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When blog becomes blah-g

November 29, 2013

I have a bit of block on the blog of late. Part of it is a drain on my time and energy. Part of it is that I feel flat about a lot of new music.

I’m not sure why, but I find too many bands sound too much like each other. Too much alt country and roots stuff, which is music I generally quite like. Too many indie hipster collectives with a flock of people pretty much playing all the same parts and singing the same chanting vocals. Sure, this stuff might not sound like some factory-produced corpo-pop, but neither is it very imaginative. I’m tired of their sameness, their self-important attitude, their musical timidity, tired of the hype bestowed upon them by my fellow music snobs.

In recent years, I’ve glommed onto new stuff in a number of ways, from Paste and Pitchfork, to NPR’s World Café and CBC’s Q. Ten years ago, I remember getting excited about records by Wilco and Sufjan Stevens, ones I still really like. At the time it seemed like the supply of good bands and artists was inexhaustible to the point where it overwhelmed me.

Most of these acts are still out there, and many are still making good music. On the whole though, I have been experiencing what can only be called buzz band fatigue. I frankly don’t care about most of what’s going on. There’s some electronic stuff (e.g. Dan Deacon, Tim Hecker) that perks up my ears, but many indie rock bands sound stale to me.

The Gibson Les Paul. Once upon a time it was used to play guitar solos.

The Gibson Les Paul. Once upon a time it was used to play guitar solos.

The other factor might be that most of the music I’ve bought of late consists of used LPs from the 60s or 70s, with maybe a few from the 80s thrown in. What’s evident to me is how unafraid musicians were of their instruments 40 years ago. It didn’t matter whether it was Zeppelin, Yes or Jackson Browne, you were likely to hear a well-crafted guitar solo. Real craftsmanship.

The guitar solo though has seemed like an endangered species in recent decades. I’m not advocating the argument that more always means more, but it seems like some many bands now barely learn to play their instruments. Again, athletics does not always translate into aesthetics, but neither does simplicity. Seriously, if you’ve got a dozen people jumping up and down on stage making music that could’ve been made by two guys with Roland synths and a drum machine back in the 80s, you’re not so much a band as you are a dance troupe. (Yes, that’s right, here I give a rare compliment to the 1980s.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been excited to come across acts like Sharon Van Etten or Tuneyards or Grizzly Bear in recent years, but I no longer feel the need to keep up with all this new stuff. Much of it is OK. Very little of it is great.

Who knows? In a few months, there might be a half dozen bands I suddenly care deeply about, but frankly the most exciting “discoveries” I’ve made in the last couple of years have been bands like Spiritualized or Swans, acts that have actually been around for two or three decades.

On the other hand, I might just go through one of my phases where I listen to little else but the jazz or experimental records in my collection.

I do hope the blahs pass; otherwise, I might have to start calling this my “blah-g” rather than my blog.

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From → Essays

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