In Defense of Modern Music
Why Modern Music Isn't All That Bad
Sometimes, I imagine myself in another era, in some parallel universe where my birth certificate says "1975" instead of "2000." I see myself in a baggy green flannel shirt and jeans I ripped myself, doing the rounds of my local record shop. I imagine turning over the vinyls in my hands, talking to the person behind the counter, finding music through word of mouth and through music channels instead of on Spotify. I imagine a life where I see Kurt Cobain live on TV as a tangible, living, breathing person instead of a memory immortalised in a music video. It was a great time, so I'm told. The stars were daring, rebellious, and uncensored. They had integrity and originality. Sometimes this nostalgia is followed by some nose-wrinkling, some sighing, and comments along the lines of, "Shame it's not like that anymore. It all sounds the same nowadays. It's all so... safe."
It's perhaps still unclear which of the bands filling the magazines of the late 2010s are the ones we'll talk about like we talk about, say, Nirvana in the years to come. Nobody can see the future (nobody I know of anyway...) and know exactly how we'll think about this era of music. Perhaps the kids around me who I've come of age alongside will look wistfully over their shoulders at the past in five or 10 years time and be proud that we grew up in the musical era that we did. Hell, as a Brit, I've witnessed the clusterfuck of Brexit firsthand—the music we had as escapism might be one of the few decent memories of our adolescence we have. At the same time, however, I know that I will also remember that odd, warped nostalgia that isn't nostalgia for a time I never knew, where more kids wore Panic! At The Disco t-shirts and "My Chemical Romance" wasn't immediately followed by "RIP." Maybe a feeling of missing out, as if the era I was born in wasn't good enough.
Few can deny that the scene is in a position it's never been in before. You might play a rock song and not hear a guitar till a minute in—if at all. I see a lot of confusion, and a lot of division. Some praise the scene's new open-mindedness and inventiveness, and its move away from the standoffishness it once displayed towards other genres. Others decry its apparent identity crisis, its loss of danger and edge, and the "excuses" bands have given for "selling out." They were the ones who heard Fall Out Boy's M A N I A and winced; they saw Brendon Urie's recent collaboration with Taylor Swift and had an unfortunate reunion with their breakfast. They despair for the state of the scene they so loved, as if something's been lost.
In reality, nothing's been lost at all. Certainly not the capacity for making good music anyway. I can't think that there is some gene that bestows Gerard Way or Pete Wentz levels of musical brilliance that just died out in the space of a generation, leaving us with a bunch of unoriginal wannabe rockers to kill our ears with. Good music will always be made. We haven't stopped being flawed, complicated, messy human beings looking for a way to deal with our feelings and express ourselves. With that though, there will probably always be bad music around—if you can even call it that—since what sounds like crap to you might sound amazing to someone else. When we think of the music of the past, we think of it as so perfect because time has discarded the bands that weren't so good. That's always going to happen, and the current wave of rock bands will be no exception to that.
Some of the music released by the newest bands in the scene are going to stay with me for a long, long time. I won't forget the stunning social commentaries woven through The Great Depression by As It Is, or the grandiose theatrics of both sides of the Boom Boom Room cycle by Palaye Royale. Those are just two albums that we are going to one day hold as dear to us as our Neverminds and our Hybrid Theories. We have to have faith in the music of today, to shape the soundtracks of generations to come, to keep our bands going. It's never all that bad. In fact, a lot of it is amazing.