Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Compare and Contrast: The Damned

Back in 2007, I had a little feature called "Compare and Contrast," which would should the strange evolution of certain popular bands. Like all of my old work, it was both critically acclaimed and immensely popular. The original C&Cs include Kansas, Chicago, and Heart (don't bother clicking on those links if you want to hear music; none of the videos still work).

What was true with all three is that they started out as rough and tumble rock and roll and wound up as glam or glitzy pop. The same could be said of today's featured act, The Damned.



Although thematically related (elements of goth appear in both), musically the band drifted quite a bit, losing much of its hard edge.

These extreme examples play into a theory of mine, and perhaps thousands of other people as well, that the vast majority of rock bands (and all artists) lose their edge over time. Even bands in extreme genres of music tend to lose their raw intensity or even their originality. At the very least, bands are usually only influential in the early years of their career. Nearly every metal band can trace influences back to Black Sabbath or Judas Priest, but they're not going to cite the later years. By the time Judas Priest hit its commercial peak in 1982, the next generation of bands were already releasing their debut records and the innovative early work had settled into a more workable (yet still enjoyable) "formula" of sorts.

You take a young rock band, they write about what they know, and they tend to pay homage to their idols, the bands and artists that came before them. After a few years of success, the dirty and grit of the street has been replaced with limos and champagne. All of a sudden they're artists, creating music as a science and not as a passion...generally speaking. I'm not saying established bands stop making good music, but they tend to soften up or mature with age. There's a difference between being a 20 year old with anger and testosterone, sleeping in a van and playing gigs of 50 people, to being a 40 year old with a wife and kid and a posh bush that takes you to arenas of 50,000 people.

Perhaps, then, the bands that never make it big are the ones that retain the greatest bite, playing just to survive. Of course, the youthful force is gone, but the hardness remains.

If you think about other art forms, the similarities abound. Without going into too many details, rattle off some actors and contemplate their best films. Older actors tend to gravitate to family friendly movies, animated flicks and whatever lazy big budget affair that will pad their wallets. Again, not all of them, but a large enough number to satisfy the trend.

Older bands (and other artists) can still be creative, and I hope they do. Artists don't lose their creativity, it just evolves. I guess the dilemma is still producing stuff that not only appeals to the creator, but also to the audience as well. The piquancy of youth can never be maintained forever, but one can remain entertaining and imaginative. If success, wealth, and fame make you complacent or pacified, then you're done.


Gorilla Bananas said...

But actors get better at acting when they get older. Jack Nicholson, for example. In his younger days, he just played nasty, one-dimensional characters.

ChrisV82 said...

Jack is one of those guys that just plays himself, but at least himself is an interesting character. The problem is, the last 20 years of his work production is spotty at best. Between A Few Good Men and The Departed, which of his films would you want sitting on your DVD shelf (or on your harddrive)?