk Music

Just an ordinary Wednesday for celebrating all the brave women in punk rock music. The playlist is one I created for our ongoing themed radio show on CFRC 101.9 FM (Or maybe not. I never get the station frequency right… give it time!)

Essentially, this is also me learning how to use technology and marvelling at how a playlist embeds… which was something I was pretty 50-50 on whether would happen or would fail and vanish midway, and will continue to be unsure of until I’ve hit publish… ah, technology, how I marvel at thee in spite of being a computer science major funnily enough.

Enjoy the music, appreciate the circumstances it was made under, and continue to cheer on the courageous women who continue to inspire the genre!

Bikini Kill onstage. Credits: Pitchfork; by Debi del Grande

(Yes, I should’ve talked more about each song and the wonderful stories behind them. I did on the show. And I will here too. I’m just a little busy gaping with a dropped jaw at the embed. Technology. All hail programmers.)

(In short, yes, this whole post was just me testing out whether I can embed Spotify content on a blog without using the new editor, or not.
The answer is a frustrating no.)

Has Rock Music Changed?

People are always complaining about how things have become so much tamer. People aren’t wild enough. They don’t take enough risks. They don’t step out of home, or their comfort zones.

It’s ubiquitous enough a complain, but it really seems to roar louder in the world of rock music. There are reasons for this.

Since the demise of the grunge movement following Nirvana legend Kurt Cobain’s death, the entire rock music scene lost momentum and spiralled inwards. By the end of the nineties, only the bands that survived the chaos of the younger half of the decade would go on to make it into the next era. The others would be lost, and so would their fans.

Kurt Cobain on stage, Ireland, 1991. Credits: Pinterest

As a kid of the aughts, bands from the zeros seem closer and more familiar to me, but on the grand timeline, it could be argued that they were definitely more obscure than rock musicians have been in past decades. For those that did prevail though, the set of problems they faced were a little different in nature than their predecessors.

Of course, those who grew up in the ‘golden ages’ of the sixties, seventies, or even the nineties, claim that they don’t make it like they used to. The nature of showmanship has changed. The faces of venues have changed. Artists’ demeanour is more closely scrutinised than ever before, and they’re everywhere, all the time.

This is a big change. Earlier, the only exposure you’d have to your favourite artist would be through an interview they did with a music magazine, or an MTV special on the late night telly. You’d hear from them when they dropped their music, and of course, in their music, where they’d always be with you. None of these have changed, although as a compelling article in Spin Magazine argues, the interviews have become rarer, and the music has broken itself into smaller and smaller pieces: from albums to singles, and singles to snippets and breadcrumbs (a phenomenon I recently explored and outlined in this article).
What has changed though, is that in addition to this, you can find your favourite bands on YouTube, their personal Instagrams, Twitter, and for younger artists, even Snapchat. Like every other person, they find these platforms ideal to express their own thoughts and opinions. Of course, for a fan what this means is that your favourite stars are now living in your face, having comfortably nestled there after building themselves a little fire and drinking hot chocolate.

Metal exposed to free air for too long begins to rust, and the same is true of your interest in your favourite musicians. The tabloid has exploded, and everybody can be a reporter; heck, the artists themselves can do it. As you scroll through your news feed in infinite scroll mode, there’s too much stuff to catch your eye, and soon enough, the fifth reposted promotional picture of favourite artist becomes boring. You cast a momentary glance at a gothic, high-heeled, heavily made-up picture of that band you like who would swear to be so strictly folk rock that their getup would be otherwise shocking. But then you move on, because you just saw another picture yesterday.

Rock music was built on the social foundations of ‘rebel and shock’, but what used to shock people is either seen so often that it’s just not shocking anymore, or it’s simply unacceptable.

If Iggy Pop were a rising musician today, he’d have had a tough time.
Iggy relied heavily on the effects of the shock he could have on people, and do it more subtly than contemporaries who would proclaim themselves rebels. (See: MC5)

In particular, Iggy used to cut himself up with a blade live.

Today, he’d probably be cast as having mental health problems. He’d be told, it’s okay, everyone has darker days, and it’s great that you’re putting it out there for everyone to see. Self-inflicted harm? Total sign. Do talk to someone though, please!

And he’d have been a mental health advocate, broken by the stress we all face, a product of that system, with all our respect and our sympathy.
Rebels don’t get your sympathy, and that’s what endeared young rock and rollers to him. That’s what shocked people, and what made him a rebel. It simply wouldn’t work today.

In the face of this, the Noel Gallaghers of the world say that bands simply don’t have it in them anymore, that they’re not dangerous enough. They don’t wake up stoned or turn up drunk onstage (au contraire, only a month ago I witnessed a bassist down seven cans onstage). Artists do what they do. Only the implications of their actions have changed.

Of course, this also makes a band like Coldplay so likeable. In short, Coldplay are anodyne rock and roll: maybe a gateway band to artists more rock and roll, but also a band that you, your mother and your puppy can bond over. They aren’t out to offend and mum and dad won’t hate them. They won’t be in the news for the wrong reasons. In fact, all Coldplay have done to iff anybody is make more mainstream, pop radio-friendly music, and that seems to piss you off more than it does your mum.

But they’re hitting the charts alright.
This is something you’d see showing up all over the charts. Softer pop rock and more mainstream friendly artists are dominating the rock airwaves. Imagine Dragons, Coldplay and Twenty One Pilots are the biggest things rock on the charts. Oh, and probably Billie Eilish.

So is this the changing face of rock music? Has it become so mainstream friendly that it’s no longer friendly to those who created it in the first place? (Case in point: Greta Van Fleet. You either love them, or you love to hate them.)

The short answer is it’s not the end. The rock music scene was always stronger underground. A quick glance at Billboard’s archives tells you that rock music seldom dominated the hot music charts. There were moments when artists shone bright before being replaced by hotter tracks. The limelight was never meant for endurance, only an upthrust. And all legends are written in hindsight. Maybe we’ll be looking back on something we may have missed in our Instagram feeds and think it an incredible display of rock and roll showmanship.

In the meanwhile, do us all a favour and hit your local club, or a bar. There’s tons of good music buried under the unassuming air of carefreeness there that’s just itching to be discovered.

Tip: If you are looking for new music right now, here are some artists I could suggest.

Looking for some laidback surfside Cali blues, and generally a good time? Check out the Beach Goons. In their own words, they hate the beach. San Diego based surf blues-with-a-dash-of-Mexican-rock and roll, they’re my age.

Looking for something with the punk attitude but with catchier tones? I’ve said this before, but check out SWMRS. They’re also a lot better live than their records suggest.

While we’re talking punk, check out PUP. Even Pitchfork seems happy with them, which either means they’ve all caught the flu, or we have a rare conciliatory two seconds before they’re back.

For a classic throwback, try Greta van Fleet. For some good alt rock, try Wolf Alice, or even Royal Blood.

Wolf Alice

Looking for some old fashioned indie rock? Come on, there are tons of bands out there, I won’t even try. Just go to a club, for goodness sake.

Looking for some hard hitting garage rock? Do, do, do check out Phono Pony. It took me forever to remember their name right, but it’s all worth it. British Columbia based duo hitting it in the vein of the White Stripes. Also, in the words of their drummer, “We’re not the White Stripes”. As a bonus, if you happen to be in Toronto tonight, hop down to the Horseshoe Tavern, they’re playing a midnight set.

Then come back and answer me, is rock music dead?

In The Punk Neighbourhood

That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighbourhood

Well, I got news for ya— she is!

This is currently my favourite lyric and it just hit off with me immediately.

I’ve heard waay too many “that girl thinks she’s a queen/ when she’s just a nothing cog in the machine/ Trying hard to live a dream/ Don’t you know no one can hear you scream”, this was oddly uplifting!

(Is that an actual song? I just made those lyrics up. It’s a close approximation for some stuff I’ve heard. Female bands aren’t always very kind when it comes to their own kind, I suppose!

Well, what mattered was that it rhymed, didn’t it? Didn’t it? Weren’t you  in the least bit sure that was an actual song?

Okay, then I’m on track to become a songwriter. Now to quit my metaphorical job.)

The lyrics above are from the Bikini Kill song Rebel Girl, and I love it already. I’m glad the band’s reuniting. The world can do with some good punk music right now, and with some female rock bands too!

Speaking of good punk music, I’m really getting into SWMRS. They’re a bunch of young Californian punks,  and they sound good to the ear. They’re nearly my age, and it almost feels like I have reason to be proud seeing them come up. I read an interview with Rolling Stone that they’d done, and I felt, wow, they’re growing. It’s partly unsurprising, given Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong happens to be drummer Joey Armstrong’s dad, but they’re a band growing in their own right.

Sample some of the stuff off their latest album:

What’s more, I’ve just got to know they’re likely playing a gig in my city just next month! It happens to be in between two big important finals that I have, but they’re also a week apart. Hopefully, I can spare a few hours an evening?

I wouldn’t mind.

I’m itching to get back to my own music real soon, the real soon in question being anywhere between two weeks and a month. It’s a hard life!

But anyway, coming back to the main point of this post, if you think you’ve got it, you’ve got it. Just remember what Kathleen Hanna said! (If you forgot, look above. I’d have linked back to the top of this post, but that would be recursive. And I hereby declare, I’ve had enough recursion for one night. I’m off to bed, goodnight.)

Sound of Music

I can’t get enough music these days: I can’t always find time to separately listen to music, and I’ve sort of lost the ability to successfully do anything along with music, except for music (which might shed light on my problem, wouldn’t it?)

Perhaps I can escape the music by turning the volume down low. But I can’t escape lyrics that invite me to follow a story. After all, one thing that anyone can confirm I am, is a storyteller.

(And like, also a musician, but I’m trying to make a point here. So for five minutes now, we will all sit with fingers to our lips and not talk about how I begin dissecting the music I hear when I hear it and end up not getting any work done. Deal?)

So I’ve found a loophole. I’ve started listening to French rock music, where I still get the music, but at low enough a volume to keep my focus on the proof I’m reading (we actually lay a decent focus on reading and understanding someone else’s proofs as well in my CS class), and without the words telling me a complete story.

Of course, the odd phrase will sit in my head, but it isn’t as bad as English where every word basically finds a match in my head straight away!

But you see, the trouble is, I’m actually making an effort at French in class and might soon enough have passable enough French to understand what’s going on. I have already found I’m able to pick out words distinctly, even if I don’t know what they mean.

So soon, I’ll find myself in the same situation as I’m in now.

I guess I’ll have to start hunting for a new language then.

Perl here I come.

Surely there’s a lot of other good rock music out there, and I can’t wait to get right at it.

Next stop: Finnish metal bands.

(Truth be told, I’ll probably start following just the sound of the language because, you know, you could call it music too.

I think I’ll eventually be stuck with Last Ride In by Green Day (it’s instrumental).)

I Can’t Hear Myself Think

I don’t know if that’s physically possible, but I’m feeling it right now.

My ears are ringing out of sheer shock. I have not heard a band play louder. (But then again, it may be argued that I haven’t had a chance to see Muse live. Yet.)

So every once in a while, miracles do happen.

(A little recap for context) After coming to know at 3:30 PM that British grunge/alt-rockers Wolf Alice were in town and playing a gig in the city at 7 PM, I had a long two-hour theatric on why I should be going.

It touched upon everything, a very versatile and diverse argument, I must admit.

I’m the science student, I’m paling because I’m in here studying, (absolutely irrelevant to a night gig– unless we’re talking about “darkening” due to pollution), how with me soon to be a full-time computer science student, I may just die before I get a whiff of life (… I don’t know if this is true, but I do not want it to be. Can anyone vouch for that?) how we’re not risk takers and are just not game for life, and why does it matter that we’re booking a few hours, and not a few days, before the gig?

Mum was particularly concerned about leaving my sister to study on her own for a few hours (and being unable to reach her because her phone’d Ben in aeroplane mode).

Anyway, I won’t bore you with gory details (according to my English teacher, I’m guilty of that often… to be fair, it was a chapter involving murder. But to get to the point now.)

Somehow, things worked out, and I have now bright prospects of a career in acting.

I went for the Wolf Alice gig.

Mum wouldn’t let me go by myself, but she did end up tagging along. She ended up spending her time taking a good long hour’s walk around pavements!

As for me, I was in.

Wolf Alice came on at 7:30, their set lasted nearly jour and was a good mix of new old stuff, though leaning on the side of songs off their latest album released on 29 September 2017, Visions Of A Life.

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Early on. (I’ll admit, phone photography isn’t the best, but is that the point of a live gig?)

The band was in the city for an Amnesty International awareness event, on violence against women online.

There seems to be some sort of trend, bands touring here for a cause (remember Coldplay and the Global Citizen fest, anyone?)

But anyway, it wasn’t amazing to see that they have a pretty neat following here! I could estimate around five hundred people, maybe more.

They have so much energy, they rock out like crazy. Second best new(ish) band I’ve seen! (After Royal Blood, of course. Seeing them live would be super cool, though!)

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Ellie Rowsell was tireless as the band kept belting out track after track, with just the occasional pause to interact with the crowd. Speaking of engagement, bassist Theo Ellis was incredible: the guy didn’t have a dead bone in his body!

Jumping around, inciting the crowd, grooving as he played his bass, he was in his own element.

There was only a slight hitch in the middle when guitarist Joff Odie’s guitar temporarily went dead as he helplessly tried to shake some sound out of it and ended up swinging it around for the rest of the song, annoyed, till he could make a swap for the next song. (My best bet for why he didn’t doc that before is preset sounds and settings.)

Personally, there was only one thing I wish was better, apart from which the band was perfect: they rock hard, take that from me. They’ve blown my ears out. Every hair on my arms was reverberating with the loud music, it was almost a wonder to me that the band was so comfortable, the speakers being right behind them. They were owning it.

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One of my personal favourite of this band’s gimmicks is towards the end of You’re A Germ, when Ellie’s vocals descend onto a manic, deranged laughter. It’s beautiful, and it’s perfect where it is in the song. But live, the intensity was a bit lower, and the laughter sounded kinda mechanical.

No fault of Rowsell’s, I can’t  imagine recreating that manic laugh every gig, and that’s what studio recordings are for, right? You go for a live gig for the experience, the emotions, raw and unfiltered, not polished or perfected over four takes.

But you can hear the manic laugh, and the rest of the song for yourself and decide!

The gig lasted roughly an hour, and it was one of the best hours of the year for me!

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(Do I sound like a music journalist here?)

Man, after seeing these guys live, my will to be up there on stage doing just what they’re doing has gotten even stronger. It’s back to my beloved piece of wood an month’s time! I’ve got a lot to catch up on.

This band rocks out almost like bands did in the nineties! And that’s a good thing.

We like them ‘cause they’re pure
We like them ‘cause we know they’re cool

(My little play on You’re a Germ’s lyrics,
He likes her ‘cause she’s pure
She’s likes him ‘cause she’s heard he’s cool

Minus the creepy connotations.)

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Lessons learnt?

Don’t ever pass up the gig. And don’t ever underestimate the power of a good argument. And the good bands will eventually come to a city near you– with their dedicated group of globe-trotting fans! Sure saw a lot of those today.

I have quite a few video grabs from the gig, from songs I am ore familiar with. Trust me, I’m a fan, I love these guys, but i haven’t been listening too much this year— not to much of anything, in fact! Catching up to do.

I can’t upload them, however, WordPress on my current plan doesn’t let me. Oh well. What’s YouTube for, right?

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(The videos were mostly for my sister, who did definitely pitch for me good; I don’t suppose mum would’ve agreed if she hadn’t been so thrown off by my sister’s support for my case, but I did mostly try to enjoy the  live experience.)

So with this gig and thousand-word review, (was it really a review? Perhaps not) I’ve ticked two things off my bucket list!

Now it’s back to integrating. The next time I upload pictures, it’s may  of a two-page long sum.

Integration… I currently can’t really hear myself think, and perhaps that’s a good thing!

Until next time!

 

Relevance.

I just realised I’ve been blogging for more than a year.
It’s also true that this is probably the fifth time I’ve realised this.

What it also means is I’m not a baby blogger anymore!
I’m more like a toddler blogger now.
But I’m still crawling.
And I’m still breathing.
(And drooling and puking?)

I stole one of those lines off a moderately new Green Day song, and it’s not the drooling bit!

What do you think of Revolution Radio? Are Green Day back with a bang? I personally felt like Dos and Tré, their last two records (part of the Trilogy) went on a bit endlessly and were not the best Green Day can do. They’ve done better. For a band to make two major comebacks, two back to back concept albums, and still remain relevant is no mean feat, and it’s true, as Billie Joe Armstrong said in an interview last year that the band had nothing to prove to the world.

On the ‘relevance’ bit, you’ve got to acknowledge the fact that unlike many bands of the age, Green Day haven’t lost their sound to synths and computer-related experimentation. They’ve always stuck to their guns, the classic holy trinity, the guitar-bass-drums, although that could be used to argue against them. You can’t say they haven’t experimented with sound and genre though, that’s something you’d admire about Green Day ventures like American Idiot and Uno, which took Green Day into a delightfully funky upbeat, rhythmic-centric territory, sporadically sprinkled with a guitar solo. (I could mention Kill the DJ here.)

I almost needn’t mention the well-documented, almost famous (in related circles, of course) transition the band took from the (so-called) jaded Warning (’00)  to American Idiot (’04), ditching their would’ve-been seventh studio album, more generic and titled Cigarettes and Valentines after its mastertape was stolen, a retrospective blessing in disguise, to find a new sound, new look, and new direction with American Idiot. (Along with embracing the make-up and rockstar life, a marked departure from their punk Gilman street roots, Green Day also went political on this album, something they hadn’t done ostensibly uptil Warning.)

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Pre- American Idiot Green Day.

 

Such a band has nothing to prove, yet they keep proving, time and again, that they are relevant, a force to reckon with, and are here to stay.

(Just a tiny detour: it’s sad to see that artists who were once powerhouses of influence are struggling to remain relevant today. Take Beck on his new album Colors, which is a sort of resurgence on the maverick’s part, a cry of happiness at being, and a return to, relevance. (From an interview I read, an incident a few years ago where Beck, Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins and Paul McCartney weren’t considered “stars” enough to be let into a backstage event at some awards may have contributed to this fear.)
I’ve talked to people who have never heard of George Michael or of AC/DC. And now with Brian Johnson having stepped down due to hearing problems and original rhythm guitarist and cofounder Malcolm Young’s demise this week, I don’t know what dystopian future we’re headed for. RIP, Malcolm, in a decade it may be better up there!

…so, back to today if we will?)

A band like Green Day has nothing to prove. But looking at their latest stuff, whether it’s just the music, or the music videos, Green Day are more relevant than the morning daily even, which is honestly depressing at times. A lot of times.
Billie’s songwriting is spot on as always, Mike’s keeping a neat rhythm and Tré’s tight rhythm mirroring the guitar is only showing again why the band and fans love him so much.

But then again, that’s my opinion. What do you think? Is Bang Bang as good as I feel it is? Are Green Day back? Or were they never gone in the first place?

The Art of the Heart

Music is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel.

It’s not so much about the five senses out there, not even hearing.

It’s about the sense in here, in your heart and soul, how the music makes you feel, how you perceive it.

It’s an art of the heart.

So as a musician, or even as a keen listener, it’s not quite as important to, as they say, have an ear for music, as it is to have a heart for music.

Musician Dave Grohl had once talked about how he’d written the Foo Fighters’ Everlong, on the “stone cold alt rock classic” album The Color and the Shape.

He said he didn’t even know what the opening chords of Everlong were. He just treated his guitar like the drums.

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Grohl in action on the drums.

The low open D was the bass drum, and from there, he was lead to go onto the cymbals- the higher 10th fret minor chord- and then dynamically alternate between the two. (I here find my fretting hand fingers subconsciously going out to play the first 5 seconds of the song… Whoops!)

It was because he probably closed his eyes, saw a drum, and then let his emotions, through his fingers, do the talking on his guitar.

So no one can teach you how to ‘make’ music. Exactly how no one can breathe for you, and no one can think for you, this is your own let-loose time.

It is also why, no matter how beautifully and articulately someone describes a piece of music to you, it can never do justice. I’ve read pretty ordinary reviews of albums that have added a fourth special dimension inside my head, (and some thrashing ones. In a savage mood? Pitchfork’s review of Jet’s debut, Get Born, is scathing.) and some delightful reviews and recommendations, tempting me to go listen to some music or other, have lead to disappointment.

I’ll point out, some, not because they were necessarily pathetic but only because they fell flat on my taste. And that’s subjective.

I want to point out that I have a highly charged immune system when it comes to music.

An anecdote: musically, for a few years, I was at odds with my immediate world. They liked trending artists, I listened to stuff they’d never heard of. (But no, it never affected our friendship.)

‘At odds’ is a mild phrase: we were diametrically opposed, North Pole and South Pole, plus and minus, butterflies and hurricanes.

I don’t quite know how it came about to be, but I managed to get one direction listeners to try some punk. Through the ages; proto punk, with the Godfather, and the Stooges, to the Pistols and Clash in England, and the Ramones and the New York Dolls in America, thinking the Saints and the like in Australia, to the underground 80’s punk, (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Public Enemy, the like) to it’s reemergence in the 90’s- the punk revival movement, with the Bay Area scene, the Riot Grrl movement and bands like Mega City Four and Senseless Things in the UK, (sorry, but if there’s one drawback with rock music, it’s that it’s 90% British or American) but we never got that far. It got too loud for my pals. Reverse karma: I was now stuck staring at the prospect of having to listen to five unbroken MINUTES of Taylor Swift. (Wheeze, wow, I can hardly believe grade 10 was that long ago!)

I joked to them, I can’t do this alone at home, I need paramedics around me! But heck, such is life, and I stood out, staring at calming green trees as I got to begin, just in case I suffer my first panic attack. I clicked it. I grimaced. As salvation, my friend had told me, “At least she’s using a guitar there,”. It began. One…  Two.   Three.    Four…  Oh, god! Five.    I paused and gasped. Even today, I can’t explain it. Screw the trees, I got up and ran to the dunny and so very nearly puked.

In five minutes hence, I had rung up my friend, who, in all astonishment at my story, could do nothing but laugh. I swore to her, I am genuinely allergic to Taylor Swift; medically proven today. Told you we might need those paramedics.

She laughed and said, okay.

I have never attempted harakiri again.

So it’s true, as much as I try, I am admittedly not equally receptive to all sorts of music. (There’s some, that I snort, ‘can’t even be called music.’ But hey, that’s my private ale.) That’s everyone’s complain against me, and I am guilty. When it comes to sifting through music, I am sort of like the Cure song says,

‘I don’t care if Monday’s blue

Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too

Thursday, I don’t care about you

It’s Friday, I’m in love.’

Very picky, I guess!

But perhaps it’s because I can hardly force myself to like a song. If I feel a connect from within, I’ll hear a mental click!; we’re locked in.

And I don’t mean connecting, just lyrically.  I’ve fallen in love with Kashmir’s riff, I’ve fallen for Plug In Baby’s riff; I’ve fallen for the sound of the mellotron in one ear and the guitar’s in the other, on Night Flight; my sister’s a sucker for good drums; one can go gaga over a wah pedal or a pitch shifter, that opening vibrato on Foxy Lady, get mesmerised by the voices, the shrieks of a Mick Jagger, the Plants and the Mercurys, the look of pure happiness on Hank Marvin’s face as he plays his beloved guitar, a quiet lyrical gimmick, a wicked synth arpeggio… it’s easy to go on all day! But something in the song will speak to you, you’ll feel a thrill  and contraction in your heart muscles and you’ll momentarily forget the universe, that’s what music means, and that’s exactly why, over three millennia, music hasn’t died. Because it comes from the heart. It’s what makes music the thing it is.

What does this mean to people as artists today?

It means that every part of your song makes sense to you, and means something, that adds meaning overall to what you want to convey. So your lyrics may be ones where you have wrung the sincerity of your heart and hung it on a peg to dry, but the rest of the song is just you randomly picking and placing notes, the meaning, significance and relevance of the song may just dim. Because music was never meant to be an “industry” but always an outlet.

(David Bowie talks a bit about it here. (keep in mind he’s being sarcastic since he’s talking about a parody, but the man speaks true words.))

To some people, it may be a balm and therapy, to some, relaxation, it may make some want to get up and, uh, scream! pick up a guitar and jump (… or is the jump part just me?) But it will never fail to push that thrill right down your spine.

(I’ve included some of the songs’ links above, in case anyone wishes to go exploring.)

Still in the Dark?

It’s now been twenty seven years since a walking legend, a cult leader, a “spokesperson for a generation” (as he hated to be called), a way of life for many people who felt just the same as him, grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, had died.

While the music, the attitude and mentality that he and Nirvana had, and the grunge legacy they established speak for themselves, the grey area emerges when things come a bit closer home and personal: the equation between Kurt Cobain and his wife, controversial Hole rocker Courtney Love.

Let’s chalk things out in very brief:

Kurt was a volatile person going down the path of destruction.

Courtney was a volatile person headed down the path of destruction.

That’s all it was.

Courtney hung on longer than Kurt, and that’s all there is. Kurt let go, while Courtney persevered and is somehow still here today, 20 years later.

It seems to be that some people vilify Courtney for this very reason. That she stayed on, and is alive, while Kurt petered out. Some suspect she had something to do with Kurt’s “death”. Because Kurt was the vulnerable, sensitive candle flickering in it’s last flames, the smallest nudge the wrong way from the wind could set it off. Apparently Courtney, however similar to Kurt, was made of stronger stuff than wax. And it’s as simple as that.

Many don’t see it that way.

Let’s flip the situation, hypothetically, and reassess.

Suppose it had been Courtney who’d petered out, while Kurt had somehow found the will to live.

Somehow, I feel that Courtney would never have been the martyr legend that Kurt became. The same anger and suspicion some have for Courtney may not have been there for Kurt. Courtney could never have been raised to the legend Kurt was. And is that simply because while Kurt was the fragile, vulnerable man, done in by the evil woman who supposedly wanted to leave him and was “thinking of” cheating on him anyway, Courtney the biblical Eve leading the man down the path to ruin?

I try to imagine a scenario where a vigil would have been held for Courtney Love. I try to imagine people talking about what a fighter she was, what a hypocritical world she fought and rebelled against. I try to think of where people would shake their head and say, what a shame, Hole’s first album was almost out, and she gave up… Always was such a flame in a wind…

But somehow, that’s not really the scene that sets in naturally, does it.

What I really imagine is, ah, that was bound to happen, she lived too dangerously for her own good. Poor Kurt, left like that to raise his two year-old daughter all by himself, could it ever have lasted? (No, I don’t recall Courtney getting that concern from anyone.)

There are even some, who think Courtney so crude, they may have said, good riddance, or something on those lines.

Courtney was just someone who happened to be involved with Cobain at a point in his forever uncertain, low-melting fuse box of a life. Many say Kurt would have taken his life at some point regardless. That after so many failed attempts, he simply had this coming. Some close to him will even point out that Courtney’s presence may have prolonged Kurt’s life this little bit.

But tell that to those who subconsciously hate Courtney because she was a woman who stood up and made some noise in a man’s world. She may not have always been right about everything, but she was strong when it mattered, and she had it in her to give it one more shot.

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Stickler.

(P.S. I am still a big Nirvana, and a Cobain fan.)

(P.P.S. The reason I don’t believe Courtney had Kurt killed lies in simple psychology, for those still unconvinced. Because no matter how different individuals may be, basic psychology still applies to almost all humans.

It’s been more than 20 years since Kurt Cobain died. (This year would have been his 50th, had he been alive.) Those many years can do some serious damage to people. Suppose Courtney had done what they suspect. Doesn’t one suppose that she’d think of it at times, and over the years, the guilt would have grown? She lived to see their daughter’s face everyday, the living legacy of Kurt Cobain; how could 20 years of living with it not have broken her down to the point where she’d have to tell someone? Confess to the world? It would be a tortured existence! If she really had done it, she would have confessed in three, maybe five, maybe ten years. It’s been twenty years. By her standards, Courtney Love is in fine mental health. She didn’t do it.)

No One Sings Like You Anymore.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell.

Another one in our long line of beloved warriors who braved the world, braved the mainstream, the rut we’re forever stuck in, fought our ordinary, boring lives, and gave us something to look forward to, bites the dust.

Another grunge legend stops in his tracks. Just hours after a Soundgarden Detroit gig concluded.

Another Seattle hero joins Cobain in oblivion. Gone but never lost. The influence lives on forever.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell.

Is Rock Music Really Dead?

A very common misgiving I hear around me is “There’s no good music around anymore.”

There are people out there who are so dissatisfied with the music scene, if there is any, as they’d tell you, that they have given up all hope for the future and try to satisfy themselves by burying their heads in heaps of better records, from 40 years ago, to block out the noise. (Case in point: rock music.)

Now, I have seen some pretty sick indicators, including a T-shirt on someone that said, “Rock isn’t dead, it just went ‘pop’.” (Which is pretty sick). But that doesn’t mean it’s wiped out like the dinosaurs. It endures. Like the microorganisms that quietly, in their own corners survived, and are still here, while the larger monsters died out in a headline-worthy tale, rock music has, and will, endure.

Ask any hardened listener, and they’ll affirm that giving up the resistance and joining the stream is not an option. Not with the kind of music that’s blasted out commercially, that’s almost a punishment for not being deaf. (Or having a mind for that matter. A study done a few years ago found that popular music is just getting dumber. About 2 minutes of a four minute long song was just ‘filler words’, the ‘aaa’s and ‘ooo’s and ‘oi’s and ‘baby’s and ‘yeah, yeah, oooo,… you add on. It’s a legitimate study that I’m not making up, I’ll just have to dig it up from my stash of newspaper cutouts.)

The only real solutions to our “problem” are, either to pick up a guitar, start making the music you want to hear, and stop whining, once and for all, or to support the artists that are trying to.

Most people will agree, the good music is NOT in the mainstream. It’s underground, but we’ve stopped looking. I don’t know, typical human fatalist nature. (Which, before you get me wrong, is no reason to become complacent on climate issues. Summers are touching 45 degrees celsius here, and I’m talking about March temperatures.)

I, for one, am brushing up my skills, and hoping to provide some relief to the many “tortured” souls who’ve been forced to listen to, well, real bad music, for the sake of decency of language, in every mall or eatery they’ve been to in their life. (Except it will still be a long time before McDonald’s is going to be blasting Black Sabbath to accompany ice cream cokes.)

I am also trying not to make it look like there’s nothing to look forward to anymore, and the rainbow-coloured bubblegum pop is really blacker than death metal because it ate away at our Rock’s very essence, or whatever many may make it out to be. There is still decent music out there. I almost believe again.

Most forms of rock, particularly derivatives of alt rock do have something interesting to offer, each with their own new ’10’s-sound. I know of bands making some downright listenable noise in hard rock, grunge, funk rock, blues, garage rock. (I will admit that I can’t talk as optimistically for classic rock. It seems the elaborate, once-standard form of making a rock song has been hit by a punk movement of a new kind: time crunch. But I will keep looking, everyday could bring a new opportunity?)

One thing the disillusioned mentioned is indisputable: whatever and wherever this good new music is, it’s not on the radios. It’s not on the music channels. (To be honest, music itself isn’t, these days.) It’s not on the mainstream airwaves. And before we make the familiar dreaded connection between the terms ‘mainstream’ and ‘sell-out’, let’s make it clear: anything that’s good should get circulated, heard. That’s what it used to be during Alan Freed’s time. And for our argument here, let’s keep it that way.

A few people are listening in on a YouTube or a SoundCloud. You pass by a park with decent noise. A pal tells you, the cynical rock-fatalist, that’s there’s something out there you might like. But fearing a bad dose to the ear, you won’t listen to it, because nothing’s good anymore, or you hear it, feel it’s decent, but can get better, but you really can’t be bothered to follow up with it.

Remaining non-committal to the scene can be as big a killer as promoting the pop bubblegum noise. (Here you nod: “Now we know where you stand.”) I get that time and exhaustion are bigger factors than they ever were before, but a new artist might need it.

Obviously the reason why a Justin Beiber has 10 billion views on YouTube is not because he’s good. It’s because he has dedicated fans out there ready to stand behind his every song (*gags*… Sorry.), to support him and spread the word. Maybe that’s one thing we can learn from the kids. (And I never said that last part.)

Many of these artists still have day jobs to support themselves. And there’s only a point till where artists can support themselves and each other. Their fans are their biggest assets, in the end. (I would just want to add, perhaps not more than a cracker riff, but even there, it’s those listening who need to appreciate it.) Those who once helped the stars of the decades gone by need to remember how they did it: they bought the records, they followed them live, supported them in every way they could. And maybe we need to stop holding every new artist before the light of a great established band. They are ‘established’ for a reason. What makes Led Zeppelin so unique and legendary is that there was no one like them, and there won’t be either. Maybe we should make peace with that fact. Accept and support artists based on their potential, and they’ll grow to make you proud. They’ll grow and the rock scene will awaken again. A mismatch of attitudes and intentions is all that’s keeping it stuck in a rut so far, and both sides mean well. One thing we can do, as people did in the past, is to get out there, and go join the scene. See an artist for yourself. Support them, like the old times. And you’ll find yourself being carried back, carried back, carried back, to the scene where you come from. And you’ll find yourself saying, man, it’s been a long time since I rock and rolled. And is it good to be back.