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What’s in a Genre Label?


Starting this one is a bit difficult.  You see I despise labels.  I realize they are required for us to verbally communicate and describe things to each other.  But the nature of labeling music a certain style is sets us up for disaster.  By the time we define a music genre by a specific chord progression or a specific beat we’ve very well killed the creativity of the genre.  For the genre to expand or evolve it has to have room to grow.

I still remember when the rave scene made an attempt on the life of music back in the early 2000’s.  Oh I do love all kinds of music but when I’m required to state that I like Tech Indie Rave Jungleo Future Pop Step that has a beat that goes kick kick hi hat kick kick kick hi hat hi hat hi hat and I might accidentally get it confused with Tech Indie Trance Semi-Future Pop Hop that has a beat that goes kick kick hi hat kick kick kick hi hat hi hat kick then those labels are killing music.  Yes I’m exaggerating but sub-genres get way out of hand.

So anyway, I’m going to go over a few of the labels I use and what they mean to me and complain about a few.  So on with the offending!

Aggro-tech – This is a stupid name thought up by stupid people!  I mean seriously people, you combined a wow term with tech.  Suicide Commando has been around since the late 80’s and in just in the past few years we’ve moved from Industrial and EBM to Aggro-tech?  Screw that.

Industrial – This is a meaningless term present day.  Its become a popular term to abandon or to push non-inventive dark music into.  This term used to mean the world to me.  It embodied experimentation, rebellion, and free thought all in one.  Now evidently it just means dance music or more heavy metal style acts like KMFDM, Marylin Manson, or Korn.  Totally wasn’t my choice for the term but society doesn’t include me in its decisions.

Punk – This is a tough one as I’m no punk aficionado.  I like Social Distortion, Dead Kennedy’s, and Black Flag as well as the next guy but its hard for me to be hard nosed about the usage of the word.  I suppose you could say the old political punk from the late 70’s and early 80’s is gone.  The punk label doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore.

Rock ‘n’ Roll – Two immediate thoughts come into my brain at this harrowing genre.

1) The death of all music also known as the bands known as Nickelback and Creed.

2) Real Rock still exists, just not on the radio.

Honestly I probably never really knew what rock was anyway.  In all reality its probably just people smoking pot wearing colorful clothes and trying to sound educated without doing any research.  My idealized idea of rock is kind of where I’d consider the delta blues to have gone.  A place where free styling pain happens.  Kind of like what Jack White talks about on the movie “It Might Get Loud”.  This is also where I like to think modern punk has gone.  No digital refinement and mistakes don’t matter.  What matters is the attitude and the truthfulness and rawness of it all.

No this doesn’t include Hippie jam bands.  Playing four chords for eight hours in 4/4 time does not constitute any sort of talent or anti-talent.  Seriously, solve world hunger, kill a hippie.

Jazz – This word really is a catch all phrase.  I’m no expert on jazz styles and I doubt I ever was.  My fondest memories of being in a band are actually my jazz band in high school.  I certainly do not know what modern day jazz is.  Almost everything present day is rooted in jazz but seems to have entirely lost the point of the technical free form that is the basis of jazz.  Hell the blues used to be a style of jazz and now I get dirty looks from blues musicians when I say that.  For me jazz was a set of particular minds like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Al DiMeola, you know…  the classics.

Blues – Wow, where do I start?  I can’t stand the modern day blues musician.  Well okay some of them I think get it.  Now granted I’m no expert but I can’t stand Steve Vai.  And I’m pretty sure Steve Vai has ruined the blues.  Yes I play guitar.  No I’m not technically as good as Steve Vai.  But modern blues has become this cookie cutter want to be improve style that pretty much is new artists just cutting and pasting old artists riffs together.   Now granted you could argue that every song is pretty much just an amalgamation of your subconscious’s love of music but this really is the worst.  Steve Vai has no soul in his music.  His only emotion is “hey look at me”.  And that’s seriously been breed into so many technical guitar players, and blues and metal are the breeding grounds of technical guitar.

Electronic music – Easy right?  Anything that uses electronics.  But then you have those jack asses that believe you should play music naturally.  Rrrrright.  Like it was natural when Muddy Waters plugged his guitar into an amp.  Like the guitar is a naturally occurring formation in nature.  What these people really mean to say is something like “I don’t like music where the instrument is played through a speaker”.  In which case they should go destroy all their stereos.  Or maybe they’re just thinking of drums?  Well guess what?!  Modern day music replaces pretty much all the drum sounds you hear with electronic ones.  Ever wonder why that live rock or punk band sounds different from the recording?  Bingo!  That is part of it.  Hell I can program a pretty realistic sounding beat right now and you’d never know the difference.  I’m pretty sure the only genre not affected by modern recording technology are the anti -recording genres, such as bluegrass.

Metal – Macho angry music sometimes involving demon worship.  Also the breeding ground of the most annoying guitar players on the planet.  Seriously dude, I can practice a harmonic minor scale using appregio picking all over the fretboard at as high as my metronome will go and do the same shit and you know what?  No emotion to it.  Its meaningless unless you’re just competing at playing a harmonic minor scale using appregio picking all over the fretboard at as high as your metronome will go with other people.  In which case you’re pretty silly.

But also the emotion of anger.  Once you’ve learned to laugh at anger the whole idea of writing even 5 songs out of anger gets really silly.  Its people getting loud over not getting their way and trying to come off all high and mighty about it.  Even when they’re bashing themselves they’re still trying to come off better than the people they’re complaining about.  Yes I still love plenty of angry music but I can’t listen to it for very long, let alone be in a band that does it and takes it seriously.  I’m pretty sure you’d have to live in a third world country for me to be able to take your angry music seriously.

Rap – Wow, where to start.  Yeah I like some rap.  Yeah I hate some rappers.  Singers are bad enough but its like in rap someone said, you know how all singers are premadonnas?  Lets put them in rich neighborhood together and have them all pretend its a ghetto, take away their room service, and then give them guns and see what happens.

Now granted, there is plenty of rap that isn’t ganster rap too.  I suppose its kind of like metal, except they’re pissed because they’re high.  Not sure that I really get it.  Actually if you watch the documentary over nerdcore rap they interview some hip hop producers with some absolutely fascinating results.  In particular how one of them upfront said that modern rap was 90% bullshit and 10 % truth (paraphrasing).

Conclusion – So do I have a solution to all this mess?  Not even, just a bunch of complaints and notes.  What do I label my music?  Please, I don’t coddle my audience.  Its going to be different all the time.  And so are the terms.  If you want to know what it sounds like then go or come listen to it.  I’m not going to compete for your time and I’m sure as hell not going to message you every day to come listen to my shit like pretty much every band in existence.  Why?  Because I hate that crap and I don’t think anyone should put up with it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 08/31/2010 03:50

    I have so much to say here regarding labelling and identity. Perhaps it is a discussion we should have sometime.

  2. 09/17/2010 09:20

    “Industrial – This is a meaningless term present day. Its become a popular term to abandon or to push non-inventive dark music into. This term used to mean the world to me. It embodied experimentation, rebellion, and free thought all in one.”

    Those were the good ol’ days, eh?

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