Eclecticism is a Mother Fucker.
Posted by Christine Palmer
As mentioned in a previous piece I wrote, eclecticism is a double edged sword within the music industry these days. It can be a good thing when a band switches their artistic direction because of their own internal desire to do so. In most of these cases, the band has tired of their old direction or just feels it is time to go above and beyond in the writing process. After an attempt is made at diversifying within their musical capabilities, these bands sometimes wear a tag of being “eclectic.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word Eclectic with two definitions. They are: 1) selecting what appears to be best in various methods or styles and 2) composed of elements drawn from various sources. Some may interpret that the definition of eclectic is being unoriginal, but I strongly disagree. Simply stated, band variables like influences, geography, era, and education, are what give a band a sound that may be labeled as eclectic. These variables can inevitably change over a band’s career, with both good and bad public reception. Hence, the double edged sword. A risk, if you will. There is something to admire about a band that changes things up for the sake of their art. Obviously, they also run the risk of alienation; up to the point of no longer existing. It is the equivalent of putting 500K on red at the roulette table. Why talk about these bands though? Admirable attempts are made every day by a bevy of hungry new artists. I would rather focus on the misusage of the word eclectic when describing your own sound. Nickelback, Creed, and Staind all consider themselves eclectic. This amounts to a pile of laughs, but pulls the definition into question again! I mean, shit, you know you are bad when the Black Keys tells the world, “That you single handedly destroyed rock music.” Thanks Nickelback, for being the Frank Sinatra of Rock and Roll! My sincerest apologies to Frank’s ultra dead and rotting corpse! You did not deserve to be mocked and ridiculed. So the real topic here is “why are you labeling your band to be eclectic?” The three “way below par” hit machines referenced above, sold their souls to the devil for fame and fortune. Their artistic visions were all squashed by record label mercenaries, after selling millions upon release of their first record. The result was generic American Idol like efficiency, that alienated long time hard core fans. Yes, that simple folks! Is the struggling recording industry ruining music as you know it? Could be! Many feel that record companies live by a credo of, “If we can not benefit, neither will you.” That statement could be the very same reason that some hack like Colbie Caillat gets signed to a recording deal based on videos posted to her My Space page. I mean, geez, get me a gun, I have to snuff this feeling out. We are being spoon fed mountains of undigestible fluff in the record label’s new format of choice! Oh wait, too late there as well. Shawn Fanning beat you to the chase. The approach of the high end execs to diversify the fan base of bands at any cost, has lead to some of the biggest disasters in the history of recorded music. Remember Megadeth’s “Risk,” record from 1999? I figured, who would want to? This unbearable piece of garbage is a prime example of a label trying to force an act into flipping their whole fan base overnight? The end result, a fan base destroyed! And furthermore, no new fans! No one bought it, because no one could wrap their mind around it! Who else would put the idea in Dave Mustaine’s head, that he could write songs that were based around disco and dance beat syncopation. Only a record label would encourage such a sad departure! Ecleticism does not involve pimping yourself for an asshole in suit and tie! Of course, the legend is that Lars Ulrich helped encourage this “brave move” as well. No surprise there. I am sure Lars would suck dick for a thousandth of a percentage point in earnings. With all that being said, I still love Megadeth to this day. They made an error that could have cost them tragically, and have moved on admirably. This is not an example of eclecticism benefiting art. This is greed gone awry, with no profit, and nothing remotely close to significant coming from it…on any level. Eclecticism in it’s true form, can be best tracked back to some of the great musical eras of the past. The era of Grunge and the Seattle scene comes to mind. Every era will spawn the mimic train that comes with it’s descent. Ask Puddle of Mudd, those clueless Nirvana wannabes that have the cultural relevance of the Insane Clown Posse. In any case, that era of music was spawned by a culmination of many different variables that were shaking up music at the highest levels. The bleak geography and dark overtones of Seattle, were a perfect place for musical revolution. It was the end of the hair metal invasion, the downward spiral of Michael Jackson, and a whole new generation of kids who grew up listening to metal, punk, and substantial indie records. Their eclecticism could not be helped, and thank “your spiritual muse” for that. Bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains all brought something completely refreshing to the table. And in return, were falsely labeled as knock offs of each other. Fuck that. That era was to come in the late 90’s, when bands like The Presidents of The United States of America were jammed down our throat. I think another great example of that era would be the Chili Peppers. They were also accused of the same forms of emulation. My question would be how? The band was influenced by artists as diverse as James Brown, Fear, and The Gap Band. I would say this sounds like a natural evolution of influence that escalated into something highly original. Natural eclectic transformation! That brings us to the present day. The purest form of eclecticism is taking place in the small clubs of the world. Bands are trying to make it with a fierce focus on internet marketing and social media. Their hopes are based on some form of widespread distribution through the internet or indie labels that were swallowed up by the monopoly that is the recording industry. They start off on the right path, and the good ones usually don’t conform for anyone. The darkest side of this diversity equation comes from the handful of bands that trade in their DIY work ethic for a piece of “forced eclecticism.” You will see this on many Facebook band pages these days. Bands, as an example, may use the tag of eclectic when spotlighting the fact that their band has someone who plays a keyboard. Metal music is metal music! Keyboard, violin, harpsichord, or banjo included, if you are playing metal, it is what it is! Meanwhile, there is nothing that comes from a place of true originality with some of these bands. The consumer bourgeois and the national record labels, have brainwashed many bands into believing that wearing this title is their key to success. It is not! What is important, you ask? Importance comes from staying true to your roots and beliefs if it is working for you. Only you, as a band, can answer this question of self reflection. This does not mean that you can not wear your influences on your sleeves. Be your own muse within your creation. Good, bad, or indifferent, this is what many expect out of their musical heroes. To sum it up, Fuck the American Idol generation! Rock is not dead, the path to get from A to Z is. Be safe, my brothers and sisters.