Alternative rock expires, but classification remains

Luke Heslip, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Alternative rock music is obsolete, drained dry and finished.
The genre’s inevitable decay honors a necessity of its temporary nature.
The movement’s expiration is essentially a matter of identity. The movement is not entirely a style of music, which has general continuity in aesthetical rules and linage so it can uphold traditions thus furthering identity, such as Jazz or rhythm and blues.

Alternative rock is closer to experimental alchemy and melding. The artists who executed the movement cultivated sounds that heavily incorporated multiple genres- namely classic rock, new wave, punk and metal, previously separated by convention into their music, and they formed unique artistic units. They were a dispersed community with loose adherence to basic themes, primarily music novelty and mutation.

The style existed as bridges. With the connections they forged its brilliance. Therein is the inherent death of the genre. Once the needlework of its agents fused disparate heritages into fresh incarnations – as the Red Hot Chili Peppers did with punk, funk and Hendrix style guitar riffs and as Nine Inch Nails did with metal, industrial and dance music – the impact and newness of the music faded.
Only so many successful chemical reactions could result from the alternative formula, and sadly the art of genre blending grew stale and tired.

Exposure did much to dilute the movement’s identity. Listeners built a tolerance to the experimental marriage of pop and harsher sounds as it availed prominence, and the diminished shock value taxed the genre prodigiously.
The followers of Nirvana are stark examples. The Seattle trio trademarked emotionally subdued art/punk-rock magnetism with the guitar-centered values of the Led Zeppelin and Iggy and The Stooges era of blues-rock. Their sound enveloped youth culture with pained lyrics and amp-overloading slashing jams. Their musical descendants are far less laudable.

Bush, which pathetically debuted in the grunge scene just three years after Nirvana’s breakthrough album, “Nevermind,” feebly mustered copycat, self-loathing garage band ditties, which sounded like Kurt Cobain songs gutted of all substance and originality. The bland riffs were loud enough to be mistaken as grunge, but close listening reveals the mediocrity of Bush’s imitation.
Other Nirvana disciples are embarrassingly worse. 3 Doors Down, Marcy Playground and most offensivelyNickleback pervert the ethos of Nirvana’s Seattle brand of hard rock.

These pretenders did nothing to build on the templates of their forefathers and falsely purport likeness to them. Nirvana was an alternative band because it shattered certain musical boundaries and spawned unfamiliar music. That simply can’t be replicated to the same effect; and so scions of true alternative bands are not alternative, they are zealots of a bygone practice.

Alternative music was “alternative” because it was the alternative to mainstream music. It was a counterculture, a rebellion against the wasteland of hair metal and bubble gum 80s’ rock. Duran Duran and their contemporaries left a creative vacuum on the 80’s airways. The Stone Roses and other alternative titans filled that void but infiltrated the mainstream in the process thus shedding the alternative classification.
The genre began atrophying when it abandoned the underground. When Radiohead became a household name and stormed the worldwide arena circuit it could hardly be alternative. When alternative players achieved renown they quit the environments that fostered their music and become something entirely not alternative.

Alternative rock dethroned its rivals. Motley Crew buckled to the creativity of the Pixies.The genre occupied the spotlight and imbued itself in the music business establishment. Alternative music was thereafter impossible.
The characterization is now overused to describe nearly every band or artist with an amplifier. There is no distinction between rock and alternative rock anymore. Kings of Leon, a straightforward blues-rock outfit with bluegrass tendencies, is considered alternative. Imagine Dragons, unmistakably a spice-less pop group, is also lumped in the alternative category by critics and fans alike. Alternative music has no meaning today and is used as a vague and irresponsible umbrella classification.

Alternative rock is extinct and should be appreciated as is, a beautiful and explosive phase of contemporary music. Musical experimentation and innovation are not dead, only the alternative genre. Musical progress should not be inhibited by the inaccuracy of the alternative backdrop.

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