The Depressing State of Rock N Roll

This post was to begin like most other carbon copy music critic’s self-absorbed review of the year’s best albums.

So without further ado, here’s MY (self-absorbed) list. It was not short of great music, but it was definitely lacking…..There were no chops, no big riffs, no fear of breaking a sweat.

It lacked…..R A W K!!!!

I poured over other opinions. Was there something buried somewhere obscure that I missed? Did I not listen to every promo disc I was sent? Did my Spotify radio somehow keep avoiding the riffs? The more I searched…..the more depressing it got. The painful truth: in 2015 the State of Rock is woeful. This realization became glaringly clear when watching a recent episode of the lauded / lamented / lame rock-doc Sonic Highways courtesy of the ever predictable Foo Fighters.

Nothing against Dave. He knows the state of today’s landscape is dire. He’s trying to bring to light groups whose sweat, passion, talent, grit, and energy were as inspiration to him and the last known species of those-who-once-rocked. But it’s impossible to make it through one of these episodes without feeling like you’ve been suckered in to a 45-minute self-absorbed intro to what without fail turns into the bile that is the Foo’s track to round out the show. These tracks are so bland, so entirely predictable and lack any sense of the soul which the entire show was preaching.

And in today’s depressing world of rock: this album was viewed by many as one of the year’s standouts. The Foo Fighters are (one of) the final (!!) ROCK bands that can sell out an arena in a heart beat.

That can drive mass hysteria.

That can legitimately headline a festival (see the just announced headliner of Fuji Rock ’15).

But if this is the group that’s at the top of the heap…..then sorry, but that’s just one big STEAMIN HEAP!

Take a look around. Who else is up there with them? Start with who’s top billing across the festival landscape:

Coachella: Drake, AC/DC and Jack White as headliners???

The Weekend as second billing??

Is this a festival or a snooze fest??

Tame Impala – good band… a field playing to 60,000? I think not.

Gov Ball in NYC: Drake again, The Black Keys. Reading: Metallica (is it 1992??), but this festival gets huge cred from this billing: REFUSED!

Lolla in Chile: Jack White, Kings of Leon, the Smashing Pumpkins. Fuji: the Foo’s and Muse.


Here’s another fun thing to get sick about. Look at this list of washed up rock action heavyweight heroes who’ve been trotted out and kindly offered up new material for our listening delight over the past 18 months:

U2, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, the Smashing Pumpkins, Bruce Springsteen, Nickleback, Slash, Foo Fighters, Pennywise, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails (the only band on this list that are still legitimately in their prime), and ever-depressing Bush.

Even the reformed ashes of pillar-of-rock-gods KYUSS came back in the form of Vista Chino to try their hand at saving the day, which sadly even they fell short of doing.

Like we said – it’s DIRE out there. But what’s the cause? Who’s to blame? Where’s the PUNCH! The energy. The riff?

Somewhere somehow indie folk bearded flannel crooning became more prevalent, commercially viable, and socially acceptable. Bon Iver replaced Wolfmother. The Avett Brothers replaced The White Stripes. Mumford & Suns single handedly fooled society into believing that banjos and fiddles were acceptable accompaniments to sing-along choruses.

Then the indie arteests have inserted themselves into mainstream acceptability: the torch bearers of this movement obviously being Radiohead. Their protégés today being St Vincent and Arcade Fire (who courtesy of James Murphy decided to trade their 9-piece brand of accessible sing-along tunes to discoball laden, self obsessed, uninspiring, one dimensional synth drenched boredom).

And let’s not even begin to think about Imagine Dragons, Fun, Foster the People, who have figured out that in today’s market having brand sponsorships and Super Cuts-doos is a faster path to success than actually putting out original music. Seriously, hearing Fun croon their way through We Are Young is a surefire way to ruin my week. Is there a more annoying song?

The only other 2 things that incite more rage in me is The Cloud, and John f@#cking Hamm. I cannot stand that pompous a-hole.

So who’s here to rise up, throw the horns and save us from this pitiful mess in 2015? Jack White seems to be doing a serviceable job bringing good doses of sizeable sonic blues-tinged rock, but with only a bit of solo material to reach into, he still needs more material to truly rise to the next level. And he definitely loses a point for being the guy that penned Seven Nation Army that somehow morphed its way into the horrible college stadium chant OOOOOHHH oh ah ow oh UUUUUWW OOOOOHHH.

Awaking from years of slumber is the 90s giant Faith No More! With a new album on the horizon and a string of imminent headlining slots across the summer festival slate, Patton, Puffy and crew will help fill a much needed rock void. And with a national election around the corner in 2016 there’s a strong chance that Rage Against the Machine could pop up again to voice their antidisestablishmentalism politico charged angst rock. But if recent sightings of Zach in Malibu are anything to go by, then Rage may very well be directed at the rise to prominence of freekeh (google it – it’s the new quinoa of 2015) in his garden salad versus the scorn once reserved for the prominence of corporate greed dictating the oppressive policies holding back the struggles of the lower class…

Admittedly, it’s entirely unfair to whine’n’bitch this much without offering up some kind of alternative. So either the next time you’re passing by Amoeba or aimlessly fumbling through Spotify, try your luck with some of these under-the-surface rock work-horses who have been toiling for years to establish a legion of dedicated respect:

I’m talkin about bands like Clutch, Death From Above 1979, Ride (who are now the 532nd band to try their hand at returning after 13 years off), and finally the aforementioned Swedish rock legends REFUSED (their 2 shows in LA in 2012, FYF and The Fonda, are BOTH up there in my top-10 concert experiences of all time). If any of these bands roll through your town, cleanse your musical soul and get rowdy.

Until next time, we’ll be in the Rainbow Room hanging out with our pals Kerry King and the real-life SoA crew.

written by:  Roh

-Roh is a contributer to TheCoLA-

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