That kind of talk makes me jealous. Not because I wasn't alive to see Hendrix or the Sly & the Family Stone at the height of their powers, but because we can't reach consensus on who today's equivalents to Hendrix or Sly Stone might be. The music world is too fragmented. We all have different heroes. Your Green Day is my Hold Steady is his Wolfmother is her Japandroids.
I don't agree that rock peaked during the hippie era--go read the list of Woodstock performers; there's plenty of dreck dripping off that bill--but it's hard to argue that taste is as unified as it was back then. There is no whole pie, only tiny slices of it.
The fracturing of the monoculture, rather than a decline in talent, is I think what a lot of people are pining for when they lament the passage of the Woodstock days. We can't agree on who matters. Really, we haven't been able to do that for at least a decade. When the biggest rock albums of the year sell a million copies, it's like everyone is living in a different-sized art-house ghetto.
But artistically speaking, there are musicians that matter. In the past two weeks alone, I've had my heart lifted by the ramshackle roots rock of the Henry Clay People, the shadows-and-light pop-rock of Girls, the hypnotic fuzz-folk of Kurt Vile, the labyrinthine space jams of Astra, the melancholic balladry of Pete Yorn, the ultra-catchy lovelorn pop of Ladyhawke--I could go on and on.
The aforementioned acts may never hope to sell more than a few thousand copies of their albums or draw more than a couple hundred people to their gigs, and they are certainly not part of any relevant counterculture, but they are the talent equals of many of the artists who played to the muddy hordes in Bethel, New York a little more than 40 years ago. We're still stardust. We're still golden. But we're all living in different gardens.
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