Is Rock and Roll still mainstream? Should it be?

By James Mellen III, Staff Writer

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash discussed the state of Rock and Roll music recently, saying that the genre was no longer mainstream and he liked it better that way.

Slash says that Rock and Roll falling out of the mainstream has paved the way for newer artists to say things that they “weren’t necessarily comfortable saying in the mainstream arena.”

There’s some truth to this; in 1967 The Beatles made the charts singing about LCD on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

The 1970s London’s police department arrested Harraj Mann, a cell phone salesman, for humming London Calling by The Clash, a song that reached number eleven in the charts.

The decade also gave birth to plenty of other controversial punk (a genre whose roots come from rock and roll) bands like the Sex Pistols and Bad Brains
In the 80s the front man of Slash’s own band Axe releases a song that dropped both the N word and f*****t.

In the 90s Rage Against the Machine went triple platinum with lyrics like “I’m rollin down rodeo with a shotgun; these people ain’t seen a brown skinned man since their grandparents bought one”, Nirvana’s single “Rape Me” hit the top 100 in four countries, and Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar” hit number three on the billboard 200

My point is that even when rock and roll was mainstream, nobody had any qualms about saying what was on their minds. Rock and roll was the concern for many parent, pastors, and politicians for half of a century. Even Elvis caused concern for the way he danced.

However, while Rock and roll might not be getting any more controversial, it is definitely getting more experimental, and for a lack of a better term, weirder.

Some genres in the rock spectrum have barely changed at all, hardcore for instance, the last Knocked Loose album sounds like it easily could have come out in the 1980s. Heavy hitting percussive bass and guitar, blast beats, and vocals and lyrics that punch you in the face. This formula will never go wrong, and as long as there are 17 year angry kids who need to get punched in the face on a Friday night, it probably never will.

Other sub-genres are still being maintained by the same group of guys that have been doing it since the 90s. Queens of the Stone Age has consistently been dropping songs of basically the same formula since the mid-90s and it’s all at least pretty good. Other great rock bands of the last century have attempted to stay relevant and failed, like Pixies who had some idea that they could still drop good records without Kim Deal (I’m still upset about this)
Some sub-genres are thriving in what is more or less a new scene, namely psychedelic rock. Oh Sees and King Gizzard and The Lizard WIzard both released albums in 2017, and while Psychedelic rock might not be something that is necessarily new, these bands are gaining a lot of popularity in a genre that hasn’t seen it previously.

Bands like The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile have been mixing folk music with rock since 2014. This type of music hasn’t really been heard before, both bands have the ability to be incredibly and lofi while still having that heavier rock sound.

Then there are records that are so different from what has been done before they need a special mention in the discussion of the state of rock and roll/Swans-To Be Kind (2013)

The album is a hypnotic journey with heavy grooves, deep bass, and slow building rifts. There are moments in this album that are nearly impossible to fully pick apart. Even the lead single and most easily digestible song on the album A Little God In My Hand is highly experimental. This is truly one of the most interesting albums to ever come out of the rock genre and very likely wouldn’t have been possible if rock albums were still chatring the top 100.

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (2010) This album really pushes the role of the synthesizer in rock music. The dance and EDM influence is hard to miss on songs like One Touch and the nine minute opener Dance Yrself Clean (Side note this is the best song of the century I will not be arguing this ever). While other songs are basically parody of older rock songs but with the addition of Synths. Very good album that also can derive success from rock going underground.

Perhaps rock is slipping out of the mainstream little by little. But, perhaps that’s what it needs to evolve.

PHOTO COURTESY: THE TIMES

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