With the music scene and culture that exists today it is very unlikely that anything like the Beatles could reoccur. There is not a band that everyone listens to these days. There are to many ways to consume music, which prevents us all from having a shared musical experience.
One of the reasons for this un-reproducible cultural moment starts with the change in the music industry. There was a time where we had gatekeepers controlling the music we had access to; radio stations, major record labels, and the like. But these days that no longer exists. In a time where we see independent labels flourishing, radio dying, and the digital revolution booming, it is hard to have one common voice, like the Beatles.
Our generation is currently experiencing the culture of participation. People are no longer satisfied just consuming, but people want to be heard and be apart of creating as well. Technology has given people the tools to create. Everyone can make music with a computer, and publish and distribute their results all over the web. Everyone wants to share with the world his or her creations, through Facebook, twitter, etc. Our ability to showcase ourselves without any approval or official authorization is becoming widespread, increasing the amount of content that exists in the world.
I’m not arguing that this is good or bad, it just is. People are being granted more agency and freedom to create, but it also creates a larger pool of content. It is becoming harder to wade through the mediocre long enough to find the meaningful. People that are gifted in these fields become that much harder to find. Gatekeepers no longer exist unless we search them out in our own niches; friends, third parties, i.e. Pandora. Which is to say that things are changing.
People would argue that musicians like, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga have reached international success akin to the Beatles, but that’s not what I mean. When I talk about The Beatles I mean the cultural and social shift music that The Beatles and other popular bands of the past created. There is so much variety in music these days we can no longer pinpoint a Beatles or Rolling Stones of our time, but I believe culturally significant musicians do exist.
In particular one band, that I think gets it (by it, I mean life), is The Growlers. The Growlers were formed in 2006 in the suburb that is Orange County. The Growlers are known for their multi-layered tunes that mix sounds of surf, disco, funk, reggae, mariachi, and country to create a sound classified as beach goth. The songs whispered with a hauntingly, raspy voice undertone topics of death, fear, and worry.
Despite the Growlers theatrical antics and drunken demeanor, I believe they have the auspicious talent to be the voice of our generation. They have an undeniable ability to tap into the collective consciousness of our generation. I think they get to the root of thoughts many of us have at one point in our life come across, some more than others.
Noted British philosopher Bryan Magee once stated that, “ a really great creative artist is one who, in freely expressing his own fantasies, needs, aspirations, and conflicts, articulates those of a whole society.” Whether or not The Growlers are trying to do so, I think they succeed in articulating the anxieties of modern youth. Their music expresses the nostalgia and worry of our generation with their emotion filled, ghastly forewarning lyrics and trademark sound. Music is a language that expresses unconscious emotions for some, and the reverb soaked sound The Growlers have, evokes feelings of nostalgia. Their songs induce emotional connotations that take us to a place unbeknownst to our conscious mind.
Lyrically I believe The Growlers are very self aware which at times can come off as dark for those scared of asking themselves questions life brings up. For example, one of their best songs by my standard “Nobody Owns You” off the album Gilded Pleasures, released in 2013, sheds light on our need for approval. Lines like “guessing the motives behind every stare/ worried about the imaginary stares” pay homage to anyone who has ever felt anxiety toward a situation. Anxiety is hardly new, but has been characterized by certain news articles as the “ epidemic sweeping through Generation Y.“ Though The Growlers may not be trying to indicate this, I believe this song lyrically strikes a chord or at least has the ability to strike a chord with our generation. The Y generation’s anxiety has been attributed to our attachments with our phones, and I believe that to be a strong factor in the reasons why we feel anxious. We have had the luxury to escape situations with the tap of a screen, and now we don’t know how to face social situations without pulling out our IPhones. The Growlers characterize this notion for me when they say, “ the internet is bigger than Jesus and John Lennon,” in their song Chinese Fountain. John Lennon once said he was bigger than Christianity, but the Internet has since surpassed them both; no longer do we interact in conversations about either but rather we retract to Facebook, to see everyone’s carefully constructed self.
Back to “Nobody Owns You,” The Growlers don’t only highlight anxieties and fears but they offer their own comforts with lyrics like “think how lame your fears seem now, and how you might not get to live again” and “let old fear be your mirror.” For me these two lines exemplify enlightened thinking. They open the door to how irrelevant the constructed realities we have created for ourselves are; in actuality they don’t matter. Most of the fears we let debilitate us have no actual consequences in our life, and if we look to the past we can develop this train of thought.
On “Ego of Man,” repetition of the phrase “Cause man should be free as falling rain/ To find what he loves even if its pain, “allude to The Growler’s romanticism. “Monotonia” and “Good Advice” offer vindications that boredom and self-doubt are both topics that affect others. With a thrashing beat they affirm that you yourself are not the only one feeling these thoughts. The “Going Gets Tough” can be one of their more motivating songs for life. Worry itself has become a fiend, and The Growlers succeed in personifying it as a bully in all of our lives. Lyrics like “Worry’s a bully/That just won’t let me be, remind us that worry distresses everyone in the same way, but lyrics like “that the labor of our love/will reward us soon enough” remind us that worry itself can be overcome with passion for what we love.
The Growlers’ never fail when delivering their indisputable authenticity. Musical meaning arises from a musician’s ability to synchronize their experience with that of the person who is listening. And each Growler’s song recreates an emotion that a listener can project into reality. Their collection of songs, even those seemingly unreal or made up, expresses honest matters in people’s lives. The Growlers are shedding light on the hidden monsters of our current generation; fear, emotional stress and troubles.
Even more surprising about the Growlers, is that not to long ago they were given the chance to record with Dan Auerbach from the notable band the Black Keys. After giving it a shot, they realized it wasn’t for them. For me this is one of the most stand up things a bad can do. Denying themselves monetary and large success for artistic autonomy and self-sovereign is not something we come across often in the music industry, and is something I respect as a consumer.
Today there is no turning back the clock on the music industry. We may never have someone as large culturally and politically as the Beatles, but I do believe there still exists bands with important things to say. Our revolution may not be the same as 50 years ago, but with modern technologies we have new problems. In the words of The Growlers “ We are the miners of another generation,” and I think they understand this generation better than most musicians. If there was ever a band to listen to in this day and age I would say The Growlers are for sure one.