Op-Ed: Patrick McNerney (Forever Falls) Discusses the State of Music Today on Cusp of Their Triumphant Return

Even though I’ve been friends with the members of Forever Falls for the better part of a decade, that’s not the sole reason for deciding to agree with posting this piece. The importance of this article, given the brutally honest nature of Pat’s writing, compelled me to make sure that this got to as many eyes as possible. Please keep in mind that this is his opinion, based on observations he’s made over the years, and is not being presented as factual. Individuals are entitled to their own opinions and we welcome you to discuss them with us, after reading this article.

Where Has the Music Gone?
By: Patrick McNerney

What has happened to art? Where has it gone? Is there some underground network I don’t know about where the currency is expression of self? Too precious to the subterranean dweller to ever find its way to the surface where most of us live. It doesn’t seem to exist in the world of mainstream film and music. Sure, you can point to some anecdotal example of a great movie or song by some obscure artists most of us have never heard. But that’s the nature of anecdotal evidence. It can always be found, but it’s not always relevant when someone is making an argument based on generalities. That is what this article is about. The general state of things.

Human expression in all its forms. This is what art, specifically music and film, used to be. Some portion of the human experience captured and put to paper or song. Something immediately relatable to all humans. Transcendent of time, space, culture, and creed. This was something that took real skill. The wizardry of an artist wielding an easel capturing something timeless into a format accessible to the common man. It was magic. It was captivating. People would come from all over to see it, and in some way, see a part of themselves in it. Two hundred-thousand years of existence captured in some unmistakably human way.

Well, what happened? Most Top 40 pop songs are written by the same two people. Even if the artists pushing the tunes look and act different, it’s all coming from the same uninspired place. They try to hide that by masking the music in identity politics and this-is-bigger-than-us messaging. Empowerment anthems, full of bumper sticker slogans but so devoid of meaning. Turn on the radio and you will hear it everywhere. Mindless diatribes that feel good to say, but mean nothing.

“We can overcome.” “Rise up and fight back!” “Time for revolution!” “We won’t be held down!” “We are strong!” “We are powerful!” “Stand Up!”

You see? It feels good to say, but it has no meaning without context. There is nothing worse than faked enthusiasm, and we are living in the generation of faked enthusiasm. The only thing real most artists have to offer us on the Top 40 now a day is politics. When Katy Perry isn’t campaigning for Hillary Clinton, Lady Gaga is holding rally’s in front of Trump Tower. The human element is completely lost on people who take themselves so serious. Such elitism. Modern day harbingers of truth and prophets of political correctness. Somewhere along the way, they forgot to make good music.

But they aren’t alone. Rock used to be the counter-culture anti-establishment flag with a middle finger on it. Full of fun, full of truth, and usually some good ole’ fashioned angst. Where has this gone? Marilyn Manson is a card-carrying Democrat. Remember him? He used to be scary. Rage Against The Machine spent their last tour campaigning for Hillary Clinton at shows (if you don’t see the irony in a band called “Rage Against the Machine” doing this, then you need to work on your sense of humor). Rock bands, much like Top 40, are injecting political correctness and identity politics in their music. When did rock become so safe? Rockers of today may dress like those of yesteryear but they certainly don’t sound like them. They sound like Puritans of a new era. Crying about injustice and worrying about the words of their lyrics being deemed offensive.

The problem crosses lines even into Country music. Those artists seem to have traded music and art for politics as well. They, of course, are on the other side. Draped in American flags and saluting the troops. But it’s one thing to “wear the jersey” to sell records and it’s another thing to say what you mean and mean what you say. Entire careers are built on God, guns, and cold beer. Recently though, many country artists have railed against the 2nd Amendment. Whatever side of the political isle you fall on, try to see past that, and ask yourself if Joe Six-pack is going to buy the next album from a country artist who clearly doesn’t stand for any of the things he sings about. None of it is real. More faked enthusiasm.

Then you have Hollywood. The place that gave you some of the greatest stories ever told. The purveyors of modern mythology. But where are all the great stories? Almost every movie being sold loses money now; being in the insurance business is more profitable than the story-telling business in Hollywood. A large studio executive retired recently lamenting the fact that movies are sold and shopped based on their special FX now, no longer the stories they told. The push is to make something that can be sold in multiple countries across the globe. Special FX seem to be the easiest way to achieve that. But it is intellectually lazy. People can tell, and movies lose money. There is nothing worse than faked enthusiasm, and that is exactly what a movie with special FX but no storyline is.

Perhaps I’m just out of touch. I’m sure there are a hundred great bands and indie films art appreciators could point me to. But what about people who don’t have time to sleuth and find that sort of material? Where do we go? Do we turn on the radio? I have not heard a song that wasn’t 20 years old on our rock station, ever. I take that back, I was shocked to hear a song that was only 10 years old the other day being played. Where is the new stuff? Does it not exist? Is Rock Dead? I’m sure the employees at the radio stations would tell me I don’t understand how it works. I don’t read the Nielson Ratings or look at the Mediabase Charts every day. But, from someone on the outside looking in, it just seems like someone at the top is extremely lazy and ok with the status quo knowing that people will consume it because nothing better exists or is easily accessible.

And that brings me to my conclusion. I am not one of those people who will consume something because it’s “the best I’ve got.” I’m also not the type of person to get excited about something because “well it’s not great, but it’s better than that other thing.” I HATE faked enthusiasm. I HATE mindless diatribes and meaningless bumper sticker slogans. I CRAVE truth and reality. Some might argue that everything is relative, but reality is most certainly not. Something that is real is unmistakable. Something you can connect to immediately and hits you in the soul. That’s what I enjoy. Without those things, I live in a colorless gray world. I don’t enjoy the radio stations, I don’t enjoy bad movies, and I am not going to take political or moral advice from celebrities. So, what is the answer?

For me, I don the Forever Falls banner yet again. I embrace the way we always approached music and expression. Capturing some essence of the human experience, through loud distorted amplifiers and stringed instruments. With pounding drums and a singer wailing and emoting with all he’s got. It’s sweaty, it’s dirty, it’s hard work. But it’s real. You won’t find faked enthusiasm, politics, or virtue signaling. But you might find something you can relate to. Something that speaks to you. Something that looks back at you as hard as you look at it. A tiny piece of the human experience captured in song. That’s the great thing about something that’s timeless: it doesn’t expire. Just as Excalibur sat in the stone waiting for the right suitor, Forever Falls laid dormant waiting for the right moment to be brought back to life. Like Lazarus and The Phoenix, we rise once again. The objective: inject a strong dose of reality and humanity back into a world that is sorely missing both.

–Forever Falls will play their first show in over 5 years on December 23rd at Texas Ave Tavern in Bridge City, TX (no cover) and, while details remain scarce, it’s shaping up to be a night of Rock that those in attendance will never forget. In addition to FF headlining, longtime friend of the band Gary Crawford will be a special guest/emcee at the event and more bands/guests will be announced in the coming weeks. Check out a teaser video, unveiling the band’s new logo, below!

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