I was heading home from Dayton, and i didn't want to hear bluegrass or classical music, and of course no station plays jazz. I'd had my fill of seventies rock, so I found a nice modern metal station to cruise too.
Now, I like heavy metal. It's good driving music, particularly when your car is so underpowered as my little work truck. Rock makes you want to push down on the loud pedal, and with my truck, I have to push down on it to go anywhere.
But I noticed something interesting. I grew up in the era of Black Sabbath (with Ozzy), Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and, of course Led Zeppelin. They rocked hard, and had their dark little songs, but sooner or later event he most progressive station would decide they were suffering from a Stevie Nicks deficit and she or Elton John would come on. So you'd get something nice and romantic. Even our protest songs had a hopeful tone.
Now as a 22 year old virgin I was as cynical as anyone about romance. Of course i wanted romance in my life, but love had never really touched me, and besides, that was for guys who were 'whipped' But at the end of the day I did still want to fall in love, and experience the sort of bliss that comes once per lifetime.
But today's rock has a very different ethos. Singers shout to the point where their voice breaks up. Sometimes that can be effective but one song really got my goat, because the song was sung from the point of view of a slacker who didn't want anyone reminding him that maybe, perhaps he ought to get a job and start living his life instead of trying to watch it from the outside. This is particularly poignant today because my friend Julie has a 20 year old daughter who thinks work is something for 'the little people. By which she means her mother. But as I went on listening the lyrics didn't get any happier. There was a cheery little narration of a date rape, another guy whining about how 'This house is not a home' because his partner gets pissed off when every day she comes home and finds him stoned. There wasn't one single pleasant or uplifting lyric the entire hour, and the tonal constructions seemed designed to imply blackness.
Now I'm not suggesting we go country or anything. Years ago i spent hours auditing a truck stop on 'Done Me Wrong Monday'. Five hours of pedal steel guitar crying in a minor key is more than enough to make anyone Norman Bates. In fact that day inspired me to write my first country song, based on the uplifting, true story of man who paid $4 for a prostitute, got VD and gave it to his wife. But when they aren't getting jingoistic country songs often celebrate the lives of ordinary people, and they recognize that doing a good job, loving your wife and raising good kids is noble enough work for anyone.
The relentless blackness left me wondering. Is this all we see or have to say? Where are the songs of hope and togetherness? Where are the love songs for this angry world?