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Modern alt/indie rock is bad from Bleachers to Chainsmokers

Modern alternative/indie-pop music has hit the wall and you can thank the DJ/laptop/half-hearted-dancing outfit the Chainsmokers.

There's always one band that has to take the fall, and the subsequent blame, when a (usually, but not always annoying from the get-go) trend has run its course. When punk arrived at the end of the '70s, it was common for prog-rock wunderkind Rick Wakeman and his elaborate shiny cape to be cited as the tipping point, or failing that, Emerson Lake & Palmer's trotting a full orchestra around the globe playing music that had far more going on than the three-chords deemed necessary to make an anti-elite "of the people" form of rock. So prog had to go, insisted punk.

The same thing happened again 15 years later, when a far less glamorous form of rock came along to insist that pretty boys in spandex had exceeded their sell-by date. Sorry, Warrant, Ratt and Bon Jovi. Your great big can of Aqua-Net finally ran out.

Now, alternative and indie are due for some serious comeuppance. And the Chainsmokers have made the job an easy one, by exemplifying the very nadir of this 80s-venerating form.  The group's recent performance on "Saturday Night Live" was an absolute train-wreck, a four-alarm backyard tire fire hosted by a duo of dudes who had managed to convince an awful lot of people that they were indeed musicians, and now realized that the job was actually kinda difficult. Who knew?

In truth, none of this should've been surprising, for the first hit from these poster children for the YOLO movement came in 2014, and it was called "#SELFIE." Yep, not just a hash-tag, but an ALL IN CAPS title. Like a drunk text sent from a club 4 minutes prior to closing time, with rote EDM blasting in the background.

That it took a few years for the general public to realize that this Preppy-Emperor was indeed completely lacking in clothing is surprising. But it has finally happened. You can now do a simple Google search – try "Chainsmokers worst band ever" – and hit pay dirt, with several pages of published pieces bearing titles like "The Chainsmokers are the boring sort of bad," "The Chainsmokers' "Memories': Is this the worst album of 2017?" and, by way of an answer, "The Chainsmokers' 'Memories' is Metacritic's 'Worst Album of the Year So Far.' "

My favorite of the bunch has to be a YouTube video dubbed "How EVERY Chainsmokers song is written," in which a guy named John Fassold demonstrates that all one need do is pick four adjacent major triads on a keyboard, choose a generic subject having to do with, in Fassold's words, "how hard it is being white and in love," select a pre-canned groove, and bam – another Chainsmokers anthem. The video has generated in the area of 5 million hits so far. (Fassold's language is a little rough in spots, be warned.)

The disturbing trend in much modern alternative music – an unhealthy celebration of absolute lowest-common-denominator '80s pop music, which was horrible the first time around and sounds even worse with "irony" added – will surely be the demographic niche's undoing. Playing the Foo Fighters, Future Islands or Red Hot Chili Peppers next to a block of Chainsmokers/Bleachers/21 Pilots does not wash the stink off. Equating these, treating them as equals, is a mistake. This stuff isn’t just going to sound ridiculous and dated in five years, like almost everything that becomes immensely popular does – it sounds dated from the moment it is first played.

How does a rational mind wrap itself around a headline like this one, from the usually excellent theguardian.com, hailing the new Bleachers single as "Early '80s synth-pop perfection," despite the apparently insignificant fact that it was released in 2017? I mean, isn’t that what we have Depeche Mode and Yaz for?

Being inspired and influenced by what came before you is both necessary and unavoidable. But grabbing it wholesale, putting your name on it, and counting on no one noticing? Dude, that's cheesy. And cheese gets stinky past its expiration date.

 

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