While rock’n’roll has been dying as a cultural force since the turn of the millennium, the 2010s seem truly to be delivering the death blow. The sound of the music that the young and the trendy want to be listening to seems to have little to do with the sound of rock’n’roll (admittedly an amorphous and multifaceted concept by now anyway) and a whole lot more to do with the interrelated sounds of EDM and indie pop. And I’m not saying this as a judgment, I am merely reporting. If you want a clear sign, look no further than the venerable and ongoingly trend-savvy blog Gorilla vs. Bear, which was founded in the early ’00s as a bastion of indie rock, and has adroitly morphed into something rather different.
That said, however dead as a mainstream phenomenon, rock’n’roll is not finished as an artistic pursuit. There are always going to be those who want and need more organic sounds and performances than today’s EDM-fixated indie pop is interested in providing, and, thankfully, still bands out there stubborn enough to furnish it. Like the Seattle trio The Pharmacy, whose career has pretty much spanned rock’n’roll’s death-knell phase, as the threesome sprang to life in 2002 and, in August, will be releasing their fifth album, entitled Spells. “Masten Lake Lagoon,” an initial single from the album, is not only unapologetic rock’n’roll, it is unapologetically melodic and well-crafted. Which may not be our culture’s current sweet spot but is always mine. Buoyed by scratchy guitars, grounded by a deep and supple bass line, and highlighted by a brisk sing-along chorus, “Masten Lake Lagoon” also has the gumption to veer into an extended, multi-sectioned instrumental, which takes us from 1:20 all the way to 3:01, growing more riveting by the moment; the squall of guitars that closes it out all but brings me to my feet even as I just sit at my desk writing this.
Long live rock’n’roll, 21st-century style.
(The Pharmacy were previously featured on Fingertips in February 2012.)