Friday, November 26, 2004


REM Drops Another Clunker, And I Rant About Music In General

Or so AMG thinks so. I shouldn't comment on it until hearing the whole album, but I will. Based on the band's past two albums' worth of history, we can expect a pretty solid lead-off single, a handful of half-decent tracks, and a bunch of filler that just doesn't sound like REM should.

"New Adventures in Hi-Fi" should have been the opening chapter in a whole new era for the band, and indeed maybe for alt-rock as a whole. Instead, it probably should be viewed as the last great REM album, and as the end of our hopes that the early 90s "revolution" in rock music (more properly defined as a re-alignment of pop music with fundamental rock-n-roll) would lead to something permanent. Don't get me wrong - there's great new rock out there, and this year has probably been the best for new rock music in the past 7 years or so. But NAIHF promised that we'd be able to keep advancing the evolution of guitar rock, and for the most part that promise has gone unfulfilled. Indeed, throw virtually any track from NAIHF on the radio nowadays, and it'd sound contemporary at the least, if not groundbreaking by modern rock radio standards. That point was driven home hard two years ago when Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" was released 8 years after it was recorded and blew everything else off the playlists.

Speaking of Nirvana, at least I can get excited about the new 3-disc box set. That puts me in a place I had hoped to avoid - pining for the "good ol' days", times a decade or more in the past. I could find another genre to explore, but I doubt I'll find fresh modern music in the world of blues or jazz, and when it comes to hip-hop, the stylings and values of modern artists remind me of the worst of the 80s hair metal. It's always possible that we'll see some sort of "alt-rap revolution" in the next couple of years, through the same sort of backlash that brought bands like Nirvana to rock radio almost exactly 13 years ago (maybe we can view Eminem as the Metallica of modern hip-hop, the one big name that's providing consistantly good work in troubled times). But invaribly, any serious exploration of hip-hop will simply lead me back to the early 90s, and therefore provides nothing in my quest to avoid becoming a dinosaur. Perhaps I should just accept my fate, and continue fleshing-out my CD collection with a bunch of 10-year-old works that I never bothered to obtain (or couldn't afford) when they were fresh and new. But if that's the way this is going to go down, I won't be happy about it.

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