Like many people without an interest in American Football, salve I checked out the super bowl last Monday for the purpose of watching the famed halftime show. Though I’m fairly sure I don’t fall into his demographic, online Bruno Mars’ was pretty entertaining. Then the Red Hot Chilli Peppers emerged. While their appearance was both awkward and intrusive, the one thing that a lot of people have been pointing out was that the band mimed to a prerecorded track rather than played live. For a pop singer that’s embarrassing. For a rock band, it’s a little bit worse than that. In recent years there’s been a lot of talk about how rock is dead and the Chilli Peppers’ performance seems to make a strong argument for that. Anybody following the announcements up to the halftime show got the impression that the Chillis involvement was to try and placate older fans by having a rock band (however awful they might be) present. While there’s nothing wrong with having a rock band there to try and get some credibility, it’s strange that the band they chose is now approaching their thirty first year together as a band. Again nothing explicitly wrong about this, given that the super bowl generally favour older bands (Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and the Who are all recent performers), but to have a band that age cameo, rather than a headliner, speaks volumes about where rock is at the moment. Put simply, it seems like rock’s time has come and gone. Recently, at the Grammys, there was some controversy when the closing segment, a performance by Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails, was cut short for the purpose of advertisements. On the surface this shows how disposable rock has become to the industry, but it also indicates that there are no young bands making it, with both Queens and NIN being well into their teens at this stage. Of the three award categories for rock music, two of the winners were bands now over forty years old (Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath respectively). While the Grammy’s aren’t exactly known for embracing the new, this is just bizarre. One might argue that Imagine Dragons victory for best rock song proves that there’s still life in the genre, but I would disagree. Imagine Dragons represent one of the most overused terms in music today, “Indie”. The best rock music has always been respectful of what’s come before it, yet totally new in what it does (think about Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd). Indie was to typically refer to independent, in the sense of an independent record label, placing the band left of centre. Typically bands on Indie labels had more freedom than most, but now it appears that indie has become a genre in its own right, requiring artists to conform to a certain sound and look. Typically indie labels where less concerned about profit than they were about getting music out there. Now there home to the likes of Mumford and Sons.
To use a random example, The Smiths debut turns thirty this year. If we’re to take the birth of
rock and roll as 1954, that records now as old as rock itself was when it came out. The band had been together for two years at that point. I’m not saying that there are no good, young rock bands (Tame Impala, Savages and Deafhaven come to mind). However, it’s unlikely that any will have the same cultural impact as, say, David Bowie. Rock seems to have gone the way of vinyl, something kept at the back of the shop for niche fans only.