I’m going on a bit of a Jimi Hendrix kick these days, perhaps because I’m so distraught over the state of the music industry. My Launch player has been kicking up some 2004 music, and I haven’t liked a single song. Sure, perhaps that’s because my preferences are skewing toward the “Adult Alternative” end of things, a genre that seems to have forgotten than it’s possible to have a singer-songwriter mentality while still putting just a bit of effort into the music. (Check early-90s Indigo Girls if you don’t think such a thing is possible.)
Let’s compare to Hendrix. In four years, Jimi recorded Purple Haze, I Don’t Live Today, Are You Experienced?, Voodoo Child and many more.
Sure, not everyone can be Hendrix. But when I listen to today’s music, the spirit of innovation is missing. We have more technology, but we just can’t coax anything quite as distinctive as Hendrix did out of a guitar or other musicians did with less.
Here’s an illustration: the last six tunes I downloaded from iTunes (the Jane-proof disclaimer: YES, ITUNES IS LEGAL!) are Hendrix’s I Don’t Live Today, Maroon 5’s Harder to Breathe, Flock of Seagulls’ Wishing and Space Age Love Song, David Bowie’s Heroes and The Byrds’ Eight Miles High. The only new song in that bunch is the Maroon 5 song, which is a perfectly good groove song but not really ground-breaking. All of the older stuff is definitive. There’s that crushing Hendrix guitar hook backing up the profound psychedelic questions, Bowie at his best with a synthesized dreamscape, Flock of Seagulls sneaking great guitar riffs into a terrific synthesizer backdrop, and the Byrds’ classic contrast of guitar chaos breaking into soaring harmony.
There is some decent music today. Alanis Morissette’s new one has at least a couple of worthwhile songs. I’m assuming Barenaked Ladies just hit a minor slump. Maroon 5 and other retro bands are breathing life into old-school rock and pop.
But where are our Hendrixes? Do we even have a Flock of Seagulls these days?