Rock Music is Better Than Ever, You Just Stopped Listening
Photo of Las Vegas-based indie rock band Pure Sport
As an avid rock music lover and musician for the past 30 years, it’s hard for me to hear people talk about rock music as if it stopped being good once a certain era ended.
At age 41, I look back fondly on every era of rock music, and I appreciate the bands, the technical innovations, the music theory that grew from them, and all the great personalities that brought the music to life on and off the stage.
My passion is the past, present and future of rock music.
I still say that Pink Floyd is my favorite band of all time, and that their album The Wall is the best rock album of all time as well. Of course, that’s my personal opinion. I am sure you have your own preferences.
Here’s the thing though, that album was released almost exactly 2 years to the day before I was even born, and the band was introduced to me through my dad who was a big fan of their music. Though, he would say his 3 favorite bands are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Nazareth depending on the day he’s asked.
Now I may never hear a band that has staying power, foresight and vision like that of Pink Floyd, but that doesn’t mean bands should even be compared to them in the first place.
I still listen to new music, go to live local rock shows where bands far younger than I play their own original music, I photograph and attend larger concerts, I write album reviews on my own blog, and I celebrate and promote music that comes out each year.
I love hearing new bands and artists add their own unique perspective formed from their completely personal experiences with their own musical upbringings.
I have heard bands that have members that are all under 25 years old bang out rock music that is better than a lot of the music that the 80’s ever pumped out.
I hear punk influences. I hear prog rock nuances. I hear post hardcore as well. There are even elements of soft rock and various other musical genres that are blending together to create something new.
It’s all making a comeback through these young bands that don’t care what mainstream music sounds like right now, because they aren’t as influenced by those musical acts.
The past has finally come to the present, and it’s the future of rock music.
This is what leads me to the main point of my editorial today.
Rock music is better than ever, but most rock fans stopped listening to new bands at some point not long after high school most likely.
I have an email that goes out to people who sign up to our email list that asks them one very simple question: “Who’s your favorite rock band of all time?”
In the year or so that I have had that email active, and the hundreds of responses I have gotten (no idea how many actually as I never counted them), here were some of the most popular responses: The Beatles, Rush, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Yes, King Crimson, and Queen.
Not one single person mentioned a rock act that has come out past 2004 (except those who mentioned their own indie rock bands).
The newest band listed as a favorite was As Cities Burned.
I am sure that many of these people love new bands too, and maybe my audience skews towards people my age (our demographic is 34-50 mostly), but we do have a decent amount of people under 35 on the list.
Now, do I like all new rock music?
I doubt anyone will like every musical act that comes through a particular genre.
A lot of what is considered “rock music” by the mainstream radio isn’t really even rock music a lot of times, or it is an electronically made version of it.
But that’s not what I am even going to discuss today, because I could talk bad about things and make this article about my gripes with “kids these days.”
However, that’s the exact opposite of what I want to convey.
I want to impress upon the average over 30 music lover who claims to like rock music to go out and check out NEW rock bands that are not on the radio.
A big reason rock music stopped being the major “cool” genre is because MTV hyped up pop and hip hop in the late 90’s and early 2000’s by gamifying a very young teen fanbase which in turn made music more of a popularity contest or sex appeal contest than a showcase of what good music actually was.
That layered upon the emerging EDM and Latin-based music that has grown as those same kids grew up to go to nightclubs and no longer wanted some sugary pop music shoved down their ear holes and turned to songs that had beats that you could dance to.
Most rock artists want to protect their image and stay true to their values of making the music that they want to make (usually that means regardless of who likes it or not).
And when you have a genre filled with individuals of that same mindset, you get a very anti-conforming genre.
Call me crazy, but that’s EXACTLY why I fell in love with rock music in the first place.
It rebels. It pisses people off. It is loud. It doesn’t have to be technically sophisticated.
But above all, it tells a story in every sense of the word.
The music is played a certain way to make you feel something.
If the song has lyrics, the lyrics are written to match the music (or vice versa).
The vocals are the embodiment of the expression of the band and song.
As Frank Sinatra would have said, “They did it their way.”
For years, I hoped that rock music would make its way back onto mainstream radio and potentially even have a rock music station or program on cable TV.
But I also have to tell myself that those were the OLD ways that I consumed rock music.
I adapted to find new bands, new music, and in the process, I have learned a lot about what the new generation of rock musicians are putting out into the world.
It instills hope in me that guitar-based music isn’t dead, and that there are a horde of young musicians of all cultural backgrounds and all gender identifications that want to blast a hole straight through the wall with their amplifiers and their energy.
Some bands that I have found to be absolutely incredible in just the last few years would include bands like Turnstile from Baltimore, Radkey from Missouri, Safari Room from Nashville, Death By Unga Bunga from Norway, Mercy Music from Las Vegas, Decent Criminal from Santa Rosa, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets from Perth, Reminders from the UK, Deaf Lingo from Italy, and so many other great acts that are doing what they love even though only a few thousand people may know who they are.
If you want to join in on the journey to find good rock bands that are not old as dust and just kicking out the same 20 song-sets, I highly recommend starting with some of those bands above, and just letting some of these streaming sites’ algorithms do their work.
Also, you can go to some indie record labels like Wiretap Records, Sell The Heart Records, Otitis Media Records, Thousand Islands Records, and People of Punk Rock Records to find a LOT of awesome bands that pump out incredible music.
I really don’t think you will regret it, and I don’t think you will hate any of those bands listed above.
Then once you listen to these bands you can tell me how much my opinion is wrong, and that Led Zeppelin was the greatest band that ever lived, and you might be right on both accounts, but at least you would have opened your ears to some new music that deserves more attention.
Isaac Kuhlman is the host of The Powered By Rock Podcast and also the editor and owner of poweredbyrock.com which is a site that aims to help promote and curate rock music to fans who may not be able to easily find great new music. He has played guitar since he was 11, and has created music and played in a few independent bands over the years.