There’s something so compelling about the one man and his guitar archetype. Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Jeff Mangum, etc. have mystical qualities that coat their musical simplicity to let the complexity of the craft of a song come forth. But with drop D whine-core that eats away at every open mic in the world and chillaxing grooves from Jack Johnson seeping out of every dorm room pot session on campus, the singer/songwriter image has been irrevocably tainted.
Singer/songwriters used to be symbols of change, spitters of fire, wild rambling poets that made audiences silent in their presence. Now they’re lame, lovesick teenagers who are too conceded or too shitty to be able to get a backing band. I would love to enjoy a woman or man and his or her guitar but it doesn’t seem possible. Even great songwriters like John Darnielle (Mountain Goats), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Matt Ward (M. Ward) have abandoned nearly all solo arrangements in favor of a fuller sound.
So where does that leave the world? No Robert Johnson to stir our souls and no Joan Baez to stir our mind. What are we to do? The recent trend moves toward not only a complete abandonment of the craft of the one-guitar song but also from traditional song craft in general. The recent trend is to embrace dance music.
I think the term is actually “electronica”? I don’t know … electro-dance, house-pop, grind-tronica, neo-disco. For the sake of generalizing I’m going to, and this may be unfair, just call it all “dance.” Either way, blogs and magazines have been focusing their coverage on artists that come from strange, “futuristic” labels like DFA and from strange, “European” countries like France and I don’t like it.
Long gone are the days that Pitchfork would run a positive record review of a band I’ve known about forever ago and always knew should be popular. I don’t know any of these bands. I don’t know where they’re coming from and why people LOVE them. People who loved The National and Tilly and the Wall six months ago now strictly listen to MGMT and Boris. What the hell? Why do people care about Ghostland Observatory? Seriously, what the hell?
I think dance and electronica are great for just what they’re called for … dancing. But Fergie and Kelis are just as suitable for that task, don’t you think? Not to say that it’s all bad (Daft Punk, Justice, Daft Punk, etc.) but I think because the machine is pushing all these machine-generated artists people are abandoning tastes they once held. It’s like if you never heard good hip hop, because the beats are fun, your favorite artist would be Chingy instead of anyone that isn’t Chingy.
I think people who don’t know about electronica and dance decide it’s cool to like it and pick stuff that seems cool to like, and because not a lot of people have been exposed to that style they think it’s all good.
It reminds me of late junior high early high school, when I got into late ‘90s indie rock (Built to Spill and Modest Mouse mainly) and I loved them and all rip off bands I encountered, because it was so much better than rap rock. I hadn’t yet developed a sense of what was good and bad, innovative or plagiarized. With this new trend, started by the popularity of a lot of good artists, a lot of shitty ones get brought along (a la the garage rock revival). But maybe I’m just becoming old and cranky because I no longer feel like a trendsetter and the kids don’t dig my old man jams. Either way, I wish Dashboard Confessional didn’t ruin the acoustic guitar.

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