Jesse Leach of Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall is back with his first column of 2011, and wouldn’t you know it — Jesse likes Porcupine Tree! I think they’re one of the best bands to emerge in the last 20 years. I truly do. But enough about me: Heeere’s Jesse!
I spent the last week housesitting for my parents; they have a television with cable. For the record, I have not owned a television for about four or five years — maybe more — so I am ignorant to a great deal of “pop culture.” So I found myself just intrigued by the endless amount of garbage and just mindless crap that is on (specifically on MTV and BET; by the way, why call it “M”TV? Music television, really?). I also know what is played on the radio for the most part is a large contributor to the dumbing down and manufacturing of music. Truth is, I just don’t have the patience or stomach to tolerate or listen to much “pop radio” (note: watch the documentary “Before The Music Dies”).
For the record, I am aware I am a music snob (among other things), but I am unapologetic about it, as it is a part of who I am — hey, to each his own right? When it comes to music, it affects me on so many levels and I wonder how did music become so shallow and straight-up mindless? You can argue this point all day about how its different styles for different people and I agree, but what I don’t understand (and I am talking to you as a passionate music lover) is how did this stuff that passes for music on TV and radio cause the vast majority of good quality music to be overshadowed? Has music of the “masses” become Muzak?!
Music has been a massive part of my life. In fact I would go as far to say if it were not for music, there would be little desire for me to even exist. It may sound crazy to some of you and perhaps to many more, you feel exactly what I’m saying. I have photos of me as a baby in a rocking chair with large headphones attached to my father’s record player. I am sure I heard my father playing guitar and singing — among many other people — while I was in my mother’s womb. I have just been surrounded by music since birth. I would sit in front of the record player as a young child and listen to Bach, Mozart, The Beatles, Neil Young, and Paul Simon, among many others, while staring at the album art work. I would dress up as different characters when I was a kid and perform songs for my family.
As a teenager, I would sit in my room and play tape after tape of hardcore, grind core, indie-rock, death metal and punk mixes. I bought fanzines and magazines to read articles, look at pictures. I would write band names all over my bags and school books. I would make homemade patches and bumper stickers of my favorite bands. I practically lived in night clubs (Club Babyhead in Providence, Rhode Island, for example) from the age of 15 to 19, going to every show I could and every weekend, travel to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. I have spent countless hours, days, weeks and years listening, watching, performing, contemplating and breathing music. Music has enriched, enlightened and even saved my life. So this is why I am writing this; just to simply get my aggravation and even shock at the state of modern popular music out.
Music. What does that word mean to you? Music is a sound, a feeling, a memory, a recorded history, a dream, a communication that exceeds any written language. Music is everywhere at all times. Music has moved us and has been a part of us since the dawn of mankind. To many cultures it is sacred and the focal point to all rituals and culture. So how can something so amazing, transcendent and important be bastardized and pimped out strictly for the sake of profit with no regard to content or creativity? It kills me!
All this being said and my rant being half over, I have to end on a positive note (I maintain my PMA) as that is how I roll.
If you are a real music lover, you have your ear to the ground and are aware of a vast number of bands that have maintained, developed and at times fought for artistic integrity. A great documentary comes to mind about a band called Wilco called “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Regardless of your opinion on the band Wilco, the documentary captures an amazing moment in that band’s career and is relevant to this topic. There are bands that I have admired for years and play music for all the “right” reasons (in my opinion) and still do! A few to list off the top of my head that I respect and maintain my hope for music:
Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars
Young the Giant
I could go on and on about this topic and I realize this is not my most focused effort. However, I just wanted to throw something out there for music lovers to think about. There are a massive amount of us out there that hold music sacred and I for one will do all I can to maintain integrity and passion for my music out of respect for music and the gifts I have been given. So what can we do?! Well perhaps go out and support that band you love, show them your support, “invest” in the future of music. Maybe think twice about burning the CD of that band you love and realize your 10 or 20 bucks may actually be making a difference in keeping them alive and active as a band!
Meanwhile, there is a behemoth pop star that has thousands of corporate dollars behind it, brainwashing you to listen and “like” their “product.” Why not turn off that noise and put your money and support where your mouth is (I know many of you do!) If you have children or a younger sibling, why not give them a positive artistic influence and buy them CDs that will help sway them away from the machine of “American Idol,” Disney Channel, MTV, oversexed, materialistic, party jam white noise that is shoved down their throats through television and radio. Encourage the younger generation to discover independent and local music. It is the little things that will go a long way in fighting to keep “real” music sacred and relevant. After all that music has done for us, it’s the least we can do for IT.
For those of you reading that have supported my music over the past 17 years, I am ever so grateful to you and it is because of you I leave my job in three days to prepare to tour and live the life of a full time musician again! Feel free to pick up a copy of my new record here (Shameless, I know — but I am not sorry, I am trying to make a living while maintaining artistic integrity..it is not easy! Ha Ha)
As always thanks for reading & Happy New year to all!!!
Inspiration for this column:
Hear the sound of music
Drifting in the aisles
Stretching on for miles
The music of the future
Will not entertain
It’s only meant to repress
And neutralize your brain
Soul gets squeezed out
Edges get blunt
Gives what you want
Now the sound of music
Comes in silver pills
Engineered to suit you
Building cheaper thrills
The music of rebellion
Makes you wanna rage
But it’s made by millionaires
Who are nearly twice your age
One of the wonders of the world is going down
It’s going down I know
It’s one of the blunders of the world that no-one cares
No-one cares enough
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