The Type of Rock Music I’m Looking For

I recently had a conversation with Mitchell wherein I told him how much I liked AC/DC and Van Halen. This is especially true when I’m in the mood for music that really rocks. Later Mitchell asked if I could explain specifics about both groups that appealed to me. I did a cursory listening of various rock groups last night, and while I think my thoughts are still fuzzy, I’m going to offer some thoughts (because I might never get to this if I wait until my thoughts are clearer). To start things off, answering the following question might be helpful: What does it mean for a group to really rock? Here’s a list of things that come to mind:

1. The music is aggressive–rhythmically and sonically. Generally, this manifests in hard-driving rhythms, accompanied by booming drums and distorted guitars; think of Jon Bonham and Jimi Hendrix, respectively. With Eddie Van Halen, I sort of feel like he’s taken Hendrix’s contributions to the next level. Like Hendrix, my interest in Van Halen stems from the guitar–Eddie’s, mostly his riffs, not solos.

2. In general, I think the music has to be characterized by a looser, grittier, grungier, dirtier vibe. For example, I listened to some jazz fusion last night, and while I may like some of it, it doesn’t really rock in the way that I’m thinking about here. I don’t think my favorite fusion from Miles Davis rocks in this way. Part of the reason is that is lacks this grungier, almost chaotic and raw vibe. If the music is too clean and precise, that generally ruins the harder rock vibe I’m seeking out.

In a way, I think AC/DC comes really close to capturing this. What I think is at the heart of this music is physical aggression–violence and destruction. There’s a feeling of smashing things and going crazy. Musically, that may not be an accurate description, but that feeling is underneath the music, and the music is an expression of that feeling. By the way, I think some of the best noise/noise rock as the most pure expression of this feeling. It’s as if you could listen to violence and aggression before it gets translated into rock music.

There’s probably more I can say, but I’ll stop there.

32 thoughts on “The Type of Rock Music I’m Looking For

  1. What do you think of 70s-era Aerosmith?

    You might find a thing or two of interest on the first two Def Leppard albums, On Through the Night and High ‘n’ Dry. Maybe “Wasted” and “Rocks Off” from the former and “Let it Go” and “You Got Me Runnin'” from the latter. The problem with Def Leppard beginning with their third album, Pyromania is that they got really super melodic and lost the grittiness, although that album rocks and is in my very short list of perfect albums. I still love the band, but everything after Pyromania is probably too polished for you.

    How do you like George Thorogood?

  2. Pyromania is that they got really super melodic …

    I feel like catchy melodies aren’t a problem for me (Pretty melodies would be another story.) For example, AC/DC has very catchy melodies in my opinion.

    I’m curious to see if I Def Lepard would fit what I’m looking for. I’m going to check out some of their stuff.

    Besides “Bad to the Bone,” I don’t think I’m too familiar with Thorogood.

  3. I think Def Leppard is the closest thing to AC/DC I can think of, but they’re less blues-based and quite a bit slicker. Those first two albums, though, feel a lot more denim-and-leather than Spandex-and-AquaNet.

  4. “Let It Go” doesn’t seem to meet what I’m really talking about–or at least it doesn’t really hit the spot, if you know what I mean.

  5. Alice in Chains’s “We Die Young” comes kinda close. I think it’s the vocals and crunchy, grungy guitars.

    I wounder if some punk bands would meet what I’m looking for.

    By the way, I’ve been kinda disappointed with what I’ve heard from Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine–in terms of the type of rocking I’m talking about.

  6. No, not really. The frustrating thing is that I’m not sure I can explain it, except to vaguely point to inadequacies in the vocals and guitars.

  7. Right. I suspected the excellence had something to do with it. Although the lead guitarist of Motorhead, Fast Eddie Clarke, while no Eddie Van Halen, is pretty dang good if you like a certain kind of music.

    But heck. Lemmy on vocals is at least as good as Bon Scott.

  8. How about David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose?” Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan, and Gregg Bissonette, the second best band DLR ever sang with.

  9. I don’t know if excellence is the crucial variable, here. I don’t really think of AC/DC’s musicianship as excellent, especially if we’re thinking of technique. Indeed, prodigious chops can get in the way–e.g., John McLaughlin. In general, not just in terms of rocking, McLaughlin’s playing leaves me cold.

    To me, Lemmy’s vocals don’t have that primal, I’m-going-to-rip-your head off sound–not in that song, anyway. Also, I think I prefer Brian Johnson over Bon Scott.

    You know, I suspect there are other groups out there that do what I’m looking for, but none of them hit me like those two groups. But if you’re up to it, please keep sending more candidates.

    By the way, I’ve been recently listening to a little bit of Black Sabbath. They don’t really qualify, but I like Osbourne’s vocals. Overall, the music is pretty good as well.

  10. What I mean by excellence is (I may have said this already) that nobody does the kind of music AC/DC does as well as they do. You might like that sound, but it’s possible you only like it when it’s done as well as they do it, and nobody else does it as well as they do.

    And Van Halen is honestly a one-of-a-kind band. There’s nobody like that group.

  11. How about Rollins Band’s “Low Self Opinion?” I have a feeling this is an automatic no because of Rollins’s vocals, but the song has an Alice in Chains, grimy low-end I love.

    Also: this song is crazy fun to sing when you know the words and can sing along.

  12. Besides the fact that DLR’s vocals don’t really qualify (and, again, this doesn’t mean it’s bad), I think the guitars aren’t prominent enough and they feel sort of weak.

    Compare that to this:

    Even when Eddie’s guitar recedes a little in the background, it still has that power, which I think has to do with the distortion and extra musical effects. It’s that fuzzy sound that conveys power. I think with AC/DC and Van Halen (especially Eddie)–the difference might be the level of power their music gets to.

    Hendrix is like that, and I especially like when he incorporates feedback and distortion. There are portions of this that sound like noise/noise rock:

  13. Man that Alice in Chains really throws this off. It’s like a triangle now.

    I have no idea what you mean by “triangle.” I think you should forget Alice in Chains, but I’ll try to say what appeals to me. The grungy guitars are in your face. I like Layne Staley’s voice, although it doesn’t really have Brian Johnson’s power.

    What I mean by excellence is (I may have said this already) that nobody does the kind of music AC/DC does as well as they do. You might like that sound, but it’s possible you only like it when it’s done as well as they do it, and nobody else does it as well as they do.

    OK, got it. I think it’s very possible that I only like it when it’s done with excellence, although I’m not sure “like” is the best word. The musical style is something I kinda like, but when I’m left with a feeling of dissatisfaction, maybe disappointment–that might be a better way to express it, perhaps. For example, I like action movies, but most of them leave me dissatisfied and disappointed. AC/DC, Van Halen are like Die Hard and 13 Assassins of hard rock. Just like I want to find more films like this, I’d like to find more music like AC/DC and Van Halen.

  14. Yeah, you don’t have to tell me Edward is better than Vai. 🙂

    I’m actually not saying that–that’s not what I intended…It could be just the nature of the music or even the recording.

  15. Shoot if it’s the recording, I’ll stop posting the YouTube versions of the songs. The streamed songs are almost all far higher in sound quality.

  16. Re: the Rollins tune.

    Yeah, that doesn’t really qualify, but it just occurred to me that I might be trying to answer this question in the wrong way….There are at least two ways to approach the subject: 1) Which groups are on par with AC/DC, VH, or; 2) Which groups play in the similar style that may be right outside (in terms of excellence) of those groups.

    I think I’ve been trying to answer #1, when maybe I should try to answer #2. ?

  17. Shoot if it’s the recording, I’ll stop posting the YouTube versions of the songs. The streamed songs are almost all far higher in sound quality.

    I’m thinking more of the way the music was mixed, with guitars being pushed further in the back. And to be clear, this is speculation. (Read: I don’t think youtube is the issue.)

  18. I’ve been approaching it from #2 because nobody is like Van Halen and no band like AC/DC is nearly as good as AC/DC. Just trying to find bands with qualities you like, hoping they might have a song or two you would like.

    Plus, the truly excellent hard rock and metal acts I can think of to go along with those bands are mostly bands I know you don’t care for.

  19. Just trying to find bands with qualities you like, hoping they might have a song or two you would like.

    That sounds appropriate, although it’s disappointing to here you say there’s no other group at the same level as AC/DC and VH.

    Plus, the truly excellent hard rock and metal acts I can think of to go along with those bands are mostly bands I know you don’t care for.

    If they’re excellent in the criteria I’ve mentioned, let me hear them (although I suspect I know some of them already).

  20. Well Guns ‘n Roses for one. That comes the closest.

    But your last sentence, excellent in the criteria you mentioned, is actually your #1 and #2 combined. You realize that, right? I was leaning #2 (knowing, of course, that Motorhead isn’t nearly as good as AC/DC while having many of the same qualities).

    If I were leaning #1 and just thinking about excellence, I’d name such bands you aren’t impressed with as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Maybe Anthrax. Agalloch. Dream Theater for sure. Mastodon whom you kinda appreciated although I wouldn’t say you liked them.

    Don’t be disappointed that there’s no group at the level of AC/DC or VH in the kinds (that’s plural; they’re not the same kind at all) of music they play. It means that (a) your filters worked and (b) you have good taste.

  21. With Motorhead, maybe I just don’t care for Lemmy’s voice or their songs. ?

    But your last sentence, excellent in the criteria you mentioned, is actually your #1 and #2 combined. You realize that, right?

    You’re right….OK, maybe not excellent but a notch or two below that. I’ll try to check out some of those groups you mentioned.

  22. Skimmed through a bunch of music tonight, listening anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes of various songs. I listened to a little of Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Guns and Roses, Smashing Pumpkins (first album), Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam, Van, Stone Temple Pilots (their first album), Sonic Youth, The Stooges…maybe some others.

    Some comments:

    I think “Welcome to the Jungle” has the type of aggression and energy I’m looking for. Maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s getting close.

    At some point I wanted to say that maybe I could boil down what I’m talking about by saying that I like grunge…or maybe more accurately I’m looking for really hard rock.

    By the way, the cuts I heard from the Stooges come close to what I’m talking about–both sonically and in terms of attitude, especially in terms of the guitar and rhythm section (not so much Iggy’s vocals). But it has that raw, primal, simple quality that I generally think is close to the essence of rock n’ roll. What I’m looking for is that quality, but harder, more aggressive version. I think Hendrix’s and Eddie’s distortion/feedback is the thing that really elevated this hard, aggressive sound of destruction and mayhem–something that was present in a lot of early rock n’ roll I suspect, but Hendrix just took this to a whole other level. (Who’s the next Hendrix? Or I should say Eddie? )

    A part of me want to say that the Japanese noise rock guys are the ones that took it to the next level, but their music departs from rock, I think (which is not a bad thing)–but I would say it goes outside the scope of what I’m talking about (although when I’m in the mood for the type of hard rock I’m talking about, I think noise rock could satisfy that craving as well).

    Here’s an example of noise rock from the 80s:

    Edit

    Listening to cuts from the first two Anthrax albums. This has the aggression. I don’t really care for the soaring vocals and rhythms, though. But I need to listen to more of this so I can be more specific.

  23. Well Anthrax changed vocalists a few times in a very polarizing move. The Belladonna/Bush argument almost defines the fandom. So you might try later Anthrax, although among the major thrash bands, Anthrax is also known as the most changing in its sound. Start with “Only.”

    What else from GNR did you evaluate? “Welcome to the Jungle” is a great song but man, it has suffered from a cultural ubiquity that makes it nearly impossible for me to actually hear the song anymore. All I hear is the cliche.

    You must be talking about VH’s first three albums, because after that, I wouldn’t call them primal at all. DLR really took them in a weird direction and they didn’t really get their blood and sweat back until Sammy Hagar joined. But even then it wasn’t primal or raw.

  24. What else from GNR did you evaluate?

    I’m not sure–I just skimmed through a few other songs.

    You must be talking about VH’s first three albums, because after that, I wouldn’t call them primal at all.

    I think if Eddie’s guitar is prominent, you’ll have that primal quality. I listened to “Poundcake” and “In and Out” from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge….I don’t know if “primal” is the right word, but aggressive–at least the parts where Ed’s guitar is prominent.

    Edit

    Listening to “Man on a Mission” from For Unlawful. It’s really in your face, right from the get go. (Hagar and Alex also contribute to this). I feel the same about AC/DC.

  25. What do you think about this one? Velvet Revolver’s “Slither.”

    Or this one? Them Crooked Vultures’ “Mind Eraser No Chaser.”

  26. Can’t remember which BS songs I liked.

    I don’t remember if I listened to that GnRs song.

    The last two songs don’t really have the level of rocking I’m looking for, but I kinda liked both (the guitar lick in the intro of “Mind Erase”). In general, I’d kinda wish there were more rock groups like this.

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