Music can be a breeding ground for revolution. But revolutions in music come and go. That’s why it’s called rock and roll. (Maybe that’s not the reason.)
Carrying this potentially flawed metaphor forward, we’re pretty deep in the "roll" part of the cycle. And plenty a pixel has banged the death gong for rock as we know it.
So whether you’re feeling the soft-around-the-edges sounds of today or the new brand of bearded flannelcore, you can’t argue that rock is ripe for a comeback. Or at least you can’t argue with Steve Diggle, the original bassist, now the guitarist for punk rock disruptors Buzzcocks. He was sticking his two fingers in the face of the Man back when many of us were singing along to Sesame Street.
"I think there are musical biorhythms," Diggle says. "When we started in '76, it was kind of like it is now. It’s like, 'What the fuck?' There’s no finances for record companies to sign anything that’s a bit off-the-wall, so all that’s left is the lowest common denominator now." With the exception of the rare breakthrough, of course, like the band Waters, and in particular, their song "For The One," which is not unlike something you’d have heard from the Buzzcocks. Switching gears, I asked Waters’s songwriter Van Pierszalowski why so much new music sound like the Beach Boys and James Taylor so little like "For The One?"
"Rock can be terribly uncool. And I think people just get tired of it," Van Pierszalowski said. So you get what you find on Pitchfork now. But he also said the last revolution is still fresh in his mind. "I do specifically remember that time--Strokes, White Stripes, The Vines--and I remember thinking, 'Rock was dead and now it’s back.'"
Why bring this up now? With these people? Because I have a chance to simultaneously illustrate this point with a DJ set on Turntable.fm and raise money for One Laptop Per Child. What’s the connection between a tech charity and a rock 'n’ roll (and some pop) DJ set, you ask? I don’t know, man. It’s using technology to support funding more technology where it can do a tremendous amount of good. That work for you as a convergence of creative forces (it’s kind of what we’re all about here on Co.Create)?
The set starts at 1:45 p.m. today, Friday, December 16. I’m "battling" Kunur Patel from Advertising Age, but, really, everyone wins here. Put on headphones, turn up speakers, and browse right here and listen to me under the DJ name FastCoTG. The more of you that show up and like up my songs, the more likely it is we’ll raise money for educating the world’s neediest kids.
While you’re doing it, let’s chat about why I chose what I chose, and you see if you can figure out the reason I paired the songs I did.
Generally speaking, I’m playing artists from a few decades ago that shook up music, paired with modern artists they’ve clearly inspired since. It’s the cycle thing I’ve just been going on about. Buzzcocks clearly inspired Jay Reatard. Gang of Four were an obvious influence on the Rapture. Van Pierszalowski set out to make the Waters record, Out In The Light, sound like a Nirvana recording. "We were using In Utero as a template," Pierszalowski says. "That’s one of those records that’ll never sound that dated."
And, maybe toward the end, there’ll be a bit of a comment on artists who are borrowing a bit too much--about the time you hear The xx, followed by Rihanna. That kind of recycling irks Buzzcocks’ Diggle the most. (He’s recently put out a solo record, Air Conditioning , under the appropriately titled moniker Steve Diggle & the Revolution of Sound.)
"It’s time for revolution man," Diggle says. "Because I don’t give a fuck about Beyonce selling a million and all that."