not dead yet?

rock may have died this year, but no one seems to have noticed

2011 may well be remembered as the most numbing year for mainstream rock music in history. (For the purposes of this article, that’s more or less rock released on American major labels, regardless of origin, and played on mainstream rock radio stations.) The genre didn’t produce a single great album, and the best of the middling walked blindly in footprints laid out years, even decades, earlier. Plenty of juggernauts — U2 and Bruce Springsteen, among others — took the year off, but the genre’s failings are creative, not commercial. At this point rock is becoming a graveyard of aesthetic innovation and creativity, a lie perpetrated by major labels, radio conglomerates and touring concerns, all of whom need — or feel they need — the continued sustenance of this style of music. The fringes remain interesting, and regenerate constantly, but the center has been left to rot.

Declaring a genre dead is the worst, least imaginative sort of proclamation, so let’s call it zombified: it moves, it takes up space, it looks powerful from afar — with oodles of bands working hard, and some even making money — and garish up close. It lacks nutrients. How else to explain the critical consensus around a band like Foster the People, whose album, “Torches” (StarTime/Columbia), was one of the most lauded rock albums of the year by an emerging band, even though it did little to add to the soul-infused lite-rock of the 1980s.

i wouldn’t know, but moribund is the word that comes to mind.


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December 2011
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