Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Radio Ka-Ka

This is more of a rant, and will eventually be permanently posted on my "Adam's Rants" section in the Boritom site.

I am recently noticing a resurgence of a rather stupid trend lately. That trend is the accusation of fans that their favorite band or musician is selling out, merely because they added a new element or style to the music they record.
As a "for instance," I shall cite a discussion I've had with several friends "back in the day." Many of my friends around the time I was going to college were big fans of Queen and Rush. Both bands were, in their early years, fairly straightforward rock bands which rarely, if ever, used keyboards or synthesizers at all. As the 70's drew to a close, both bands, now more affluent, started using synthesizers fairly regularly. These friends of mine, in conversations that took place nearly 15 years after the fact, judged these bands harshly, accusing them of "selling out" when they started using electronic keyboards. Such instrumentation, it was surmised, was the exclusive pervue of sickly little pop bands that were only in it for the money. Often, when I would put forth the opinion that they were now able to compose music with a broader range of musical moods, which would, if anything, expand their creative diversity, I would be shunned as a poor, misguided fool. Of course, now, another 15 years later, some of their more synth-heavy tracks are among the most beloved songs in their catalogue.

Ultimately, what irritates me the most about this is the fact that, in many cases, one of the things that keeps bands from trying anything different and challenging themselves is the fear of alienating their fans. The same holds true with other art forms as well, but music, Rock music in particular, seems especially vulnerable to this kind of closed-mindedness. There have been many cases where an artist or group have branched out and tried something new, only to have their fans evacuate their legions like rats leaving a sinking ship. Where would Pink Floyd have been if their fans had just amscrayed with the release of "Dark Side Of The Moon" because there were no songs about scarecrows or gnomes on it?

Of course, sometimes a style change is good for the career. Ever listen to the first Ministry album? Try playing "With Sympathy" and "The Land of Rape and Honey" back to back some time. The former is a saccarine, 80's Euro-pop shitstorm with all the heart of Commander Data reciting all of the different components of the Enterprise's warp drive system. The latter is an intense, wrenching experience, with poer, drive and more than a little fury. LoRaH will blow you away, whereas WS will just blow you, and it won't even swallow.

On the other hand, when stadium supergroup Styx tried to cash in on the up-coming techno market with "Kilroy Was Here" in 1982, they failed to capture the feel of the genre they were chasing after, and in so doing, alienated many of their fans. This was further exacerbated by the release of the unpalatable "Music Time" single on their live album the following year. In recent years, they have reformed and tried to recapture some of their audience, but with diminished success. In this instance, however, the protestations that Styx had sold out and were trying to cash in were justified. This is not the case with Rush or Queen.

The battle rages on, as Green Day's sound seems to mellow out from the pseudo-punk feel of their earlier releases to a more radio-friendly approach on their most recent album, "American Idiot." Similarly, Rob Zombie's more recent release, "Educated Horses," also boasts a somewhat different style, bringing an almost rockabilly facet into his trademark metallic formula. In both cases, however, the changes seem to enhance the existing template of these artists, and although there is noticeable resistance from some of their fans, there does seem to be a somewhat more acceptant attitude where artistic experimentation is considered.

I for one would applaud a more diverse attitude towards expanded musical styles. One radio station in Phoenix, The EDGE (KEDJ FM) has even started expanding beyond their goth/alternative format to include smatterings of Johnny Cash and other seemingly incongruous artists, no doubt due in part to Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails's song, "Hurt" released shortly before his death last year. That's not the only "Man In Black" track they play, however, and I find it quite refreshing that a Goth/Punk/Alternative station is playing songs that were recorded in the 1960's. Now, if I could just get them to play some Pink Floyd or Velvet Underground...


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