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Negative themes in music


Stripey
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This is something that has bothered me for a long time. There is a huge thread of negativity runnng through a lot of genres of music, some of which seem to be founded purely on themes like violence, death, decay, nihilism, hoplessness and angst. As the focus on the negative increases, the music itself seems to become less defined, less structured, vocals become nothing more than unintelligible screams and so on. Take a group like Napalm Death for example. Can the direction this type of music goes in be logically reduced back to nothing more than the simple primal scream of a frustrated and frightened human, unable to deal with existence and unable to see any intellectual escape route, resorting to the mindless behaviour of a mere animal?

Is it just simply a childish impulse to shock, or the equally as childish impulse to sound as aggressive and "dark" as possible?

Interestingly, in many cases there is an obvious dichotomy when you have vocal content of a deeply negative nature, paired with music which is obviously designed to be danced to and people do, and seem to be having a great time moshing or whatever. Perhaps this can be explained to some extent in the case of Napalm Death and the like. Where the lyrics are unintelligable and the music as a whole simply becomes sound, percussive, bassy, barely melodic: it is essentially dance music for people who have an affinity for the small range of sounds you generally find in traditional rock bands.

Where does the fatalism come from? I find it really interesting that so many people who are into this negative music, come from comfortable backgrounds and essentially have no problems beyond their own inability to cope with being alive. Why all the recurring motifs of pain and angst, when essentially most of the artists and their audiences have got it easy? Why do the subcultures formed around these ideas consist mostly of teenagers and 20 somethings who have failed to mature?

Why are there so few bands in Aberdeen that are interested in joy and positivity, and expressing it in a mature and coherent manner?

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Ironically Stripey, Napalm Death have produced some songs that are positive regarding anti-facist principals. However, I do think that 99% of metal has shitty lyrics. That is why I love Strapping Young Lad (well the music is ace too). They find it hilarious that they are grown men who are paid to scream and roar, it is a massive snigger towards that metal bands who take themselves deadly serious.

It is indeed a shame that bands feel the need to follow the sheep and sing about what all other bands within the genre sing about.

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Guest b-bert

listen to stereophonics or bon jovi tracks "have a nice day" then decide why happy music is often less interesting.

though i totally agree there is far too much negativity within music.

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Ironically Stripey' date=' Napalm Death have produced some songs that are positive regarding anti-facist principals. However, I do think that 99% of metal has shitty lyrics. That is why I love Strapping Young Lad (well the music is ace too). They find it hilarious that they are grown men who are paid to scream and roar, it is a massive snigger towards that metal bands who take themselves deadly serious.

It is indeed a shame that bands feel the need to follow the sheep and sing about what all other bands within the genre sing about.[/quote']

Do you think there is an element of irony involved, for example the "extreme noise terror, featuring KLF - 3am eternal" performance at the brit awards?

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Do you think there is an element of irony involved' date=' for example the "extreme noise terror, featuring KLF - 3am eternal" performance at the brit awards?[/quote']

I hope so lol.

Regarding Spike, there is a bit of a twist, Jake's lyrics are very observational, with a lorry load of irony.:up:

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I think there's a lot less negativity in music than you think, a lot of what appears to be unintelligable angry nonsense is designed for the purposes of releasing angst and frustration in a positive and creative (depending) way ..and it makes people feel good. To me thats more positive than focusing on what already makes them happy.

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There is a huge thread of negativity runnng through a lot of genres of music' date=' [/quote']

Negativity is human nature, we are brought up on negative press, murder, rape, war, etc etc....you remember breaking up with a partner but do you remember how you met? when teaching customer care your told how a customer who has a bad experience will tell 20 people about it with no prompting, but a customer who's experience was good will tell no one unless asked.

In photography and art the most memorable work usually depicts atrocities, war, crucification, the wrath of god, death and destruction.....

Classical music will have its dreamy sections where your mind conjures up a leafy meadow, but more often than not its followed by the gathering storm bit....

Its funny, the strongest emotions are love and hate, I think modern popular music is just a backlash from the endless love songs churned out by so many artists.

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Guest Phantomsmasher

Humanity is a naturally morbid and pessimistic species, add to this our own track record for disgusting acts of cruelty and sheer disregard for anything including and/or surrounding our race, it would be pretty hard, and completely unrealistic for all artists to remain positive that everything is and is going to be okay in the world. Contrast is a key thing in such areas, as without the darker issues there cannot be any light, and visa versa.

On the topic of harsher vocal styles, I honestly don't believe that they are easy to pull off in a convincing and non comedic manner. Plenty of bands scream and yell vocally, yet it leaves a vast amount of their audience emotionally cold. Yet an artist with actual feeling and belief in the words which they are shouting comes across with the same level of effective passion as a musician with a beautiful singing style, perhaps even more sometimes, depending on your personal reception to such stimuli.

The fact that the words are distorted slightly, should encourage listeners to actually sit down with the inlay/lyrics and actually read them, and come to their own conclusion as to the meaning of the song. The accusation that musicians which cover darker subject matter use neolithic styles of communication is nonsense, many artists whom are extremely pessimistic viewpoints, use highly complex intelligent lyrics which communicate their own personal slant on certain subject matters, or simply paint pictures of the images the artists which to create, while leaving a large degree of space for the listener to come to their own conclusion

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perhaps it's also about taking sounds and music to an 'extreme' for creativity purposes. particularly in the case of napalm death who were one of the first bands to really form that sound. there's a very good argument which says that people do their best work when limiting themselves as it forces them to think outside the box, perhaps limiting songs to a minute or so in length forces a band to find other ways to get their feelings across leading to the stabs of noise that is such a prominent feature of grindcore.

at the end of the day most bands i'm aware of who perform such brutal music do so with tongue slightly in cheek. why else would napalm death have appeared on tfi friday?

also it's not just metal which is responsible for negativity in music. most pop songs which sound jolly enough are based on themes of lost or unrequited love.

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I think it's easier to come up with doom and gloom type songs. All that teenage angst and introspective navel gazing.

But there does need to have darkness in songs because it reflects life...which at times is "a piece of shit, when you think of it". But you need some balance so I don't think it's healthy immerse oneself in it.

I like to hear music that is positive and lifts my dark, sorry, soul. So I go back to The Beatles every now and then...Love is all you need :love:

I suppose there's irony there too for me as Lennon's Plastic Ono Band is one of the most harrowing collections of songs and performances I've heard.

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good thread.

i think there is a difference obviously, between the mood created by music, and the lyrical content/vocal delivery on a track.

for example, in much rock/metal music, there is a pairing between heavy/angry/agressive musical style and vocals, and dark/introspective/pitious lyrics. it's not all like that obviously, but you could say a lot of it was.

in contrast, much crossover dance/chart/pop music has an upbeat and optimistic feel. although the content of the lyrics may sometimes be equally introspective, or deal with common love issues, the overall feeling that the listener is left with is optimistic.

also there is the contrast of the "use" of the music. compare dance clubs with rock clubs and the varying styles of dance, of alcohol and drug use, of culture, even of class in some cases.

perhaps a more interesting question is, does music generate the culture surrounding it, or does culture generate the music associated with it?

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Just listen to prog rock. It can go from depressing' date=' but good, (Marillion) to happy/hippy (Yes)[/quote']

Maybe the lyrics can at times (although I wouldn't bet on it) but depression sets in from any exposure to "prog rock" due to it's lack of basic song/melody.

Are Marillion still "prog". I thought that ended with the Fish era.

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Maybe the lyrics can at times (although I wouldn't bet on it) but depression sets in from any exposure to "prog rock" due to it's lack of basic song/melody.

Are Marillion still "prog". I thought that ended with the Fish era.

Marillion dont really seem to know what they are - though the last album is theior 'proggisest' since the Fish days - Marbles, Brave, Seasons End, This Strange Engine are all pretty proggy, albums like Anoraknophobia are just crap attempts to be up to date. Marillion and some Genesis are the only real prog bands I listen to because I tend to find most of the others are samey and OTT, some with moments of genius, but not always consistant and I would say the songs are frequently as depressing as any other genre.

Cheers

Stuart

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Guest Jake Wifebeater
Take a group like Napalm Death for example. Can the direction this type of music goes in be logically reduced back to nothing more than the simple primal scream of a frustrated and frightened human' date=' unable to deal with existence and unable to see any intellectual escape route, resorting to the mindless behaviour of a mere animal?

Interestingly, in many cases there is an obvious dichotomy when you have vocal content of a deeply negative nature, paired with music which is obviously designed to be danced to and people do, and seem to be having a great time moshing or whatever. Perhaps this can be explained to some extent in the case of Napalm Death and the like. Where the lyrics are unintelligable and the music as a whole simply becomes sound, percussive, bassy, barely melodic: it is essentially dance music for people who have an affinity for the small range of sounds you generally find in traditional rock bands.

Where does the fatalism come from? I find it really interesting that so many people who are into this negative music, come from comfortable backgrounds and essentially have no problems beyond their own inability to cope with being alive. Why all the recurring motifs of pain and angst, when essentially most of the artists and their audiences have got it easy? Why do the subcultures formed around these ideas consist mostly of teenagers and 20 somethings who have failed to mature?

[/quote']

Whoa, what the hell? Take a look at the lyrics on the "Scum" and "F.E.T.O." LP's and you'll find some of the most incisive lyrics you'll ever read. This kind of stuff isn't meant to be danced to, it's too fucking fast for a start! "Pain and angst?" Come on, there's none of that navel-gazing in this genre, trust me. Teenagers and 20-somethings? I'm 30, been into this stuff for 16 years and I'll be into it for the next 16 as well. Stripey, you usually post some thought-provoking points but you're light years off the mark on this one.

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there's none of that navel-gazing in this genre' date=' trust me. [/quote']

I'm not talking about any specific genre here, I just used Napalm Death as one example.

It's interesting that quite a few people seem to think the alternative is "lovey dubby" or "insincerely happy cheese". What about the middle ground?

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Personally, I think the reason a lot of music has negative themes is because a lot of people do have a negative experience of life. Now, I strongly dislike negativity for negativities sake, and I feel a lot of 'heavy' bands exploit this. They sing about the horrors of life yet are perfectly happy because negativity has been a theme set in stone by the genre.

Honest negativity though is something that does appeal to me personally in music, most of the music I love has generally quite negative themes. Take The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers which is one of my favourite albums of all time, it deals with subjects like Anorexia, The Holocaust and Prostitution yet is completely honest in dealing with these subjects, because they are things that can't be ignored. Richey from the Manics once said (referring to Oasis) "I would like to be able to write, 'I'm feeling supersonic, give me gin and tonic' but I just can't do it. I think that it's a brilliant lyric, but whatever ability that is, I haven't got the ability to write that line. I don't feel that way, you know. The last time I felt supersonic was when I was about ten years old, I expect". That's kind of how I feel when I write stuff and that kind of sentiment that attracted me to the Manics lyrics, and it's all very well for bands like The Arctic Monkeys and The Rakes to write songs about going into town and getting pissed and trying to pull girls, but that's not my experience of life. That's why I like true negativity in music and not false genre controlled negativity or happy-clappy lyrics that appeal to the lowest common denominator, because everyones experience of life is not 'totally brilliant' nor is it about 'demons, corpses and evil'. There should be more honesty in lyrics.

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I find myself in agreement with a lot of what the original poster says. I reckon a lot of the angst and sorrow in modern music is based on expectations rather than experience, i.e. people write according to their genre rather than any real observation or experience.

everyones experience of life is not 'totally brilliant' nor is it about 'demons, corpses and evil'. There should be more honesty in lyrics.

I agree with this too. But having said that, I find nothing more tedious than lyrics like "I had a fag, I went clubbing, then I had a cup of tea and went to bed". Are there no lyricists left who deal with bigger issues and greater themes, with intellect and incision?

AKM

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