Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Guitar Music Isn’t Dead, But It May Need Resuscitating

Every now and again, the phrase ‘guitar music is dead’ rears its head in conversation. There’s nobody like The Clash anymore, there’s not been a good album since The Strokes’ Is This It, rock n’ roll died with Oasis… You get the idea. It’s all subjective of course, but you don’t have to look far to see rock music being slated, with many claiming it’s dead, dying or - the opposite extreme - suddenly reborn. It’s obvious guitar music isn’t what it once was, as shown by the rapid decline of NME. The readership of this once giant publication fell below 20,000 this year, compared to 300,000 in its heyday. Granted, magazine sales aren’t exactly at an all-time high, but it’s a telling sign that NME no longer has the same grip to promote new bands and interview the big stars as it once did. There are a few suggestions as to why rock may be faltering. Electronic music has fully embraced the interactivity of the Internet in a way that many rock bands have not. YouTube and Soundcloud and are used prolifically by producers, while Boiler Room streams performances and DJ sets live, reaching out to new audiences all over the world. Collaboration is not something that happens as easily in guitar music either, whereas in electronic music it’s a regular occurrence. Artists work with each other all the time, creating new sounds and keeping the music fresh. It’s a lot better than Liam Gallagher slagging off a newly hyped indie band or trying to fabricate a new rivalry between two guitar bands like it’s 2005. Maybe it’s not dying. Maybe it’s just not as relevant anymore. In the last few decades there were a handful of iconic guitar bands and guitar music remained at the forefront of people’s minds - the Britpop era dominating headlines, the anti-establishment punk scene of the 70s, the mad brilliance of Bowie. It’s near impossible to identify a current band or scene in guitar music that has anything like the same impact. So what does it need to do to change? New influences and imagination would be a start. More established bands are often too complacent to attempt something different to that original album that people loved when they can more easily market more of the same. New artists often aim for fans of the big guitar bands of the past to secure a ready-made audience or, worse still, make a career out of being friends with a famous lead singer from Sheffield. Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, recently told Rolling Stone he no longer enjoys playing the songs that made them famous. “But it's the same thing with an actor,” he said, “If a movie does really well at the box office, they make 10 of those afterward because that's what they think people like … If something has commercial value, it doesn't mean it's good.” There are now so many genres and subgenres in music that it’s completely saturated. But rather than seeing this as an obstacle, musicians should be encouraged to work with it. One thing rock bands have always had on their side is gigs. There is nothing better than seeing an on-form band performing in a packed, sweaty venue. Commercial guitar music will always be available to those who want it though. Kasabian are still going, selling out stadium tours in rapid time and headlining Glastonbury, and Arctic Monkeys’ latest album reached number one in several countries. Hell, my 11 year old sister loves them now and Little Mix was the only thing on the playlist before. It’s not that rock music is dead. It just needs resuscitating. There are still the big names like there always will be, but as a whole the genre may need the defibrillators on standby to wake it up. )

Next from Sound

More Sound

Next article in issue 80

More Music

More Music