A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Why I Loathe Modern Rock

Originally published: 29 August 2003

It's weird how - as you get older - you start to see alarming similarities between the way your parents thought when you were a kid, and how your attitudes change as you get older.

Parents have always hated your music, your friends, your clothing and anything else you perceive to be cool, and I'm starting to understand why.

I don't consider myself old by any stretch of the imagination - well - no older than 31, that is, and I think I have a fairly good idea of what modern teenagers and twenty-somethings consider cool and groovy (it certainly helps to have MTV on all night in the background).

The trouble is - I don't agree with them, which essentially makes me no better than my parents, who in turn were markedly cooler than their parents, and so on.

I'll admit to having recoiled in horror when I assimilated this fact, but reflecting on it - it's not that I'm being fuddy-duddy about it, but rather the fact that the music and culture I experienced as a young adult was what defined my taste today, and there are precious few folks still catering to the kind of music and culture I enjoy.

There are numerous artists springing up all the time and while I understand the allure to young folks of most of them, there are some that leave me completely dumbfounded.

Take Justin Timberlake, for example - his latest video shows him as the only white guy at a black disco club and he's the guy who gets up in front of the mic and gets the party rocking, with his pseudo-African American accent and highly embarassing R&B arm and hand movements.

He's Michael Jackson in reverse, with an ounce of the talent. Does he think he's black? Or does he simply want to be black? And if not - what the fuck is he doing?

Why does he pronounce the phrase "with you" as "witchoo"? Surely he can't believe he's just another homie from da hood, hangin' wid his bitchas?

It worries me, is all. But I'm not here to discuss the career moves - bizarre as they are - of Justin Timberlake. What concerns me more is what is being passed off as hard rock these days, because let me tell you - someone, somewhere is very confused as to the definition of that musical genre.

Back in my day you had guitarists like Brian May, Slash, Kirk Hammett, The Edge, Bary Moore, Joe Satriani, Jeff Beck, Johnny Marr, Steve Vai and Eddie van Halen, and before them you had blokes like Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Page - all of whom were rock musicians who created and defined modern rock music.

Not all of it was pretty - there was a lot of very raw music around in the eighties and early nineties - but it conveyed the spirit behind the intention of the music.

Things like anger, rage and torture were conveyed through the six strings of a rock god's flying vee and you were never in doubt as to what the artist was trying to convey.

But can you name me one guitarist today who is defining anything, let alone new concepts, sounds and uniqueness? You don't even get guitarists anymore, as you no longer get guitar solos.

Think about songs like Hotel California by The Eagles, or November Rain by Guns 'n Roses - long, long solos, creating tracks up to ten minutes in length and beyond. Freedom of artistic expression.

But these days rock is packaged, wrapped and glossed up, and the kids performing it have absolutely no idea what they are doing.

Very few of them look like they've spent even one night vomiting into a gutter, let alone a lifetime of pain and anguish to atone for through their music. Their guitar sounds are clean and functional, but not memorable nor unique, and the whole genre now smacks of corporate interference and targeted marketing campaigns.

The grunt has gone out of rock and what was once the domain of the depressed, outraged or just plain pissed off is now the territory of young, bleached, asexual boys, who wouldn't know pain if you stapled them to a termite mound by their pubeless, modern testicles.


Nobody stuffs their faces with heroin and cocaine anymore, nobody overdoses, there are never stories about the wild men of rock trashing their hotels in orgies of hedonistic rage - nothing.

Just posed, wishy-washy MTV interviews and the occasional snippet about some boy band member who was a bad boy and stayed out all night without telling his mother, and as a result turned up on set 40 minutes late for the filming of their new video.

Oh, the horror. You bad-ass mu'a'fu'a. You goddamn animal. Woo. Oh yeah. Let's have another glass of hot milk. Bad, baby.

With Kurt Cobain's death came the end of rock as a genre for true artists and it has never been the same since. The intention behind it has changed and the marketing boys - who dictate modern culture anyway - are the reason behind the totally sterile and false nature of the modern rock band.

Maybe that view makes me old-fashioned in the eyes of the young, but maybe it also makes me pretty smart. I did Metallica, they do Wheezer. I split my skull like a melon against the head of a stranger while pogo-ing to G&R, while they think Blink182 is the modern day anti-christ.

Linkin' Park is seen as a major player in hard rock, yet they're a bunch of kids with carefully cultured goatees who neither look nor behave like men.

And to me rock is the epitomy of a man - questioning, filled with outrage at injustice and angry at the world for having delivered more hard knocks than anybody has a right to take.

The music is motivated by the madness and the intentions behind it should be pure, but I fear we have lost the lawlessness and general sense of anarchy that hung like an aura around rock gods of old, to be replaced with the slightly bad yet squeaky-clean images of modern wannabes who are careful to offend with discretion, with one eye firmly on the bottom line.

The heart and soul of rock is gone. Might as well do away with the music as well.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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