Anti- Progress

Why doesn't anyone write songs like this anymore?

I'm not talking about the boyish high-school frankness or pounding power chords—those are still pretty commonplace. What I'm talking about is the devolving song structure and song-as-vehicle commitment to thematic constructs. Everyone tinkers with time signatures and keys, but nobody really delves into recreating the parameters.

For some reason I keep going back to a piece Anthony Cefali wrote in the Cardinal's farewell issue this week—and not just because it's brilliant. In it, he explains how our environmental landscape has shifted to where Mother Nature is now entirely under our control—though that's not to say entirely helpless, to which we can attribute the reflexive nature of climate change—and so we're required to draw an entirely new system to view nature and environmentalism. We can't think of nature as naturally occurring, because it only occurs as we allow it. Likewise, music is pretty well under man's thumb by now, so in a way it's time to recreate its wheel, or at least how we roll it.

I know "Popular" isn't incredibly novel, but the way Nada Surf bridge Big Black's speak/yell verses and Weezer's punchy choruses without ever merging the two is still an exciting proposition. Everyone's always trying to find middle ground, but the disorder created by oppositional components forced into the same test tube is often a lot more forgiving, and certainly more refreshing than dischordant feedback. In all reality, "Popular" is likely one of Nada Surf's weaker songs; yet, to this day it's the only one I bother to go back to.

Conceptually, it's pretty close to mash-ups. But whereas mash-up artists spread their limbs across several genres like they're playing Twister on turntables, I'm looking for something more like hop-scotch.

The point is, every time we list influences and chart contemporaries, we're connecting dots; and at this point in history there isn't much area for a new sound to fall that doesn't sit between existing pillars. But I'm interested to see what would happen if bands stopped falling somewhere in between, and started taking and stealing existing tools at face value for their own purpose. Utilitarian garbage pickers. Something that can spread its scope across several touchstones, yet allowing each to exist only insofar as they exist within themselves. The whole point of this is creating a body of dissonance by employing individually clear components. It's the anti-synergy, but in a deliberately ADD kind of way.


  1. A lot of folks would argue, following Roland Barthes's declaration of "the death of the author," that "originality" in art is a function of the clever juxtaposition of preexistent elements. I would be one of those aforementioned folks.

  2. Yeah- I think that falls in line what what I was saying. Everyone's operating in the same area, re-using the same ideas, falling within the same sonic space, etc. I'm just looking for something (like "Popular") that isn't so timid about showing the influences and just lays them out there without trying to gel the disparate ideas into one pseudo-new creation.