Now, I’ve heard quite a few sermons about the evils of rock music in my day, and it’s become quite obvious to me that most of these sermons are written and preached by people that really haven’t heard any music created outside of CCM circles since the 1980s and early 1990s. I feel, then, that it’s my duty to preachers everywhere to help them understand this modern music and what it is. Now, bear with me, I’m not trying to be either pedantic or exhaustive. Just the facts, you understand.
First off, a few words about the rock bands of the 70s and 80s: they were and are a joke. The so-called demonic music of that time was at the time an act and is in retrospect a laughable non-contribution to the history of music. It was a selling-point, not a set of beliefs being foisted on the youth of America, and any young impressionable person that actually embraced that lifestyle has either since grown out of it or is still a flaming idiot.
In fact, the major selling point of rock music has been and remains rebellion. Which, of course, it stupid. It means that every band ever will always be trying to re-invent the genre, while at the same time trying to package that rebellion into a saleable product. Idiotic, you say? Yes, I tell you. Rebellion as a selling point of music, though, is nothing new, and it feeds the cycle that began in the 60s (and way, way earlier than that with the philosophies feeing the 60s). The people are rebellious and listen to rebellious music, which merely confirms their lifestyle. It’s stupid in that eventually there’s nothing left to rebel against except that which is already rebelling: the ultimate act of rebellion nowadays is to stop rebelling. And there’s lots and lots of music that does that.
A. Hard Rock
Hard Rock embraces metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Led Zeppelin), glam-metal (Duran Duran, Stryper, KISS, Aerosmith), grunge (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam), punk (The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash), rock-rap (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine), and many, many other subgenres.
If you’re thinking about the music that you listened to in the 80s and 90s, you are thinking of Hard Rock (probably). This a huge, mind-bendingly complex umbrella term for the many, many kinds of blues/rock/rock-rap and fusion bands. The main thread of rebellion comes through here, although there are many, many bands that exist in the genre without any sort of negative connotation whatsoever.
B. Indie Rock
Indie rock is a weird genre comprised of both a music style, and a way of selling music. A lot of indie rock is influenced by mainstream rock stylings but also has developed its own sound. Essentially, indie rock works apart from the major labels, and often leans heavily toward sounds develloped by the Beatles, but also toward garage rock, lo-fi rock, art rock, and others. Indie rock also tends to encompass a lot of indie pop, which I’ll include here as well.
You’ll have your basic staples of modern indie rock (The Shins, The Unicorns, The Smiths), but also post-rock (mostly instrumental bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, Slint, Rachel’s, A Silver Mt. Zion), post-punk (Xiu Xiu, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Mission of Burma), art-rock (Bauhaus, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, David Bowie, Brian Eno), math-rock (No Means No, Breadwinner, Don Caballero, Yona-Kit), shoegaze (My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Chapterhouse), and more. Indie rock is probably more complex than mainstream hard rock will ever be, as it houses quite a few bizarre and eclectic bands that will never acheive great commercial success.
Indie rock bands need to be judged on their own merit individually. It’s quite easy to write off most hard rock made by major labels as crap if you’re so inclined, but indie rock contains bands both beautiful and virulent.
Pop is everything. While musical purists would categorise most modern music as pop music and most of it devoid of artistic value, pop is an umbrella term for that which is not rock, jazz, classical, folk, hiphop, big band, etc. Pop is mostly a genre of exclusion.
It includes boy-bands, soft rock, female vocalists such as Sherryl Crow (spelling?), new country, old country, and a myriad of others. Pop is generally pretty disposable music, and I don’t mind saying that if you can listen to it in one decade and laugh at it the next – disco, anyone? – then you’ve got some pretty horrible choices going on in your life. Take note, those of you who listen to dance, boybands, pop-hop, and all that other garbage that will destroy your brain and turn you into a disposable-music-buying droid.
Hiphop is not just that gangsta rap stuff that says f*** the police and whatnot, k? I think hiphop is one of the most misunderstood genres in modern music, at least in our circles. But then, there is a lot – a LOT – of garbage in rap circles; if you want to find out what the good stuff is, you’ve got a bit of a job ahead of you.
This is rap: rhymes over samples. That means that, yes, a lot of hiphop doesn’t even use its own music. See the Beasty Boys for details, and also underground hiphop of pretty much any variety. Yes, there is no singing for the most part. But hiphop is actually an extremely complex art, from the production of beats down to writing the material. The best rappers – in my opinion the lyricists, meaning those who concentrate most on the structure of their rhymes – have practiced for year and year to get to their skill level. If you think rap is easy, you’re right in the same way that classical music is easy if you’re playing chopsticks. If you think it’s artless, you haven’t really taken the time to understand the genre on its own terms.
That said, you don’t have to like it. You just have to respect that people like Jay Z and Tupac have amazing skill at what they do. Let’s not even talk about freestyling and DJing and mixing and scratching. Okay?
Folk has been around forever, as long as some guy could make a guitar or a lute and write a song about some dude and a river. But there are quite a few modern variations on that theme.
You have your basic folk artists (Bob Dylan), but you also have things like freak-folk (Animal Collective, who are essentially furries with instruments), pysch-folk (Espers, no happy tunes about birds here), folk-rock (Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas), folk-punk (Against Me!), Folktronica (Boards of Canada, Manitoba, The Books) and others.
And to Finish
There you go: in the broadest of musical terms I have swept over the last 100 years of music and given you a sampling. Want to know more? Read up on Wikipedia.
One last thing: if you mention AC/DC in your sermon, kids will roll their eyes internally and laugh at you privately. No one, except some old people and die-hard rock fans, listens to that music extensively anymore. And for good reason. But that’s just me.
A note: please don’t comment about how I put band A in category X. This is a complicated thing, and a lot of these genres constantly cross-polinate. There are also some people whose compulsive compartmentalization reaches a point of insanity where there are nearly as many genres and sub-genres as there are bands to fill them.