Wednesday, January 23, 2002

This week, I want to cover the other genres that fill out my ragtag music library.

Alternative Rock
Gosh, it pains me to write those words. They're so "early '90s," and reek sorely of music industry marketing jargon. I remember visiting Edmonton in '94 and being distraught at seeing separate "Alternative" sections in the record stores. "But surely," I thought, "there is only good music and bad music. Do patrons feel smug and superior if they shop only in the Alternative section? Because they shouldn't." Of course, the Alternative section (which was sizable in those days) would feature totally mainstream fare such as Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam, amongst other major-label pawns. It just didn't sit right with me.

Fast forward to the present day--today, in fact--and I'm trying to come up with an all-encompassing genre label for the other sorts of "rock" music I listen to. Maybe "indie rock"? I ate up bands like Sebadoh, Superchunk, Seam, and Erics Trip throughout most of the '90s...and I'll still pull out their albums for a spin once in a while. But what about Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Bjork, and a host of other godly entities who reside on major labels, but who've never sold out (except for that GAP ad featuring SY's Kim Gordon)? They're not indie, but you don't generally see them hangin' with P. Diddy and J. Lo at the Billboard Music Awards either.

So, what to do? I wish I had a link to some comprehensive site devoted to rock/pop music that doesn't suck. Perhaps I should make my own when I've graduated and am jobless--temporarily jobless. In the meantime, check out any of the above artists' websites if you're curious.

Stoner Rock
This is an offshoot of metal that's come into vogue recently. Blame Black Sabbath for everything, I say. Heck, blame the '70s for everything. That's why I love stoner rock so much. I'm inclined to agree with Homer Simpson that rock attained perfection in 1974, and this genre honours and perpetuates the tube-driven, fringe-jacketed, loose-jammin' values of that hallowed era.

Visit StonerRock.com for a glimpse into the hazy universe where "punk, grunge, doom and sludge...combine with a fuzzed-out '70s psychedelic groove to create a new and intense rock 'n' roll vibe." Uh, right. This is a site that rallies a community around a generally ignored type of music, but I think it tries to do too much. There's an MP3 jukebox, fan forums, an online store (the site's commerce angle is rather in-your-face), features, interviews, news, and probably the kitchen sink, too. The colour scheme is appropriately garish or plain hideous, depending on your point of view. I also don't like how you have to register to take part in the fan forums. I have too many user names and passwords to remember already. Overall, though, it's a very useful site.

Jazz
My friends and I often joke that our new-found appreciation of jazz is simply a sign that we're getting old. It's true; jazz didn't mean anything to me until I reached my thirties...if that's what you'd consider old! I regret that to a certain extent, but I'm making up for lost time now. I'm listening to a lot of jazz-rock fusion these days--the whole late '60s, early '70s Miles Davis, Tony Williams's Lifetime, Mahavishnu Orchestra scene. To me, it's a celebration of unfettered musicianship, a satisfying combination of structure and improvisation that massages my brain just right.

I've been trying to find a web resource for jazz for quite a while--something fan driven and alive with passion and debate. I don't want to go on Usenet, lest the spambots get me again. One site I've just discovered is All About Jazz. It's huge and imposing, but I had a brief-yet-rewarding visit the other day. Lots of discussion about Ken Burns' Jazz series, Desert Island picks, and tons of other nerdy stuff. I like it very much, except for certain pages that use black lettering on a dark blue background, making them unreadable.

Neil Young
My hero! Serious respect is due, so I can't lump him in with everyone else. He's a genre unto himself. Needless to say, there are gazillions of Neil Young sites out there. The most popular unofficial site is apparently HyperRust, but what a dog's breakfast. It hurts to look at it--I don't want to read words of a purple hue! Nevertheless, it appears as though the webmaster is a diehard Neil Young fan. As the Orange County Register wrote, "The page is an exhaustive compilation of everything you could possibly want to know, with unbelievably complete discographies and the definitive list of unreleased Young songs. I've never seen a page this complete on any artist."

Neil's official site looks like it isn't quite up and running yet. All I could find there was a RealAudio file of an unheard (by me) song, "Let's Roll." Shame about the site, but the song's pretty wicked!

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