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A History of Pop/Rock Styles

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A History of Pop/Rock Styles Powered By Docstoc
					     A history of pop/rock styles — as seen by
                   allmusic.com

Blues
Blues is about tradition and personal expression. At its core, the blues has remained the same since its
inception. Most blues feature simple, usually three-chord, progressions and have simple structures that are
open to endless improvisations, both lyrical and musical. The blues grew out of African spirituals and
worksongs. In the late 1800s, southern African-Americans passed the songs down orally, and they collided
with American folk and country from the Appalachians. New hybrids appeared by each region, but all of the
recorded blues from the early 1900s are distinguished by simple, rural acoustic guitars and pianos. After
World War II, the blues began to fragment, with some musicians holding on to acoustic traditions and others
taking it to jazzier territory. However, most bluesmen followed Muddy Waters' lead and played the blues on
electric instruments. From that point on, the blues continued to develop in new directions – particularly on
electric instruments – or it has been preserved as an acoustic tradition.


R&B
Evolving out of jump blues in the late '40s, R&B laid the groundwork for rock & roll. R&B kept the tempo and
the drive of jump blues, but its instrumentation was sparer and the emphasis was on the song, not
improvisation. It was blues chord changes played with an insistent backbeat. During the '50s, R&B was
dominated by vocalists like Ray Charles and Ruth Brown, as well as vocal groups like the Drifters and the
Coasters. Eventually, R&B metamorphosed into soul, which was funkier and looser than the pile-driving
rhythms of R&B. Soul came to describe a number of R&B-based music styles. From the bouncy, catchy acts at
Motown to the horn-driven, gritty soul of Stax/Volt, there was an immense amount of diversity within soul.
During the first part of the '60s, soul music remained close to its R&B roots. However, musicians pushed the
music in different directions; usually, different regions of America produced different kinds of soul. In urban
centers like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, the music concentrated on vocal interplay and smooth
productions. In Detroit, Motown concentrated on creating a pop-oriented sound that was informed equally by
gospel, R&B, and rock & roll. In the South, the music became harder and tougher, relying on syncopated
rhythms, raw vocals, and blaring horns. All of these styles formed soul, which ruled the black music charts
throughout the '60s and also frequently crossed over into the pop charts. During the '60s and '70s, soul began
to splinter apart — artists like James Brown and Sly Stone developed funk; Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff
initiated Philly soul with the O'Jays and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes; and later in the decade, danceable
R&B became a mass phenomenon with the brief disco fad. During the '80s and '90s, the polished, less earthy
sound of urban and quiet storm ruled the airwaves, but even then, R&B began adding stylistic components of
hip-hop until — by the end of the millennium — there were hundreds of artists who featured both rapping and
singing on their records.


Jazz
Jazz has been called America's classical music, and for good reason. Along with the blues, its forefather, it is
one of the first truly indigenous musics to develop in America, yet its unpredictable, risky ventures into
improvisation gave it critical cache with scholars that the blues lacked. At the outset, jazz was dance music,
performed by swinging big bands. Soon, the dance elements faded into the background and improvisation
became the key element of the music. As the genre evolved, the music split into a number of different
styles, from the speedy, hard-hitting rhythms of be-bop and the laid-back, mellow harmonies of cool jazz to
the jittery, atonal forays of free jazz and the earthy grooves of soul jazz. What tied it all together was a
foundation in the blues, a reliance on group interplay and unpredictable improvisation. Throughout the years,
and in all the different styles, those are the qualities that defined jazz.


Country
Country music is about tradition, yet its simple form lends itself to endless variations on similar themes. Like
blues — the two genres often shared themes, melodies and songs — country is a simple music at its core. Most
of its songs are built around three chords and a plain melody, but these forms are so basic, they allow for
many different styles, from the gritty sounds of honky tonk to the jazzy improvisations of Western Swing.
Country music grew out of American Southern folk music, both Appalachian and blues, and old-time country
was simple and folky, with just guitars and fiddles. As the genre progressed, old time music evolved into the
rhythmic guitar-and-fiddle driven traditional country that became the foundation of modern country music,
from honky tonk and Western Swing to the pop-oriented Countrypolitan and rock-inflected Bakersfield Sound.


Rock & Roll
Rock & Roll is often used as a generic term, but its sound is rarely predictable. From the outset, when the
early rockers merged country and blues, rock has been defined by its energy, rebellion and catchy hooks, but
as the genre aged, it began to shed those very characteristics, placing equal emphasis on craftmanship and
pushing the boundaries of the music. As a result, everything from Chuck Berry's pounding, three-chord
rockers and the sweet harmonies of the Beatles to the jarring, atonal white noise of Sonic Youth has been
categorized as "rock." That's accurate — rock & roll had a specific sound and image for only a handful of
years. For most of its life, rock has been fragmented, spinning off new styles and variations every few years,
from Brill Building Pop and heavy metal to dance-pop and grunge. And that's only natural for a genre that
began its life as a fusion of styles.
    In its purest form, Rock & Roll has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat, and a catchy melody.
Early rock & roll drew from a variety of sources, primarily blues, R&B, and country, but also gospel,
traditional pop, jazz, and folk. All of these influences combined in a simple, blues-based song structure that
was fast, danceable, and catchy. The first wave of rock & rollers — Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, and Carl Perkins,
among many others — set the template for rock & roll that was followed over the next four decades. During
each decade, a number of artists replicated the sound of the first rockers, while some expanded that
definition and others completely exploded the constrictions of the genre. From the British Invasion, folk-
rock, psychedelia, and through hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock, and punk, most subgenres of rock & roll
initially demonstrated an allegiance to the basic structure of rock & roll. Once these permutations emerged,
traditional rock & roll faded away from the pop charts, yet there were always artists that kept the flame
alive. Some, like the Rolling Stones and the Faces, adhered to the basic rules of traditional rock & roll but
played the music fast and loose. Others, like proto-punk rockers the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls,
and the Stooges, kept the basic song structure, but played it with more menace. Still others, like Dave
Edmunds and Graham Parker, became rock & roll traditionalists, writing and recording music that never
wavered from the sound of the late '50s and early '60s. Although the term "rock & roll" came to refer to a
number of different music styles in the decades following its inception, the essential form of the music never
changed.


Skiffle
Skiffle is a type of popular music with jazz, blues, folk, roots and country influences, usually using
homemade or improvised instruments. Originating as a term in the United States in the first half of the
twentieth century, it became popular again in the UK in the 1950s, where it was mainly associated with
musician Lonnie Donegan and played a major part in beginning the careers of later eminent jazz, pop, blues,
folk and rock musicians.
The origins of skiffle are obscure, but are generally thought to lie in African-American musical culture in the
early twentieth century. Skiffle is often said to have developed from New Orleans jazz, but this has been
disputed. Improvised jug bands playing blues and jazz were common across the American South in the early
decades of the twentieth century, even if the term skiffle was not used to describe them.
They used instruments such as the washboard, jugs, tea chest bass, cigar-box fiddle, musical saw, and comb-
and-paper kazoos, as well as more conventional instruments such as acoustic guitar and banjo. The term
skiffle was one of many slang phrases for a rent party, a social event with a small charge designed to pay rent
on a house. It was first recorded in Chicago in the 1920s, and may have been brought there as part of the
African American migration to northern industrial cities.


British Invasion
The British Invasion occurred in the mid-'60s, when a wave of English rock & roll bands crossed over into the
American market after the breakthrough success of the Beatles. Though not all of the bands sounded similar
— they ranged from the hard rock of the Rolling Stones and the Kinks to the sweet pop of Gerry & the
Pacemakers and Herman's Hermits — each group was heavily influenced by American rock & roll, blues, and
R&B. British Invasion bands were either blues-based rockers or pop/rockers with ringing guitars and catchy
hooks & melodies. Between 1964 and 1966, the British bands dominated the American charts, as well as the
charts in the U.K. In that time, there was a second wave of British Invasion bands — such as the Who and the
Zombies — which was indebted to both American rock and British Invasion pop. By the late '60s, many of the
bands had become rock icons but a greater number didn't survive the transition into the post-Sgt. Pepper era.


Merseybeat
Merseybeat was the original sound of the British Invasion — a driving, melodic sound that was hybrid of
American rock & roll and R&B, and British skiffle. The Beatles' early records, like "Please Please Me" and
"Love Me Do," were the prototypes of the genre, and soon other Liverpudlian bands like Gerry & the
Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, and the Searchers were following the same style. Called Merseybeat because of
the Mersey River in Liverpool, the sound flourished throughout 1963 and the first half of 1964. Shortly
afterward, R&B-oriented bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds appeared, as did pop
groups like the Hollies and Freddie & the Dreamers. While these pop groups were influenced by Merseybeat,
the style itself was losing ground, especially since the Beatles had begun to expand their stylistic reach.


Mod
Technically, Mod refers to a lifestyle and fashion more than music itself. During the early '60s, legions of
teenagers in Great Britain began dressing in stylish, neo-Italian fashions and listening to American R&B,
particularly Motown. Soon, these teens were dubbed mods. The original mod bands were all R&B cover
bands, but soon they began writing their own material that was generally in the vein of their influences. Mod
bands played R&B harder and faster than the original recordings — it was relentless, amphetamine-driven
rock & roll. Many of the mod bands were barely heard outside of the United Kingdom, since the lifestyle was
primarily a British phenomenon. Two bands — the Small Faces and the Who — were able to crossover to the
United States market, but that was after both bands began developing and expanding their R&B-based sound.
By the time psychedelia came around in the late '60s, mod had died out in Britain. However, mod — both the
music and the lifestyle — came back in full force in the late '70s, thanks to the Jam.


Blues-Rock
Though much early rock & roll was based in the blues, Blues-Rock didn't fully develop into a subgenre until
the late-'60s. Blues-rock emphasized two specific things — the traditional, three-chord blues song and
instrumental improvisation. Borrowing the idea of an instrumental combo and loud amplification from rock &
roll, the original blues-rockers — bands like Cream that grew out of the Alexis Korner and John Mayall
tradition of British blues, as well as American bands like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Canned Heat —
also attempted to play long, involved improvisations which were commonplace on jazz records, as well as
live blues shows. The hybrid became quite popular and the bands that immediately followed them were
louder and more riff-oriented. Out of this approach came heavy metal and Southern rock, which both used
basic blues riffs and featured extended solos. In the early '70s, the lines between blues-rock and hard rock
were barely visible, as boogie-based bands like ZZ Top employed album-rock production techniques that
tended to obscure their blues roots. However, blues-rock soon backed away from hard rock, and there was a
set number of acts that continued to play (and rewrite) blues standards as well as write their own songs in
the same idiom. In the '80s and '90s, blues-rock was more roots-oriented than in the '60s and '70s, even when
artists like the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan flirted with rock stardom. By the '80s, blues-
rock had become an accepted tradition, much like the blues.


Psychedelic
Psychedelic rock emerged in the mid-'60s, as British Invasion and folk-rock bands began expanding the sonic
possibilities of their music. Instead of confining themselves to the brief, concise verse-chorus-verse patterns
of rock & roll, they moved toward more free-form, fluid song structures. Just as important — if not more so —
the groups began incorporating elements of Indian and Eastern music and free-form jazz to their sound, as
well as experimenting with electronically altering instruments and voices within the recording studio.
Initially, around 1965 and 1966, bands like the Yardbirds and the Byrds broke down the boundaries for
psychedelia, creating swirling layers of fuzz-toned guitars, sitars, and chanted vocals. Soon, numerous groups
followed their pattern, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, both of whom recorded psychedelia in
1966. In no time, groups on both sides of the Atlantic embraced the possibilities of the new genre, and the
differences were notable. In Britain, psychedelia tended to be whimsical and surrealistic. Nevertheless,
bands — most notably Pink Floyd and Traffic — played extended instrumentals that relied on improvisation as
much as their American contemporaries the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Love, and Jefferson Airplane. In other
corners of America, garage bands began playing psychedelic rock without abandoning their raw, amateurish
foundation of three-chord rock — they just layered in layers of distortion, feedback, and effects. Eventually,
psychedelic evolved into acid rock, heavy metal, and art rock, but there continued to be revivals of
psychedelia in the decades that followed, most notably in the American underground of the mid-'80s.


Hard Rock
Hard rock is a term that's frequently applied to any sort of loud, aggressive guitar rock, but for these
purposes, the definition is more specific. To be sure, hard rock is loud, aggressive guitar rock, but it isn't as
heavy as heavy metal, and it's only very rarely influenced by punk (though it helped inspire punk). Hard rock
generally prizes big, stadium-ready guitar riffs, anthemic choruses, and stomping, swaggering backbeats; its
goals are usually (though not universally) commercial, and it's nearly always saturated with machismo. With
some bands, it can be difficult to tell where the dividing line between hard rock and heavy metal falls, but
the basic distinction is that ever since Black Sabbath, metal tends to be darker and more menacing, while
hard rock (for the most part) has remained exuberant, chest-thumping party music. Additionally, while metal
riffs often function as stand-alone melodies, hard rock riffs tend to outline chord progressions in their hooks,
making for looser, more elastic jams should the band decide to stretch out instrumentally. Like heavy metal,
hard rock sprang from the mid-'60s intersection of blues-rock and psychedelia pioneered by artists like
Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and the Jeff Beck Group. Blues-rock and psychedelia were both exploring the limits of
electric amplification, and blues-rock was pushing the repeated guitar riff center stage, while taking some of
the swing out of the blues beat and replacing it with a thumping power. Hard rock really came into its own at
the dawn of the '70s, with the tough, boozy rock ofthe Rolling Stones (post-Brian Jones) and Faces, the blues-
drenched power and textured arrangements of Led Zeppelin, the post-psychedelic rave-ups of Deep Purple,
and the loud, ringing power chords of the Who (circa Who's Next) setting the template for much of what
followed. Later in the decade, the lean, stripped-down riffs of AC/DC and Aerosmith, the catchy tunes and
stage theatrics of Alice Cooper and Kiss, and the instrumental flash of Van Halen set new trends, though the
essential musical blueprint for hard rock remained similar. Arena rock also became a dominant force,
stripping out nearly all blues influence and concentrating solely on big, bombastic hooks. During the '80s,
hard rock was dominated by glossy pop-metal, although Guns N' Roses, the Black Crowes, and several others
did present a grittier, more traditionalist alternative. Old-fashioned hard rock became a scarce commodity in
the post-alternative rock era; after grunge, many guitar bands not only adopted a self-consciously serious
attitude, but also resisted the urge to write fist-pumping, arena-ready choruses. Still, the '90s did produce a
few exceptions, such as Oasis, Urge Overkill, and the serious but anthemic Pearl Jam.


Heavy Metal
Of all rock & roll's myriad forms, heavy metal is the most extreme in terms of volume, machismo, and
theatricality. There are numerous stylistic variations on heavy metal's core sound, but they're all tied
together by a reliance on loud, distorted guitars (usually playing repeated riffs) and simple, pounding
rhythms. Heavy metal has been controversial nearly throughout its existence — critics traditionally dismissed
the music as riddled with over-the-top adolescent theatrics, and conservative groups have often protested
what they perceive as evil lyrical content. Still, despite — or perhaps because of — those difficulties, heavy
metal has become one of the most consistently popular forms of rock music ever created, able to adapt to
the times yet keep its core appeal intact. For all its status as America's rebellion soundtrack of choice, heavy
metal was largely a British creation. The first seeds of heavy metal were sown in the British blues movement
of the '60s, specifically among bands who found it hard to adjust to the natural swing of American blues. The
rhythms became more squared-off, and the amplified electric instruments became more important,
especially with the innovations of artists like the Kinks, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and the Jeff Beck
Group. Arguably the first true metal band, however, was Led Zeppelin. Initially, Zep played blues tunes
heavier and louder than anyone ever had, and soon created an epic, textured brand of heavy rock that drew
from many musical sources. Less subtle but perhaps even more influential was Black Sabbath, whose murky,
leaden guitar riffs created a doomy fantasy world obsessed with drugs, death, and the occult. Following the
blueprint laid down by Zep and Sabbath, several American bands modified heavy metal into more accessible
forms during the '70s: the catchy tunes and outrageous stage shows of Alice Cooper and Kiss; the sleazy
boogie of Aerosmith; and the flashy guitar leads and wild party rock of Van Halen (not to mention the
distinctively minimalist grooves of Australia's AC/DC). In the late '70s, a cache of British bands dubbed the
New Wave of British Heavy Metal (including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, andMotorhead) started playing metal
faster, leaner, and with more menace than ever before. They helped influence a new American metal scene
known as thrash in the '80s, which took shape as a reaction to metal's new mainstream pop breakthrough,
which came courtesy of Def Leppard's Pyromania. Metal enjoyed its greatest presence on the charts during
the '80s, thanks to a raft of glammed-up pop-metal bands, but thrash bands played complex riffs at
breakneck speed, sometimes dispensing with vocal melody altogether. Thrashers like Metallica and Megadeth
built rabid cult followings that pushed them into the mainstream around the same time that grunge wiped
pop-metal off the charts. Mainstream metal in the '90s centered around a new hybrid called alternative
metal, which (in its most commercially potent form) combined grinding thrash and grunge influences with
hip-hop and industrial flourishes, though it broke with metal's past in downplaying the importance of
memorable riffs. Meanwhile, the underground grew harsher and bleaker, producing two similar, thrash-
derived styles known as death metal and black metal, which produced some of the most abrasive, intense,
hyperspeed music and graphic shock tactics the metal world had yet witnessed.


Prog-Rock
Progressive rock and art rock are two almost interchangeable terms describing a mostly British attempt to
elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility. The differences between prog-rock and art rock are
often slight in practice, but do exist. Prog-rock tends to be more traditionally melodic (even when multi-
sectioned compositions replace normal song structures), more literary (poetry or sci-fi/fantasy novels), and
more oriented toward classically trained instrumental technique (with the exception of Pink Floyd). Art rock
is more likely to have experimental or avant-garde influences, placing novel sonic texture above prog-rock's
symphonic ambitions. Both styles are intrinsically album-based, taking advantage of the format's capacity for
longer, more complex compositions and extended instrumental explorations. In fact, many prog bands were
fond of crafting concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a
grand overarching theme. In addition to pushing rock's technical and compositional boundaries, prog-rock was
also arguably the first arena where synthesizers and electronic textures became indispensable parts of a rock
ensemble. The earliest rumblings of progressive and art rock could be heard in the poetry of Bob Dylan and
conceptually unified albums like the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band, all of which suggested that rock was more than just teenagers' music and should be taken
seriously as an art form. Prog-rock began to emerge out of the British psychedelic scene in 1967, specifically
a strain of classical/symphonic rock led by the Nice, Procol Harum, and the Moody Blues (Days of Future
Passed). King Crimson's 1969 debut In the Court of the Crimson King firmly established the concept of
progressive rock, and a quirky, eclectic scene was taking shape in Canterbury, led by the jazzy psychedelia of
the Soft Machine. Prog-rock became a commercial force in the early '70s, with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes,
Jethro Tull, Genesis, and Pink Floyd leading the way. Meanwhile, a more avant-garde scene (dubbed Kraut-
rock) was developing in Germany, and eccentric, unclassifiable bands continued to emerge in the U.K. By the
mid-'70s, a backlash was beginning to set in; prog-rock sometimes mistook bombast for majesty, and its far-
reaching ambition and concern with artistic legitimacy could make for overblown, pretentious music. Its
heyday soon came to an end with the advent of punk, which explicitly repudiated prog's excesses and aimed
to return rock & roll to its immediate, visceral roots. Still, prog-rock didn't completely go away. A number of
AOR bands used prog ideas in more concise songs; plus, Pink Floyd, Yes, and Genesis all had number one
singles in the '80s by retooling their approaches. A small cult of neo-prog bands catered to faithful audiences
who still liked grandiose concepts and flashy technique; the first was Marillion, and many more popped up in
the late '80s and early '90s.


Glam Rock
Often confused with '80s hair metal (at least by American listeners), glam rock was an almost entirely British
phenomenon that became wildly popular during the first half of the '70s. Glam rock was fairly simple,
crunchy guitar rock put across with outrageous theatricality. Most of the music was unabashedly catchy, with
melodies drawn from teenage bubblegum pop and hip-shaking rhythms from early rock & roll. But those
innocent-sounding influences were belied by the delivery, which was all campy, glitzy showmanship and
sexuality. In fact, one of the main reasons glam never caught on in the U.S. was that glam artists
intentionally played around with gender conventions, dressing themselves up in outlandish, androgynous
costumes and makeup. In general, glam rock fell into two schools. The most prevalent one was the
intentionally disposable trashiness of T. Rex; leader Marc Bolan pioneered glam's fashion sense and crafted
music that was all sexy, silly fun — or, to put it another way, music where the surface was the substance.
Artists like Gary Glitter, Sweet, and Slade followed the T. Rex aesthetic, in the process creating a substyle
known as glitter (which was even more exclusively British). But for a style which relied so heavily on image,
glam had a surprisingly arty side too, epitomized by David Bowie and Roxy Music. This school was more
grandly dramatic and ambitious, both sonically and lyrically; glam was an opportunity for these artists to
manipulate their personas at will, making their senses of style part of the overall artistic statement, and
exploring the darkness lurking under the music's stylish, glitzy surface. Apart from them, the lone American
glam-rock band was the New York Dolls, whose raw, Stonesy proto-punk sounded different from their British
peers, but whose trashy aesthetic and transvestite wardrobe clearly put them in the same camp. Glam
effectively began with T. Rex's 1971 hit Electric Warrior, but 1972 was its real breakthrough year: T. Rex
consolidated its popularity with The Slider; David Bowie released his classic Ziggy Stardust and produced Mott
the Hoople's star-making All the Young Dudes album; Roxy Music issued their groundbreaking debut; and the
New York Dolls embarked on their first tour of England. Glam rock's creative peak was over by 1975, as most
of its remaining major artists were either moving away from the style or releasing subpar work. However,
glam had a definite influence on the kids who grew up to head the British punk movement, and an even
bigger impact on the theatrical gloom of post-punk. And, of course, glam rock was extremely important to
'80s pop-metal, though apart from Def Leppard, many of those bands were American and had minimal
knowledge of the original sources.


Pub Rock
In some ways, the British phenomenon of Pub Rock in the early '70s wasn't much more than roots rock, since
it basically consisted of bar bands that played rock & roll, country-rock, and the blues. But there were some
crucial differences, particularly in approach. If pub rock is anything, it is loose and unpretentious — these
were guys that played music for the hell of it. The members of the major pub rock bands — Brinsley Schwarz,
Ducks Deluxe, Bees Make Honey, Ace, Dr. Feelgood — came from a variety of musical backgrounds, including
folk-rock, blues, country-rock, and traditional rock & roll. This kind of rootsy music stood in direct contrast
to the glam rock, hard rock, and prog rock that dominated the British charts. Consequently, the groups had
trouble finding places to play, and they had to create their own circuit by playing hidden-away pubs
throughout England. In no time, the unconventional venues and their defiantly good-time, back-to-basics rock
& roll became a rallying cry for pub rockers. None of the pub-rock bands became stars or had hits, but their
do-it-yourself attitude and stripped-down sound — as well as the creation of the pub-rock circuit itself —
paved the way for punk rock. Indeed, many pub rockers — including Brinsley Schwarz's Nick Lowe, the 101ers'
Joe Strummer,Flip City's Elvis Costello, Kilburn & the High Roads' Ian Dury and Graham Parker — became
important figures in punk and new wave just a few years after the pub-rock scene faded in the mid-'70s.


Punk
Punk Rock returned rock & roll to the basics — three chords and a simple melody. It just did it louder and
faster and more abrasively than any other rock & roll in the past. Although there had been several bands to
flirt with what became known as punk rock — including the garage rockers of the '60s and the Velvet
Underground, the Stooges, and the New York Dolls — it wasn't until the mid-'70s that punk became its own
genre. On both sides of the Atlantic, young bands began forsaking the sonic excesses that distinguished
mainstream hard rock and stripping the music down to its essentials. In New York, the first punk band was
the Ramones; in London, the first punk band was the Sex Pistols. Although the bands had different agendas
and sounds — the Ramoneswere faster and indebted to bubblegum, while the Pistols played Faces riffs
sloppier and louder than the Faces themselves — the direct approach of the bands revolutionized music in
both the U.K. and the U.S. In America, punk remained an underground sensation, eventually spawning the
hardcore and indie-rock scenes of the '80s, but in the UK, it was a full-scale phenomenon. In the U.K., the
Sex Pistols were thought of as a serious threat to the well-being of the government and monarchy, but more
importantly, they caused countless bands to form. Some of the bands stuck close to the Pistols' original
blueprint, but many found their own sound, whether it was the edgy pop of the Buzzcocks, the anthemic,
reggae-informed rock of the Clash, or the arty experiments of Wire and Joy Division. Soon, punk splintered
into post-punk (which was more experimental and artier than punk), new wave (which was more pop-
oriented), and hardcore, which simply made punk harder, faster, and more abrasive. Throughout the '80s,
punk was identified with the hardcore scenes in both America and England. In the early '90s, a wave of punk
revivalists — led by Green Day and Rancid — emerged from the American underground. The new wave of punk
rockers followed the same template as the original punks, but they tended to incorporate elements of heavy
metal into their sound.


New Wave of British Heavy Metal
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal re-energized heavy metal in the late '70s and early '80s. By the close of
the '70s, heavy metal had stagnated, with its biggest stars (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath) either breaking
away from the genre or sinking in their own indulgence, while many of its midlevel artists were simply
undistinguished, churning out bluesy hard-rock riffs. The NWOBHM kicked out all of the blues, sped up the
tempo, and toughened up the sound, leaving just a mean, tough, fast, hard metallic core. It didn't make any
attempts to win a wide audience — it was pure metal, made for metal fans. Perhaps that's the reason why it's
at the foundation of all modern-day metal: true metalheads either listened to this, or to bands like Metallica,
which were inspired by bands like Diamond Head.


Post-Punk
After the punk revolution of 1977, a number of bands inspired by the d.i.y. spirit and raw sound of punk were
formed. However, instead of replicating the sound of the Sex Pistols, many of these bands forged into more
experimental territory, taking cues from a range of artists and styles, such as Roxy Music, David Bowie
(especially Low, Heroes and Lodger), disco, dub and Krautrock. The result was Post-Punk, a more
adventurous and arty form of punk, no less angry or political but often more musically complex and diverse.
Many of these groups — like Joy Division or the Cure — created dark, synthesizer-oriented soundscapes while
others—like Orange Juice or XTC — had a lighter guitar-based musical approach but their lyrics and music
were off-kilter and often subverted traditional pop/rock song structures. Post-punk eventually developed into
alternative pop/rock in the '80s.


New Wave
During the late '70s and early '80s, New Wave was a catch-all term for the music that directly followed punk
rock; often, the term encompassed punk itself, as well. In retrospect, it became clear that the music
following punk could be divided, more or less, into two categories — post-punk and new wave. Where post-
punk was arty, difficult, and challenging, new wave was pop music, pure and simple. It retained the fresh
vigor and irreverence of punk music, as well as a fascination with electronics, style, and art. Therefore,
there was a lot of stylistic diversity to new wave. It meant the nervy power pop of bands like XTC and Nick
Lowe, but it also meant synth rockers like Gary Numan or rock revivalists like Graham Parker and Rockpile.
There were edgy new wave songwriters like Elvis Costello, pop bands like Squeeze, tough rock & rollers like
the Pretenders, pop-reggae like the Police, mainstream rockers like the Cars, and ska revivalists like the
Specials and Madness. As important as these major artists were, there were also countless one-hit wonders
that emerged during early new wave. These one-hit groups were as diverse as the major artists, but they all
shared a love of pop hooks, modernist, synthesized production, and a fascination for being slightly left of
center. By the early '80s, new wave described nearly every new pop/rock artist, especially those that used
synthesizers like the Human League and Duran Duran. New wave received a boost in the early '80s by MTV,
who broadcast endless hours of new wave videos in order to keep themselves on the air. Therefore, new
wave got a second life in 1982, when it probably would have died out. Instead, 1982 and 1983 were boom
years for polished, MTV-radio new wave outfits like Culture Club, Adam Ant, Spandau Ballet, Haircut 100, and
A Flock of Seagulls. New wave finally died out in 1984, when established artists began to make professional
videos and a new crop of guitar-oriented bands like the Smiths and R.E.M. emerged to capture the attention
of college-radio and underground rock fans. Nevertheless, new wave proved more influential than many of its
critics would have suspected, as the mid-'90s were dominated by bands — from Blur to Weezer — that were
raised on the music.


Goth Rock
Frequently misunderstood in its aesthetics and misapplied as a term, goth rock is an offshoot of post-punk
that existed primarily during the early to mid-'80s. Its reputation as the darkest and gloomiest form of
underground rock is largely deserved, though today that reputation stems more from the visual theatricality
of its bands and black-clad followers. Sonically, goth rock took the cold synthesizers and processed guitars of
post-punk and used them to construct foreboding, sorrowful, often epic soundscapes. Early on, its lyrics were
usually introspective and intensely personal, but its poetic sensibilities soon led to a taste for literary
romanticism, morbidity, religious symbolism, and/or supernatural mysticism. Goth rock was generally not a
critically acclaimed style, given its penchant for florid poetry, relentlessly mournful dirges, and
melodramatic excess. However, it spawned a devoted, still-thriving subculture that kept its aesthetics alive
long after the music's initial heyday had passed. The godfathers of goth-rock were British post-punkers Joy
Division, whose bleak, remote, obsessively introspective music and lyrics laid the initial foundation for goth.
But for all intents and purposes, the true birth of goth rock was "Bela Lugosi's Dead," the 1979 debut single by
Bauhaus. Already chilly post-punk outfits like the Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees became full-on goth
bands around the same time, and their heavy, menacing makeup and dark clothes became an important part
of their fans' expression. As goth rock's popularity spread among a certain segment of sensitive, alienated
youth (first in the U.K., where most of its bands came from, then in the U.S.), its fashion sense grew more
and more outlandish, and the original sound evolved somewhat. The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and the
Mission UK incorporated more pop and alternative elements in their music, while the Sisters of Mercy, Fields
of the Nephilim, and the American band Christian Death took a heavier, sometimes metal-influenced
approach. By the end of the '80s, the original goth-rock movement had ceased to exist, but the music
mutated into new forms and continued to influence many of rock's darker subgenres. During the '90s, the
goth sound began to cross-pollinate with industrial music, producing hybrids that appealed to both sides, as
well as the darkwave subgenre (which also incorporated '80s synth-pop and dream-pop). The latter half of the
'90s also saw goth rock's influence cropping up all over heavy metal; a new breed of progressive black metal
bands drew heavily from goth's sound and style, while some alternative metal bands also borrowed from goth
rock's visual imagery (including Marilyn Manson, who — despite countless news reports to the contrary –- is
not a goth-rock artist).


Synth Pop
Synth Pop was one of the most distinctive subgenres of new wave. In the early '80s, a number of bands —
primarily British and heavily influenced by Roxy Music and David Bowie — adapted the electronic innovations
of bands like Kraftwerk for pop songs. Initially, in the hands of artists like Gary Numan, the Human League,
and Depeche Mode, the sound was eerie, sterile, and vaguely menacing, since the electronics droned on
relentlessly without any change in inflections. However, these first stabs at synth pop were transformed into
danceable, synthesized pop by Duran Duran, who made the synthesized hooks warmer and catchier by
grafting them onto a dance beat. Soon, a flood of bands followed Duran Duran's lead and although some of
the groups weren't as infectious as that band, they nevertheless relied on the conventions of three-minute
pop. Duran Duran became stars, while most other synth-pop groups were lucky to have more than one hit.
There were some exceptions — the Human League and Eurythmics had several hits, as did Howard Jones —
but the field was mainly occupied by one-hit wonders like A Flock of Seagulls. By 1984, synth pop had begun
to die out, but the music had helped establish the synthesizer as a primary instrument in mainstream pop
music during its time in the spotlight.


Indie Rock
Indie rock takes its name from "independent," which describes both the do-it-yourself attitudes of its bands
and the small, lower-budget nature of the labels that release the music. The biggest indie labels might strike
distribution deals with major corporate labels, but their decision-making processes remain autonomous. As
such, indie rock is free to explore sounds, emotions, and lyrical subjects that don't appeal to large,
mainstream audiences — profit isn't as much of a concern as personal taste (though the labels do, after all,
want to stay in business). It's very much rooted in the sound and sensibility of American underground and
alternative rock of the '80s, albeit with a few differences that account for the changes in underground rock
since then. In the sense that the term is most widely used, indie rock truly separated itself from alternative
rock around the time that Nirvana hit the mainstream. Mainstream tastes gradually reshaped alternative into
a new form of serious-minded hard rock, in the process making it more predictable and testosterone-driven.
Indie rock was a reaction against that phenomenon; not all strains of alternative rock crossed over in
Nirvana's wake, and not all of them wanted to, either. Yet while indie rock definitely shares the punk
community's concerns about commercialism, it isn't as particular about whether bands remain independent or
"sell out"; the general assumption is that it's virtually impossible to make indie rock's varying musical
approaches compatible with mainstream tastes in the first place. There are almost as many reasons for that
incompatibility as there are indie-rock bands, but following are some of the most common: the music may be
too whimsical and innocent; too weird; too sensitive and melancholy; too soft and delicate; too dreamy and
hypnotic; too personal and intimately revealing in its lyrics; too low-fidelity and low-budget in its production;
too angular in its melodies and riffs; too raw, skronky and abrasive; wrapped in too many sheets of Sonic
Youth/Dinosaur Jr./Pixies/Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitar noise; too oblique and fractured in its song
structures; too influenced by experimental or otherwise unpopular musical styles. Regardless of the specifics,
it's rock made by and for outsiders — much like alternative once was, except that thanks to its crossover,
indie rock has a far greater wariness of excess testosterone. It's certainly not that indie rock is never visceral
or powerful; it's just rarely — if ever — macho about it. As the '90s wore on, indie rock developed quite a few
substyles and close cousins (indie pop, dream pop, noise-pop, lo-fi, math rock, post-rock, space rock,
sadcore, and emo among them), all of which seemed poised to remain strictly underground phenomena.


Madchester
Madchester was the dominant force in British rock during the late '80s and early '90s. A fusion of acid-house
dance rhythms and melodic pop, Madchester was distinguished by its loping beats, psychedelic flourishes, and
hooky choruses. While the song structures were familiar, the arrangements and attitude were modern, and
even the retro-pop touches — namely the jangling guitars, swirling organs, and sharp pop sense — functioned
as postmodern collages. There were two approaches to this collage, as evidenced by the Stone Roses and
Happy Mondays. The Roses were a traditional guitar-pop band, and their songs were straight-ahead pop
tunes, bolstered by baggy beats; it was modernized '60s pop. Happy Mondays cut and pasted like rappers
sampled, taking choruses from the Beatles and LaBelle and putting them into the context of darkly
psychedelic dance. Despite their different approaches, both bands shared a love for acid-house music and
culture, as well as the hometown of Manchester, England. As the group's popularity grew, the British press
tagged the two groups — as well as similarly-minded bands like the Charlatans [U.K.] and Inspiral Carpets —
"Madchester" after a Happy Mondays song. (It was also known as "baggy," since the bands wore baggy
clothing). Madchester was enormously popular for several years in the U.K. before fading, largely because the
Roses and the Mondays fell prey to laziness and drug abuse, respectively. The genre never made much impact
in America outside of alternative circles, but Madchester's offspring — bands like Oasis, Pulp, and Blur that
were heavily influenced by the collision of contemporary and classic pop — became international stars in the
mid-'90s.


Shoegaze
Shoegaze is a genre of late '80s and early '90s British indie rock, named after the bands' motionless
performing style, where they stood on stage and stared at the floor while they played. But shoegaze wasn't
about visuals — it was about pure sound. The sound of the music was overwhelmingly loud, with long, droning
riffs, waves of distortion, and cascades of feedback. Vocals and melodies disappeared into the walls of
guitars, creating a wash of sound where no instrument was distinguishable from the other. Most shoegaze
groups worked off the template My Bloody Valentine established with their early EPs and their first full-
length album, Isn't Anything, but Dinosaur Jr., the Jesus & Mary Chain, and the Cocteau Twins were also
major influences. Bands that followed — most notably Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, and the Boo Radleys —
added their own stylistic flourishes. Ride veered close to '60s psychedelia, while Lush alternated between
straight pop and the dream pop of the Cocteau Twins. Almost none of the shoegazers were dynamic
performers or interesting interviews, which prevented them from breaking through into the crucial U.S.
market. In 1992 — after the groups had dominated the British music press and indie charts for about three
years — the shoegaze groups were swept aside by the twin tides of American grunge and Suede, the band to
initiate the wave of Britpop that ruled British music during the mid-'90s. Some shoegazers broke up within a
few years (Chapterhouse, Ride), while other groups — such as the Boo Radleys and Lush — evolved with the
times and were able to sustain careers into the late '90s.
Britpop
The Beatles established a long-running British tradition of tuneful, guitar-driven pop bands, a tradition that
was refreshed and updated every so often by new musical movements. Britpop, however, refers to the legion
of '90s bands who drew more consciously from that tradition than ever before. Although the movement
originated in the U.K. indie scene, Britpop was unabashedly commercial—its bands prized big, shiny, catchy
hooks, as well as the glamour of mainstream pop stardom and the sense that they were creating the
soundtrack to the lives of a new generation of British youth. And it was very definitely British youth they
were aiming at; Britpop celebrated and commented on their lives, their culture, and their musical heritage,
with little regard for whether that specificity would make them less accessible to American audiences.
Britpop's youthful exuberance and desire for recognition were reactions not only against the shy, anti-star
personas of the early-'90s shoegazer bands, but also the dourness of American grunge and the faceless
producers behind the growing electronic-dance underground. Musically, Britpop drew from the Beatles, of
course, but also from the pastoral sound of late-'60s Kinks, the mod movement (the Who, the Small Faces),
'70s glam (David Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music), punk and new wave (the Jam, the Buzzcocks, Wire, Madness,
XTC, Squeeze, Elvis Costello), and the alternative guitar-pop of the Smiths. All those artists were
quintessentially British — they crafted their images, lyrics, and sounds from a distinctly British frame of
reference, which was why few of them became anything more than cult artists in the U.S. (and why Britpop
functioned much the same way). Apart from those influences, Britpop had its most immediate roots in the
Madchester scene, whose emphasis on good times and catchy tunes pointed the way around the shoegazer
aesthetic. The Stone Roses' effortless pop hooks and rock-star attitude were the most important part of the
foundation, but the true founding fathers of Britpop were Suede. Released in 1993, their self-titled debut
became an unexpected smash with its fusion of glam-rock majesty andSmiths introspection. Suede opened
the doors for even bigger breakthroughs in 1994 by Blur (Parklife) and Oasis (Definitely Maybe), who quickly
became Britpop's two most popular superstars. With their success came a giddy explosion of similarly inspired
bands;Elastica, Pulp, Supergrass, and the Boo Radleys were among the biggest. In 1996, Oasis became the
only Britpop band to become genuine mainstream stars in the U.S. 1997 brought the first signals that the
Britpop boom was beginning to run out of steam, namelyOasis' poorly reviewed third album and Blur's move
toward American indie rock, along with the rise of $Radiohead in the wake of their third album, OK
Computer. Soon, newer bands merged the moodiness of Radiohead with the workingman stance of Oasis — a
combination heard in everything from Coldplay to Kasabian — and that became the British Alternative sound
of the new millennium."


New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
During the late '90s and early 2000s, a rash of bands — including Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, the Strokes, and
the Rapture — surfaced with clear indebtedness to post-punk and new wave, bearing inspirations like Blondie,
Gang of Four, Joy Division, and Wire. While this led journalists and music fans to talk about a post-punk/new
wave revival, the movement was really more analogous to a continuum, one that could be traced back as
early as the mid-'80s — scattered bands like Big Flame, World Domination Enterprises, and Minimal Compact,
all of whom seemed like natural extensions of post-punk. Some of the more notable bands that recalled the
original era during the early and mid-'90s included Six Finger Satellite (who drew from Devo, Suicide, Gang of
Four, and the Birthday Party), Brainiac (Devo again, if filtered through Pixies), and Elastica (who
acknowledged lifting Wire and the Stranglers). As with the post-punk and new wave bands of the late '70s and
early '80s, there was a lot of diversity in the approaches of the post-punk/new wave revivalists, ranging from
atonal scrap heaps (Liars) to hyper-melodic pop songs (the Sounds).

				
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