This article is a rant in response to rants by people who insist that the 60's and 70's were the only times when music mattered, and that rock today is dead. True, the classic rock era was a renaissance period for music, similar to the original Renaissance when history's greatest composers such as Beethoven came out (correct me if I'm wrong). It is also true that there is quite limited talent in the today's music, and most of the musicians who are actually talented are found strictly in the underground.
But in defense, it is NOT TRUE that the mainstream is absolutely devoid of talent. There are many talented musicians and bands in the mainstream even today, although most of the time they are overshadowed by crap like Britney Spears and Ja Rule. It is stupid to think, though, that anything that doesn't sound like classic rock is tasteless and untalented. Music evolves. Led Zeppelin does not at all sound like Chopin. As a matter of fact, the similarities between Led Zeppelin and their contemporaries, The Beatles, are almost unnoticeable. Just like that, one cannot expect today's music to be even a little bit similar to classic rock.
To drive home the point of this rant, here are five bands that have honored music with their talent and, at the same time, their popularity. If you haven't already heard their music (which I seriously doubt), make sure to check them out. It'll be worth your while.
01. Rage Against The Machine. A band that has already achieved legendary status after their unfortunate breakup. They were one of the few bands of the 90's who managed to stray from the status quo, and revolutionized the way a guitar is played. Tom Morello is an absolute genius. Over and over, he has managed to utilize a limited number of notes to come up with incredible riffs. Furthermore, his knowledge of his hardware is limitless, and he is able to use virtually anything to produce unbelievable sounds from a cheap guitar. He has used whammy bars, Allen keys, and killswitches. Hearing his music, it's hard to believe he has only five pedals at his disposal. RATM is also inarguably the most influential political band since The Clash. Although RATM has disbanded, their music lives on in Audioslave.
Recommended listening: Killing In Name Of, Wake Up, Calm Like A Bomb, Guerilla Radio, People Of The Sun
02. Dream Theater. One of the few metal bands in the mainstream today. These five guys have such an incredible grasp on music theory that they manage to sound even just slightly like Beethoven and Mozart while maintaining their aggressive tone. John Petrucci is a guitarists' guitarist. His shredding skills rival those of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani (who he happens to play with in G3). With Mike Portnoy and John Myung manning the rhythm section, James LaBrie on vocals, and Jordan Rudess on keyboards, they form a formidable musical machine.
Recommended listening: In The Name Of God, The Glass Prison
03. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Perhaps the modern rock band that sounds closest to classic rock (aside from The Darkness and other bands that try too hard). Why do they sound like classic rock? Mostly because of the fun (usually pointless) lyrics. That was what rock and roll was originally about - just plain out having fun (think AC/DC and pre-Revolver Beatles). Perhaps the highest talent level in the band is bassist Flea. Flea's funk-based riffs have powered RHCP's music throughout, along with Anthony's energetic rap. John Frusciante is also one of the underrated guitarists of our time. Although his soloes are slow and simple, he has come up with one of the most memorable riffs of the 90's in Under The Bridge).
Recommended listening: Under The Bridge, Give It Away, Around The World
04. Incubus. One of the poppier modern rock bands, but also one of the most talented. What really defines Incubus' music is Brandon Boyd's lyrics (poetry is more like it). However, one cannot ignore how much effect the other guys have on Incubus' songs. Mike Einzinger (I just never learn how to spell it right) is amazing both as a rock and a jazz guitarist. Dirk Lance (before he left) and Jose Pasillas were heavily influenced by jazz, and it was evident in songs like Summer Romance and Are You In. DJ Kilmore's samples are unconventional to rock music, but they add a whole lot to Incubus songs like Nice To Know You. In their new album Crow Left Of A Murder, Incubus has experimented and produced more technical songs, which would be more to the liking of traditional musicians.
Recommended listening: Stellar, Battlescar Scralachtica, Take Me To Your Leader
05. Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl has been called many things. Among these, he has been acclaimed to be the most interesting person in rock. He is also arguably the most influential person in today's rock. The Foo Fighters have been very consistent performers under Dave's leadership. Their timeless songs and hilarious antics have more than made up for their lack of technical skills. In the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl got to reveal his beautiful singing voice, which had never been heard in his previous band, the legendary Nirvana.
Recommended listening: Everlong, Times Like These, Learn To Fly
There are so many more amazing musicians in the mainstream, that to list them this way would take days. Other musicians that I think deserve special mention though are the following: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Daron Malakian (SOAD), Rhino (Mudvayne), Deftones, Slash (Velvet Revolver), Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), etc.
Remember, good music isn't dead. It's alive as ever. You just have to know where to look!