There hasn't been a good new rock band to come along in about 18 years, and I'm getting a little tired of pretending The Killers are rock & roll. Rock music is in rough shape when the rockingest song around is from a Kia commercial. You know, the one that first aired during the Super Bowl, in which the toys take a road trip. ("How You Like Me Now" by The Heavy) That commercial comes on and you can't help but shake your head and tap your foot. That's why it's called rock & roll -- it creates a visceral reaction. It makes teenagers freak out and have sex and commit acts of vandalism.
So who carries the new mantle of rock & roll? Absolutely no one. Is this to imply that there hasn't been a meaningful new rock band to come along since Green Day? Yes! And, (stop the internal dialogue) that there hasn't been a truly great rock band to hit the scene since Nirvana and Pearl Jam spearheaded the brief but brilliant Grunge movement of the early 90s.
It's a sad fact that most of what is passing for rock today is actually pop. (see John Bon Jovi) Sorry, sports fans, Coldplay ain't rock. Neither is Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, or The Googoo Dolls. The cheesiest soft rock band from the 1970s (don't say Toto, don't say Toto!) looks like The Sex Pistols compared to Maroon Five.
And enough with these dreadful power dirges! Not to name any names. Creed! And who asked them to get back together? Satan?
So what makes a great rock song? A catchy hook, for starters. like the beginning of Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones -- "Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh!" Just reaches out and grabs you by the lapels and shakes you around. It tells you, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, "I'm not going to be ignored!"
A great rock song will make middle aged white people at a wedding actually want to dance. A song like "What I Like About You" by The Romantics, or "Dancin' With Myself" by Billy Idol.
Which gets to the second characteristic of a great rock song, an infectious beat. Case in point, pretty much any song by The Ramones. Is this suggesting that the Ramones were better than any rock band formed in the past two decades? Yes! But lets go even further than that. Duran Duran is better than any new rock band. Indeed, The Gogos could eat Nickleback and Crap Blink 182. I'm saying Jim Morrison could snort The Kings of Leon, then vomit Silversun Pickups. I'm saying Jimi Hendrix could chew Snow Patrol like a piece of blotter acid then ... okay, you get the idea.
So where are the next Rolling Stones, or U2, or Van Morrison? Rock, a once great art form, is going dormant, like Latin or Yiddish. Ever since the birth of rock in the early 50s, it has continued to morph and grow; there was rockabilly and the British invasion and Acid Rock and Punk and Grunge and various subsets like Glam, Heavy Metal and Southern Rock. One great movement after another. Then, since Grunge, nothing. So what happened?
After Kurt Cobain's death, Grunge sort of liquefied into "Alternative," and rock withered, like an Ozzy Osbourne brain cell, while younger listeners tuned in to hip hop, R&B and pop. With rock music's slow slide, pop has descended to the very bowels of Hell. The fact that three of the biggest pop icons today, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera, were once New Mouseketeers on TV together, tells you all you need to know about the processed cheese food that is today's music industry.
Perhaps rock & roll isn't dead. Maybe it has a few more surprises for us. Until then, we'll just have to crank up the turn table, dust off a Doors album and get our kicks before the whole sh*thouse goes up in flames.