Defying Musical Genres, Eras and Categorization

After making some recent additions to my music collection, I took a quick survey over the albums I have (which is quite a few). I guess I have very eclectic tastes in music as my collection ranges from some of the hardest to the softest. I definitely have a penchant for the classic rock era as I have a lot of bands from that era. I also have more modern rock, alternative, garage rock, punk and heavy metal. I'm a huge blues fan ranging from the very earliest artists in the genre to the very newest. I'm a folk music fan as well with artists from the most well known to the newest coffee shop protector. I also like jazz, funk, soul, classical and a whole bunch of other genres.

Looking through my collection I laugh because any purist heavy metal fan would surely cringe at my folk collection, a classic rock purest would surely grimace at my modern alternative albums, and any punk would hate seeing heavy metal albums next the the punk elite. I have such a mix of tastes that classifying them is too difficult.

I also get occasional guff from people "in the know" of the music scene because I am rarely up on the latest bands, rarely up on the latest gossip and rarely aware of any breaking music news. There's an easy explanation for this. I don't listen to the radio, I don't watch MTV, MTV2 VH1 or VH1 Classic (which ever one actually still shows videos), and I only read the music related stories I am interested in on the web.

These people seem overly obsessed with the newest of the new and say things like: "I can't believe you're listening to this, it is the 2000s you know..." Yeah, I know... but maybe I listen to bands from 40 years ago because I like them... and maybe I listen to music that was released yesterday for the same reason.

A few years back I discovered a new band: The Velvet Underground. Their first album was released in 1967, long before my time and definitely not "mainstream by anyone's standards, but they were new to me. Shortly after that I started listening to bands like the Stooges, the Sex Pistols and the Clash; the roots of the punk movement. As a long time classic rock fan this was seen as ritual suicide by some of my associates. I mean how could I dare have the Clash in the same collection as Led Zeppelin?! That is blasphemous!

When I started listening to jam bands during my high school days, it was considered just as blasphemous to pick up an album from the metal scene. I can't listen to both Phish and Metallica? Or the Grateful Dead and Black Sabbath?

I've spent some time focused on nearly every genre at one time or another and I have favorite bands from nearly all of them. They all seem to coexist quite nicely in my music collection. I've yet to break up a fight between London Calling and Physical Graffiti.

Looking at the all musical sub genres and understanding the differences is almost impossible without a road map. There's alternative, garage rock, metal, nu-metal, proto punk, punk, pop/punk, punk metal, emo, screamo, hardcore, country rock, folk rock,southern rock, blues rock, classic rock, British invasion, grunge, rock and roll revival, indie, prog rock, pop, pop/rock, glam rock, industrial, goth rock, death metal, sludge metal, speed metal, stoner metal, punk metal, space rock, neo-psychedelic... and those are just a few of the ones under the rock music umbrella. Check out all the categories All Music has defined just for rock 'music: All Music Rock Catagories

Websites like All Music, The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll and the thousands of other mp3 and music related sites need to use genres as categories as this is the easiest way to give someone a fighting chance at finding what they're looking for. Plus it allows the listener to get a feel for what the music might sound like without actually hearing it and finding music similar to what they already like. This is a necessarily evil as without these categories large and small websites about music would be completely unnavigable. The same is true for music stores and online vendors. Categories are necessary, but I think music itself defies these categories and we shouldn't lock ourselves or musicians into any particular genre.

As music listeners, I think we're all a little too obsessed with musical genres at times tending to stick to our own genres and bickering over what bands classify as what. Does it really matter what bands fit under what genre and whether or not some new band is punk, pop/punk, punk revival or the new metal group is goth metal, death metal or doom metal etc? How do we know we won't find our newest favorite band under a genre we never considered before?

We also can be a little overly obsessed with the newest of the new, or the underground or the unknown. I spent a fair amount of time falling the newest bands during my alternative rock days. Now I feel like I was just limiting myself to the genre of the newest music, just like I might limit myself to only punk music or only classic rock. Music, once created is timeless, so who really cares whether our favorite band is on the charts now or was in '66?

Its all just music.

These days, some of my favorite bands were popular in the 60s, some are on the radio today and they're all from a wide range of musical genres and sub genres. My musical tastes may be eclectic but they are a direct representation of me. Each different genre and band has something I like and the sum of those things is about as close a representation of my soul as possible, like a snapshot of who I am in album form (well multiple albums)

Music is meant to be enjoyed. If both metal and folk, classic rock and punk, jazz, country or any other genres make you happy, then listen to all of them.

Lets all try not to get too caught up with what time our music is from and what genre or sub it fits in, and go out and find our new favorite bands. Just make sure to keep the Clash and Led Zeppelin on separate shelves.

- The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll is a division of Fifth Column Media - www.fifthcolumnmedia.com -