Blog: Where has all the anger gone?
It's 2015, the world's in turmoil, but you'd never know it from listening to music. Where are the angry rock bands?
"Anger is an energy," a wise man once shouted. And throughout rock history negative emotions, righteous fury and scattershot rage have fuelled a huge amount of great rock music. Far more, in fact, than ecstatic joy, loved-up happiness or upbeat party-hard euphoria.
So why, in 2015, does there seem to be so little genuinely angry rock music around? While 10 or 20 years ago, bands such as Rage Against The Machine or System of a Down carved much of their artistic identity out of indignation, those acts spiritual and political descendants don't seem to be emerging – or if they are, they haven't made music powerful enough to make their feelings register.
Don't get me wrong, there’s as much as ever of what Shakespeare called 'sound and fury', but more than ever it seems to be signifying nothing.
A cause of more dismay is the fact that rock seems to have become music’s most apathetic genre. Tribally-minded Rock fans may blithely dismiss pop and R'n'B as mindless, commercially oriented fare lacking grit, guts or moral fibre. But who’s showed those qualities where social commentary is concerned?
The recent tensions between the black community and police in Ferguson and Baltimore saw hip-hop artists galvanized into pre-show speeches (see Killer Mike's address to the Run The Jewels crowd in St Louis) and topical jams like J Cole’s Be Free, while even the never knowingly flag-waving likes of Prince (Baltimore) and Lauryn Hill (Black Rage) have felt moved to vent their spleen about the situation.
Meanwhile, when Paloma Faith is taking left-wing author Owen Jones on the road with her, rock needs to take a long hard look at itself and ask where its values have gone.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good music getting made, and I’d be the last to suggest that we want everyone gobbing off about social issues. But check out the nominees for best new band at last November’s Classic Rock awards: Blackwolf, Massive, Cadillac Three, The Golden Grass, No Sinner and Blues Pills all indulge in good-time rock for rock's sake. And why not? Meanwhile, Purson and The Strypes plough an unashamedly retro furrow. Even the all-conquering Royal Blood, for all their power-duo punch, seem to deal, lyrically, in sneering personal antipathy rather than anything approaching socially-conscious agit-rock.