I'm not sure exactly when it happened. 2003, 2004 maybe. After that I find little to no evidence proving otherwise. There is an occasional blip on the proverbial radar, but there is nothing consistent or convincing enough to prove otherwise.
Something has happened in the past few years.
We have entered a new Dark Ages. What was once a thriving community full of pride and integrity has been reduced to an embarrassing shadow of its former self. The founding fathers of the scene as we once knew it have been replaced. The bands that once served as the core of this movement have been designated as backups while “fresh” and “up and coming” bands rise to the top, achieving ungodly levels of success.
Honesty and talent have been replaced with picture perfect looks. Sincerity and passion have been replaced with dance beats. Innovation is down, imitation is up. You could take most of the members of the current wave of popular acts and interchange them between bands, and nobody would ever know the difference. The bands themselves probably wouldn’t even know. They would press the same synth key while strumming the same power chord while pulling back their hair as they licked their lips staring down the sea of 14 year old girls who have come to see them play tonight.
Give me a fucking break.
I look at a band like Thursday. To say they have had a significant role in forming the scene as we know it would be an enormous understatement. Following the release of Full Collapse and their subsequent explosion in popularity, Thursday was the scene. Watching the band's documentary Kill The House Lights not long ago, I was struck by one of the interviews. They were speaking to a guy who helped manage the band throughout their early years. He spoke of when they were dealing with major labels and what these labels were expecting of them. He said something along the lines of these record executives expecting this band to be the new Nirvana. Can you believe that? A bunch of old men driving BMWs and wearing freshly pressed suits expecting these guys who had crawled out of a basement in Jersey to be the defining band of the generation.
Want to know the most ridiculous part of all that? The fact that this band actually did accomplish that. This band is my Nirvana. To this day, I still remember with perfect clarity the first time I ever heard a song by them. Living in the backwoods hellhole that is northern Georgia, it is hard to imagine any other area more culturally devoid or separated from any sort of creative energy. This is where dreams go to die. I was sitting in the passenger seat of a shoddy pickup truck belonging to my best friend.
"Dude, you've gotta hear this. You've just gotta fucking hear this." He put in Full Collapse. The intro played, and I was graced with the wonder that is Understanding In A Car Crash. I had never heard anything like this. I grew up on school buses that played country music and oldies. This blew my mind. This was something I had never heard before. This was good. Right away, I was hooked, and I knew this was the beginning of something incredible.
When do you think is the last time the current generation of listeners experienced something like that? Kids these days don’t have anything remotely similar to this occurring. They have front row tickets to a musical landscape currently awash with designer bands, skin tight pants, and product placement. Bands that sing about absolutely nothing are making more money, selling more albums, and having their music heard by more people than any of the bands that have been proving themselves for years now. They play backing tracks and synthesizers instead of guitars and drums. They worry more about their ridiculously shaped hair than their ability to write lyrics that aren't reminiscent of what would be found in a 7th grader's MEAD spiral notebook. They are more concerned with producing a 3 minute and 34 second long radio friendly track in hopes that they will be able to shoot a video to showcase their cuteness.
We live in an age of friend requests and MySpace plays. What the fuck is the point, what does that shit even mean? MySpace pages for bands are filled with comment after comment from hormone overloaded teenage girls spouting line after line of nonsensical, unwarrantedl praise. These clowns have been anointed Gods of the Earth for their ability to keep their hair in place and croon sweet auto tuned vocals over an E chord while a drum beat permeates the background.
When the fuck did the music stop being about the music? When did that feeling go away?
The bands I grew up with had nothing but word of mouth and maybe a few demos on a long lost website known as MP3.com. Yeah, that's right, back in the day bands like Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate, (insert other band of yesteryear here) did things the old fashion way. And it worked. They were sincere. They cared about the music, and they cared about their fans. I don't look back on any of the albums those bands put out and think "What is he talking about?" or "That's just so trite and forced, who is he trying to impress?" Every line, every lyric, every song is as honest as you can get. And it shows. Very little music that is being made today compares to any of the early work of said artists and the other bands that they held company with.
MTV put a bullet in the chest of the scene. The internet and the explosion of technology in general put two in the back of its' head. What was the killing blow? I’m not sure. Maybe kids in general are just dumb as shit and simply don’t care about anything anymore. As long as they get to be captain of the cheerleading squad or as long as they get their cock sucked on prom night, maybe they really just don’t give a fuck about anything. There’s no time in their lives or room in the hearts to experience and appreciate something like this.
It bothers me that people are abandoning the intimate experience of having that moment when they hear a song, or even more farfetched, a whole album, and think to themselves "Wow, they feel just how I feel. This is something special.” That connection is being made less and less with today’s listeners.
Music has become a commodity. An accessory. A revolving door of shit. There are still bands making great music, many of them part of the original lineup that made this genre so successful to begin with. But they are no longer the priority, and it is getting harder and harder for them to survive.
Maybe I have gotten too old and I am in denial about the evolution of music. Maybe I have already reached an age of nostalgia. Maybe I’m totally wrong about everything. But I don’t think I am. Something is different. The community has suffered, the industry has suffered, and most of all, the listener has suffered.
Especially the kid who hasn’t even had the chance to listen yet. It makes me sad to think that as this progresses, fewer and fewer kids will be having moments like I did sitting in my friends truck, having my life changed by the sounds coming through the speakers.
Perhaps things will never reach that level again. It is hard for me to imagine anything as groundbreaking occurring anytime soon. I am disappointed at the direction the scene has gone over the years, but I am thrilled I was there to see it at its finest. Those are the days I will never, ever forget.