Rock is definitely not dead

By Neshy Denton

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I hear a lot of this these days. There are complaints about how today’s young generation is as thick as two short planks. It’s always mentioned and has turned out to be common knowledge, dismissed in passive approval. It might as well already be recorded in history books. To make sure our future generations don’t miss out on this record-breaking dull-wittedness we’ve seemed to achieve amongst our peers. A victory, though – I must add – is like whiskey; it relies on the passing of time to be appreciated properly. At least it’s a victory in some shape or matter. 

But then, should we be so derogatory towards ourselves? I indignantly find myself agreeing through numb reactions to commentaries made by our elders. “Oh yes, such a shame.” As if we’d lost all sense of pride and settled on descending into our own self-pitying hole. I’ve caught myself questioning whether this idiocracy appeared with the arrival of smartphones or whether, thanks to these smartphones – and the massification of information – we’ve finally revealed the already very much living idiocracy around the world. I may be reading too much into this but, the less ignorant we become, the thicker we reveal ourselves to be. Can you see where I am going with this?

As much as I’d love to carry on speaking about my generation’s crusted minds, I bring this topic to apply to the rock music scene today. I bet you’ve heard the one and only quote: rock music is dead. Once again, I adhere to my late point. It is no lie what Gen X and millennials say about the genre’s shift in popularity on the charts, as rap and hip hop music nudged their way to the top of the streamline battle. Rock music was the voice of progress and innovation that saw the rise of ground-shattering pieces of work. The 60s and 70s became the century’s factory, spitting out bands like confetti on the street. Until bands started becoming producers. Technologies started individualising the new artistic incorporations and as the generations got older, classic rock was coined as “Dad rock”. Making it all the easier to accept defeat and leave rock music stuck in the past. 

As a 22-year-old music enthusiast, it is quite draining to be constantly reminded about how much better it used to be. We listen, we understand and even idly agree. It rather makes sense – as Gen Z, we’ve already seemed to mess up everything else somehow. But during a contemplative moment, after being reminded by a close rock-enthusiast friend, I sat listening to Turnstile’s latest album “Glow On” and drifted into their deep urgency of musical disobedience. That’s what it felt like: defiance in its dense bassline form. I could feel a defensive loudness in this music as a response to the mockery we’ve come to normalise toward our own, at least within my interpretation.

We don’t realise what musical era we’re living through. It is a unique one we should be proud to call our own. It’s this alternative rock explosion, calling all boundary-breaking bands who still stay true to what rock first represented; a societal shout in its most adrenaline-inducing form, but this time altered with an outstanding and unique delivery of not giving a rat’s arse of today’s hierarchy. It’s bands like IDLES, King Gizzard, Viagra Boys, Soft Play, Turnstile, Fontaines DC etc, who’ve found a voice to move young people from their online timidity and into the mosh pits of repressive outbursts. 

The sound is loud. It’s addictive. It’s new. It’s what rock was always meant to be. We’re being handed history on a silver plate and are not about to take this for granted. This movement is alive yet still being crafted. Through post-punk remedies, electronic synth experiments, classic blues that’s just too good to leave in the past, psychedelic distortion, powerful riffs, spoken, shouted, whispered vocals. The boiling pot of years of rock n’ roll has led to the very creation and representation of what we, today’s young generation, have turned out to be: a bittersweet madness. 

I encourage you, fellow readers, to go and listen to IDLES’ new album “Tangk”. It has not failed to deposit a heartrendingly propitious happiness into my heart. The defiant empowerment nestled between Talbot’s pull and release of impetuous lyricism binds this art piece into what music stands for today. It is finding a new softness within ourselves to allow the uncooperative diligence to step down and give way to our individual grievances. Eleven songs, eleven beautiful vows. They go from breathing soulful quavers in songs like A Gospel and Grace to revealing their distinguished steady bellows in others like Hall & Oats and Dancer. Just musical crafting at its finest.

It has become common ground between many of us to feel part of these bands’ community. Where I guess – I might be sounding mopey now, apologies – we can feel understood in our young confusion. We now live in times of fleeting tenors and an almost absent comprehension of the presence. We’ve been divided into the before and the after of the screen ages as if this were a modern version of Christianity. The before lived in a nostalgia’s simplicity and classic rock. But us afters have fallen upon the insanity of a complex and everlasting illusion of acceleration. Today’s rock scene has adapted to how we work. We resonate with its ferocity, and the best thing about its addictiveness – and very contagious profundity – is that it welcomes everyone to join in on this journey of adrenaline and outrageous love.

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Cover photo by Tom Ham