Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Debt of Gratitude to This Decade in Music, Part I

I am profoundly grateful to many bands that have come out of the past decade. The 2000’s have been an exciting time of musical discovery for me personally, a period in which I embraced my own generation of musicians and, for the first time, fell in love with new music as it was released. I always felt left out of the music scene, intimidated and out of touch because all of the music I connected with was made years before I was born. Why couldn’t I get excited about the music that came out of the 90’s? After all, it was the time when I first fell in love with rock and roll.

I was in high school when Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the rest of the grunge movement blew up. I bought that music, and liked it, but I can’t really say that it excited me or that I felt connected to it. I would much rather listen to Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, Tom Petty, Bob Marley and Fleetwood Mac. And so it was that the classic rock staples of the 1970’s saw me through my high school years and into college. So when 2000 rolled around, I was bored and musically uninspired. I anxiously awaited new releases from my trusted favorites, but was frustrated that I was relying on my parents’ generation to provide music that I could relate to.

I can divide my music fandom into two eras: before I discovered the White Stripes and after I discovered the White Stripes. Theirs was the sound the abruptly jerked me into the new millennium and started me on a path of discovery of new and exciting rock and roll. I’ve wondered if I was first introduced to the Strokes, if their sound would have had the same impact. Though I love the Strokes, I think not. I don’t believe any other band besides the Stripes could have provided the bridge between classic and contemporary rock that I needed to open my ears and to open my mind. The White Stripes had the garage sound that new bands, like the Strokes, were producing in the early part of the decade, but their songs had the unmistakable influence of Jimmy Page-style blues-rock that was needed to draw me in.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to my brother, with whom – ironically - I share essentially no musical common ground. Despite his proclivity for hip-hop, he came to visit me one weekend in 2004, armed with what must have been every newly released rock album. I vividly remember hanging out in my living room for the better part of that weekend, playing through his music library and getting excited about music for the first time in years. In that weekend, I was introduced to The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, and many others that ultimately left a lesser impression on me.

The decade in music started bleakly, with a seemingly unending parade of pre-packaged pop tarts and boy bands, heavily focused on image and void of homegrown substance. Fortunately, rock fans didn’t have to wait long for reasons to feel excited about music again. Bands like the White Stripes and the Strokes striped rock down, essentially leveling it and rebuilding the foundation, and put the focus back on what was important: quality songwriting and authentic playing. And while those bands had an element of seriousness in their image and their playing, by mid-decade, bands like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand were following suit but filling an additional void: they were making great rock and roll colorful and fun, danceable, and thoroughly addicting.

Much has changed in music, and the delivery of music, since mid-decade. Rock music has also inspired me and brought a lot to my life in the past five years. Because the latter half of the 2000’s introduced me to more great bands than I can cover in this post (some of which, like Muse and Arcade Fire, I discovered late in the game), I am dividing this essay into two parts. Please check back in a few days to read Part II of My Debt of Gratitude to This Decade in Music!

-AZ

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