Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Am I The Only One Still Angry?

“Let me tell you somethin’…. I’ve had enough of Irish-Americans who haven’t been back to their country in twenty or thirty years … and come up to me and talk about the revolution back home. And the glory of the revolution and the glory of dying for the revolution. FUCK the revolution! They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What’s the glory of taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where’s the glory in that?”                  
 -Bono during the Sunday Bloody Sunday Rattle and Hum performance. 

I’ve always believed that through great pain comes art. Pain leads to anger and anger leads to a message that requires a medium to be expressed.

I’m 34 years old and as I look at the current state of music... I have to ask – where the hell is the anger? Where the hell is the art? Where the hell is the message?

The medium? Well, corporate America has done a good job of turning that into vanilla ice cream but more on that in a second.

The quote above was spoken in the middle of a song during a U2 live performance around 1988. Ten years later, the band Pearl Jam would appear on MTV’s “Unplugged” and lead singer Eddie Vedder would scribble the words “Pro-Choice” violently on his arms during the song “Porch”.

Anger. Message. 

U2’s Rattle and Hum movie followed the band on their Joshua Tree tour and director Cameron Crowe honored the 20 year anniversary of Pearl Jam’s release of the album Ten with “20”. Both were video diaries mixed with concert footage and were amazingly done. I highly recommend seeing each one several times to get the full impact.

Not surprisingly, both of those bands have been hugely influential on me and it struck me this week as I watched each bands’ Rock-u-mentary: they had SOMETHING to say. 

I came away thinking … What in the HELL is going on right now? What happened to the anger in rock music?

The current problems in this country should bring out the most violent, deep, animalistic anger in those with the microphones in their hands and stages beneath their feet.

Instead….we get Coldplay’s new album release this week.

Now, I like Coldplay, don’t get me wrong, but the image of a giant yellow balloon bouncing around is not going to fire me up to change the world nor is hearing “every tear is a waterfall” going to change the way I think.

I need passion. I need fire.

Who is going to write lyrics like this in the future?  

   “Don't mean to push, but I'm being shoved!
   Ohh, I'm just like you, think we've had enough
   I can't believe a thing they want us to...oh..
   Oh, we all got scars, they should have 'em too
                                          - Pearl Jam “Whipping”

High unemployment, record debt, the Occupy movement, abortions trying to be banned in Mississippi, tuition costs spiking, the Tea Party, the Gulf oil spill, the bank bailout, Gay marriage rights, and on and on and on….

There is so much to be angry about but we have ZERO response from our lyricists and our music artists.  

Where are the bands like Rage Against the Machine, Ministry, Marilyn Manson, (OLD SCHOOL) 311, Metallica, Nirvana, Sound Garden, Alice in Chains, Pantera, Biohazard, or Operation Ivy, bursting onto the rock scene with something to say with a message wrapped in a power cord and double bass?  

I’m sorry but Taylor Swift telling me about me that the thing she does best is “revenge” is not exactly going to get my heart beating.

Am I the only one seeing this? Rock music is the least profitable radio format in the country. Thus, rock music commercially is dying fast. SO WHAT!? I don’t get why the artists are going down with them? The medium is our hands now with power of 4G but it has stalled for some reason. Could twitter be the answer? Maybe. 

Yet, is creativity tied to being able to monetize it? I’m seriously asking because I don’t have the answer to what is happening right now.

Is it because artists aren’t being promoted? Well, I thought the power of the Internet was going to allow us to discover new bands and not have to worry about the record label's agendas anymore. That hasn’t happened or am I missing something?

Are there too many options now? Where are the grassroots artists selling albums out of the back of their cars? If that can't happen anymore, where are the websites with free downloads so bands can be heard? Who are the poets that vomit words that pull back the curtain over your eyes and allow you see things from a different point of view?     

Are we all just a bunch of pussies, living at home in our mother’s basement, waiting for the Genius Bar to call our names so our fixed iPhones can tell us what to do next?

What is this generation standing for…..text messaging?

I found Ani Difranco in a time where my personal anger was beginning to soften and I was willing to look deeper at societal issues. Gay people were unknown to me growing up in Andover, MA and bi-sexual, folk singers sure didn’t exist either.

While the genesis of her rage wasn’t something I related to, the questions she raised about who we are and what we value helped to shape who I am as an adult. I loved her uncompromising, unforgiving fire and willingness to piss people off.  

Where is the next self-publishing, self-motivated, activist artist with a message that has to be heard? I don’t see a counter-culture anymore.  

I can’t be the only one noticing the SERIOUS lack of a social movement in this country right now. Musically, we are so ripe for the next big thing. We had Seattle in 90’s, so I’m biased towards rock, but has Rap music won? Is THAT the only place we can go for socially aware music now?

I refuse to believe that.

Americana music has taken a large step forward in the past 3 years with acts like Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers, and The Head and The Heart but their message is more timeless. It looks at the bigger picture of love and life and doesn’t get into the dirty stuff. Also, a band like Old Crow Medicine Show would have tough time being taken seriously if they started singing about racial oppression.  

But who will be next to sing lyrics like:

 “Who stuff the banks
  Who staff the party ranks
  More for Gore or the son of a drug lord
  None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord

  Lights out guerilla Radio
  Turn that shit up" 
                        – Rage Against The Machine

On the day the nation’s largest radio company, Clear Channel, fired hundreds of on-air talent in order to automate their stations with computers and to standardize their playlists, I’m afraid I sound like our fathers and uncles who pulled out records of Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Credence Clearwater and said “back in my day, music meant something.”

Well, back in my day – music SAID something.

Today, it’s all about American Idol wanna-be artists rehashing songs and asking for the country to “vote” for them to stay on the island of fame for one more week.

Nobody is willing to ask the tough questions or stand up for something real anymore. Nobody has the balls to say what is really happening around them…. all we want is the same cookie-cutter bullshit. 

Who isn't afraid to say something unpopular? 

    they caught the last poor man on a poor man's vacation
    they cuffed him and they confiscated his stuff
    and they dragged his black ass down to the station
   and said "ok the streets are safe now”.
   all your pretty white children can come out to see spot run
   and they came out of their houses and they looked around
   but they didn't see no one.

   and my country tis of thee
   to take swings at each other on talk show tv
   why don't you just go ahead and turn off the sun
   'cause we'll never live long enough to
   undo everything they've done to you
   undo everything they've done to you
                                                     -Ani Difranco

I know she isn't ... but who is next? 

I ask you - What the F is going on?!!