The Times are Changing

I’ve been finding it hard to open up a blank document and write anything regarding music lately. Granted, I was never the most prolific writer but would still try my best to get up a few thoughts on some of the music I was listening to at the time. Lately though, I have been battling with myself on a grueling fact. I’m bored with most new music. Actually, let me rephrase what I just said. I am bored with most new music to come out of the punk, emo, hardcore, and any subsequent genres I used to write about and love. The AV Club recently wrote an article regarding tastes changing when you get older and while I agree with that to a certain extent, but there are still artists and albums coming out every so often that peak my interest. There are more recent bands such as The Swellers, Manchester Orchestra, The Gaslight Anthem, The Devil Wears Prada, The Dangerous Summer, Mute Math and a few others who have piqued my interest but overall, I just don’t get excited for most new music that has come out in the past couple years.

The truth of the matter is that I am ultimately more excited for the third album mixtape from R&B/lo-fi sensation The Weeknd than the new Blink-182 album. I am going to check out the new Blink-182 album, but it’s not the same feeling that I once had. When the band was about the release their self-titled back in 2003, I was on the edge of my seat. Now you would have a hard time getting me out of that same seat. The reason why I mention that album is because it delivered. Sure, it was still Blink-182 but it was different. The songs were still pop-punk but this time there were more influences than The Ramones, NOFX, and the like. With each song, I didn’t know which direction the band would take next. Now though, I feel like most bands are delivering “what the fans want” as opposed to taking any chances. I had a feeling what the new single would sound like because it sounds like Blink-182. It sounds like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Enema of the State, and ultimately, self-titled Blink-182. I don’t want to hear the same record over again. I want to hear a new record.

However, I was excited when I first heard The Weeknd’s second mixtape Thursday. I didn’t know what to expect from this and each song had its own identity. Each song showcased the impressive vocal abilities of Abel Tesfaye and takes you in a different direction. It’s not predictable. His music paints a picture of a world that he wants to take you. He isn’t delivering a sound that he gave you with his first mixtape, House of Balloons; this is what a new record sounds like.

What’s the main difference I am trying to point out here? Tesfaye’s music is not disposable. Flavor of the week? Perhaps. But it’s something I will listen to more than once. With many of these emo/punk/hardcore albums, you can listen to them once and then throw them away. Like pop music was once referred to, it’s the fast-food of the music industry. Like fast-food though, people over indulge and eat up the same sound they have been given.

I use Blink-182 and The Weeknd as mere examples; they are not the standards here. The truth is you could place a younger punk band in place of Blink-182 and an older indie band in place of The Weeknd and you will get a much more accurate depiction. At least Blink-182 keeps it relatively interesting and have some nostalgic value. For instance, I would be more interested in listening to the new Wilco album than the new Madina Lake album. I don’t even like Wilco, but I already know what I am going to get from the former. On any given day, I would rather listen to something interesting than mindless dribble.

I got into punk music to begin with because it was different from what was on the radio. I became invested in music because there was investment in the music. I feel bad for those who are indulging in something which is not genuine. I want previous generations to have what I had. They don’t need to have an “old band doing the same thing” or “new band in the vein of”, they need a new original band.

I write this because I believe that most of the music publications that are present today feed into this idea of quick-response-no-gain music. The big ones are mostly responsible for this, but it’s complicated system that gets more involved. If a big publication wants to write about one band, the record label asks them to write about another in hopes to give them what they actually want. Publicists get more money to push certain bands and return favors to these blogs. These bands get on big tours because they have funding for a better booking agent or manager.

But it’s not only the industry’s responsibility to change this. The burden also falls on the listener. Don’t take everything that is hand-fed to you. Step outside of your comfort zone and check out to something you might not listen to. Listen to music with an open mind. You never know what you will find.

— Dave Giumara, 09/13/2011

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