Recently I saw a pretty interesting BBC4 documentary called “Whatever Happened to Rock ‘n’ Roll?” hosted by Lauren Laverene. She quizzed a few musicians on whether they thought rock music was dead. Unsurprisingly, the old out of touch men ( in this case Dr John Cooper Clarke and Eric Burdon) said that it was. Because it wasn’t how they remembered it.
The sole female member of the panel, Jehnny Beth, of the wonderful Savages, pointed out that it isn’t. It’s just that music is different, the social landscape is different, the technological experience is totally different. It’s just different.
Death may well be a change, but to change is not to die.
Of course, I understand that the problem today is largely one of saturation: there’s too much choice and not enough time between selfies to make our own decisions or listen to opinion makers suggestions. I accept and understand that, but a difficulty in finding a thing is irrefutable evidence of its absence. It’s just a sign of at best laziness and at worst total idiocy.
Troll through this blog. Every band featured here in photographic format represents something vital, exciting and exhilarating through their own interpretations of their musical influences. They create this music because they love it and perform it to people who still thirst to be exposed to new music.
If that is death then the afterlife sounds a lot more exhausting, and satisfying, than I ever imagined.
For the purposes of this piece here’s two examples from Glasgow: Swallows and Rainfalls. Both are bands you could comfortably fit into the broad statements of punk rock and hardcore. Both played in Glasgow last Wednesday night and both of them delivered intense, emotive and confrontational sets.
Rainfalls music is a touch more textured and considered than that of Swallows. Their songs intertwine aggressive moments with introspective and intimate moments of dark clarity. The band’s music is brooding and thought provoking. The emotional burn is a slow one, but its all the more potent for it.
Swallows play music that feels more like a reaction. A reaction to fear, to desperation, to pain, to resolution. Their short stabs of intensely visceral music are immediate and totally compelling.
If Rainfalls are a considered cathartic outpouring then Swallows are the uncontrollable emotional crescendo that precedes it. By that I mean: you can have a dance to Rainfalls and forget your troubles. When you listen to Swallows you take your demons by the throat and pummel them into the dance floor.
It’s a subtle distinction.
With any luck those descriptions don’t make you feel like the music of these bands is “dead” because genuine, honest, potent music like this makes me feel very much alive.
It’s why I love photographing bands who play music like this. Typically the dead don’t tear their shirts from their backs or dangle from the rafters. At least not in my experience. Maybe I’m just hanging out in the wrong graveyards…
There’s nothing dead in the ability Rainfalls have to make a large room seem tiny and claustrophobic during their delicate moments before exploding into tortured climaxes. There’s nothing dead about Swallows throwing themselves around in abandon and spending as much time in the crowd as they do on stage.
That’s just two bands from Glasgow opening for a touring package which features the likes of Australia’s fun Endless Heights and the UK’s excellent Landscapes on a Wednesday night. Two bands in a city full of remarkable talent. Think how that translates across the rest of Scotland. Or the UK. Or Europe…you get the idea.
Rock isn’t dead. The old men just don’t have any interest in looking for it. And I’m glad. Quite frankly they’ll just get in the way of the rest of us.
Or if I am wrong and rock and alternative music is dead then here’s to death. Long may it continue.