Rants & Essays

What Happened To Music?

By Marcus Pan

Good morning everyone. As is custom on nights when I tend to stay through the night, I am proud to offer everyone yet another Midnight Rambling. Tonight's discussion will focus on MUSIC. As most of you know, I consider myself something of a scholar on the subject. Of course some of you, without mentioning names ]koff]KEN[koff[CHRIS]koff[ will immediately reply with, oh, something that mimics something like "and who the hell are you?"

Well, ok, I will tell you. Now I'm going to sound really pretentious during the course of this paragraph, but I care not. If I really wanted to I could probably sic my ego on Manhattan and come close to winning, so bear with me. Music is something I've enjoyed for quite some time. I've been classically trained on keys since around the age of 8 and told by my instructor at the age of 16 that there was nothing more he could teach me and I had "surpassed him." I wrote my first arrangement of the classical piece "Ordinary People" when I was 10. I wrote my first song (which since has been lost to the annals of time - wish I could find it) when I was 12. I started playing bass when I was around 21 and did so not because I wanted to but because the band I was fronting at the time couldn't find someone we wanted to recruit after numerous auditions. Legends Magazine began in 1990 and started to cover music around 96 or so, and specifically could be called a "music zine" around 98 or so. I've been involved in music in one way or another for over two decades. Therefore I feel I'm qualified to discuss it, talk about it, rip it to shreds and then make 50,000 or so people a month read it.

Onward now to the gist of tonight's discussion, which is quite simple: What in the HELL is this garbage I'm listening to? I just finished listening to a review submission from a band called The Fleshpeddlers. The name of the CD is "Disposable Pop Songs," and the nicest thing I can bring myself to say about it is, "yes, they most assuredly are." Then there was the debacle that occurred with a band called Little Miss Conception from Florida (that review printed already...look it up at the web site). I told him the truth - that he had too much in the way of motivation and not enough in the way of talent. He asked me not to print the review. What? Editorial privilege? Oh please - what do I look like, Spin? I'm not propaganda, I'm a reviewer.

The point is, a lot of the stuff coming in sucks. With the advent of the Internet, home computers, CD burner units, software like Cakewalk and FastTracker, anyone could hit a few keys and go, "Look! I wrote a song!" But the fact is; no you DIDN'T. Music is something I take seriously. It is a powerful thing, really. If it wasn't we wouldn't need a dozen music stations and all the nightclubs out there would just be bars. And raves wouldn't exist. Entire cultures can be defined by their music and subcultures, including the goth/cyberpunk crowd I consider myself a part of, has grown from music - at least at its roots. Festivals like Burning Man, Woodstock - total buttloads of people pounding on a small piece of property for the sheer sake of the sound waves. And if you know anything about superstring/chaos theory (i.e. the idea that matter is vibrational sequences acting against one another and not so much solid things bumping), then you can even argue, theoretically, that you can change things by sound alone. We'll tarry away from the pop-science for the time being however...

I'm also a music elitist. I fully admit it. I'm an elitist in a lot of ways, actually. If you're a dolt, don't breed. If you can't figure out where the "any key" is, return your computer. If you can't keep a rhythm or hold a tune, for goth's sake DON'T RECORD ANYTHING. These days I've gotten some godawful stuff - and it's still coming in - and it gets away with it how? By using one term: "experimental." Experimental does NOT mean you can fart on a snare drum and expect people to want to listen to it. And I'm going to tell you that - no, wait, I'm going to tell the 50,000 (and growing) Legends reader base that. If you're going to record the same stuff that Kraftwerk did 15 years ago and call it "industrial," then it goddamn better be GOOD industrial. Even better - do something new. Do something that hasn't been heard before - and it can be done. Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus revolutionized punk and created the gothic sound. Kraftwerk, Skinny Puppy and Leather Strip brought the synthesizers of their day to new heights and created the computeresque electro sound to be called industrial. Flock of Seagulls, Devo, Dead Or Alive and Talking Heads added in rhythm and funk to the synthesizers to bring new-wave and synth-pop to the top of the charts. The Misfits, Ramones and Sex Pistols were more about the movement than the music itself - and created a monster that lives on to this day. Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Mephiskapheles and Less Than Jake threw in a bit of reggae to create the Ska-core sound that expanded out of punk. Green Day, Offspring and Rancid picked up later down the line to modernize and bring it to even more people. DO SOMETHING NEW. Or if you're going to do something old, DO IT WELL.

Or don't record a damn thing.