Tim Elliott now turns to the hazards of using trends and critical acclaim to gauge the ‘worth’ of your music. And he would like you to admit that you once liked Limp Bizkit.

Bands of Our Fathers: Part II

When I was finally allowed to buy Parental Advisory CDs, I began listening to the rap-rock hybrid known as nü-metal that was popular when I was in middle school. Sporting bands with names like Korn, Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit, this stuff was profane and loud; more importantly parents the world over hated it and the cool kids at St. Gabriel’s Grade School loved it. Trouble is, I was never angsty enough to really relate to the trials (and terrible spelling) inherent to nü-metal. Instead of trying to find out from my peers what else was popular, I started reading about bands that the critics acclaimed, hoping for sage guidance beyond my parents LP collections and the current trends that pushed my peers in one direction or another. (Thank God I stopped that when I did; I already had descended a bit into the next trend, ‘bling’ rap. Owning 4 Ca$h Money CDs is only slightly less embarrassing than owning the entire label’s shameful discography of single-hit albums like my trend-obsessed cousin.)

The lingering embarrassment about my parent’s music drove me to find additional music from the classic rock period that was a bit louder. The guidance of the aforementioned 40 year-old music snobs who pen articles for Rolling Stone guided me towards Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young, Cream, etc. These bands played louder than Elton John and brought a level of legitimacy from critics and even my more cultured peers that my parent’s music couldn’t hope to muster. They were good bands, but there was also an element of safety. Few teenagers or critics were ballsy enough to say that they didn’t “get” the head banging riffs and howled choruses of Led Zeppelin.

Despite the high critical accolades, the more “respectable” music I began to get into had a lot in common with my parent’s music. Sure the guitars were louder and the lyrical themes were a little more complicated, but given my musical background, I respond best to accessible and emotional music that I can passionately (and terribly) sing along to like I did with my dad’s old James Taylor records in our chilly concrete basement. While Crosby Stills and Nash never wrote anything as rocking as Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” I couldn’t turn off their greatest hits for about a month after I bought it. CSN may not be a very trendy pick to blare from your stereo when you’re driving around parking lots in circles (something I never did or understood), but the beautiful harmonies and unique lyrics of CSN are hard to deny.

I don’t have any real justification for my initial shame about my parent’s bands aside from the omnipresent monolith that is pop-culture and musical criticism. Once I bought a bunch of music magazines for a road trip and was shocked to see that a variety of reviewers in publications from the US and the UK gave virtually the same score to most albums released during that month.

A sort of uniform social musical standard exists; everyone loved Limp Bizkit in 8th grade, though most music snobs won’t own up to it now. Image begins to supersede the music if you follow the press and trends instead of your ears. In the end, I’m glad I was able to give in and admit that I like soft rock because it’s great music, regardless of how many lame come back tours or 90’s flops the bands released. I started to hone my ears to appreciate music regardless of its context. You can think a song like America’s “Horse with No Name” is cheesy, but dammed if you can’t stop humming it.

Each person’s unique response to music should serve as their guide instead of a blind adherence to critical and social opinions. I leave you with a quote about this sentiment from James Murphy of the LCD Soundsystem given in an interview with The AV Club last year: “Taste is something rich people have, whether rich with money or knowledge. It’s irrelevant. It’s not anything real. You can go get good taste. Hang out at record stores. It’s not an accomplishment. But finding out what really moves you, in spite of taste, is.”