Welcome to 2009: U2 is now trying to compete with the Beatles for best video game.
I’ve got news for you, U2– you’ve already lost in every way to The Beatles because, for one, The Beatles were too busy making legendary music in the studio to worry about who had the coolest game in the Rock Band series. If you even have time to consider making a karaoke video game out of yourself, then you clearly don’t have what it takes to be a rock legend. If someone had presented the idea of a “Beatles: Rock Band” video game to The Beatles in the 60s, they would have dropped acid and then giggled for 36 hours over the absurdity of the idea, and that’s another reason why they’re cooler than you.
What I’m trying to say, on a broader level, is that very few rock bands of our generation can even come close to touching the iconic rock bands of our parents’ generation in terms of quality, innovation, influence and prolificness (prolificity?). Quick, name 5 legendary bands of the 60s and early 70s that your grandchildren will still be listening to.
I bet your list looks like mine:
1. The Beatles
2. The Rolling Stones
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Pink Floyd
5. The Doors (This is really a grab bag… I might also go with the Velvet Underground based on the sheer quality and continued influence of their music, although they were far from the others in terms of commercial success. You can’t count Jimi or Janis because, while they had bands, we think of them as solo artists. I would accept a number of other bands for this slot– feel free to make a suggestion, although you have to be able to make a good argument for its inclusion.)
Now, try to name five comparable rock bands of our generation (which I will loosely define as those of us born between 1979 and 1987).
Yea, I could only think of one. Nirvana was iconic for us, but that’s partially because our generation was intoxicated by the plight of Kurt Cobain. I’m just not sure that their musical influence will last into future generations, that our kids will be smoking pot and putting on Nirvana albums as opposed to, say, Pink Floyd.
Chili Peppers? They have certainly been prolific, and I do think Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a great, iconic album. But the Chili Peppers have kind of slid into suck-dom with the likes of other formerly good bands such as Oasis, Weezer and Pearl Jam. Let’s be honest, “Californication” makes me want to rip my fingernails out. Anthony Keadis’ former heroin problem is the only reason the Chili Peppers have retained some semblance of street cred despite their hideous descent into whiny sugarpop.
Then there are the lesser known bands like Sonic Youth and Rage Against the Machine that are very good, indeed, but lack the mainstream success to match the Beatles and Stones. Radiohead is really the only band that is as original, as influential, and as continually, consistently amazing as its predecessors. There are songs on their latest album that blow me away as much if not more than their earliest material. But Radiohead is an anomaly nowadays.
The truly great musical icons of our generation are pop stars– Madonna and Michael Jackson have already gone down in history books. But why have these showy pop artists with heavily synthesized music replaced the legendary rock of the 60s and 70s? Is our generation so ADD that we need sparkly jackets, provocative dance moves and boob tassels to keep us entertained? Has our culture become so visual that we have lost the ability to recognize great, simple, authentic music?
I don’t know, you tell me.