Once upon a time there existed a genre of popular music collectively know as “Post-Rock.” It was loud, it was cerebral, it was novel. But most of all it felt important, like your big brother in a rock band was now all grown up. Undeniably “grown-up” influences popped up as fluidly and organically as did rock n’ roll. Krautrock, Free Jazz, Minimalism… no style was safe from Post-Rock’s penetrating eye.
Post-Rock cleansed the palette of many a Gen-X soul burned by the popularization and ultimate downfall of grunge. Bands like Chicago’s Tortoise, Glasgow’s Mogwai, and those released on Montreal’s Constellation Records (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Silver Mt. Zion) seemed more than adequate mediums for the introduction of new stylistic, rhythmic and melodic tendencies to popular music. Their albums challenged the limits of volume and the attention span of their listeners in ways traditional pop had never attempted; tracks spanned fifteen minutes, crescendos blasted your eardrums, and a general malaise often threatened to break one’s mood.
But oh how far the star has fallen. Post-Rock is fading into obscurity, and I for one don’t think it should.
When online music-review juggernaut Pitchfork.com recently released their list of the top 200 albums of this decade, the editors seem to have completely blocked Post-Rock from their collective memories. With the exception of Iceland’s Sigur Ros (arguably a genre all their own), Pitchfork has overlooked Post-Rock. No Standards, no Rock Action, no Lift Your Skinny Fists…? Really? All of these albums were critically acclaimed, and Pitchfork itself gave Standards a 9.2 upon release. What happened?
This is indicative of a trend in music criticism toward an obsession with vocals and lyrics. One might blame this shortsightedness on the rise of Rap. When radio is dominated by a genre whose players are pure lyricists, it becomes harder to appreciate an instrumental. Post-Rock is the victim. But why must we keep the faith? Why is Post-Rock still relevant?
For many, Post-Rock was (and still is) a gateway. Personally, it made me care about and get into all those “grown-up” influences it was tossing about so haphazardly. Without Post-Rock, I may never have discovered artists as wonderful as Lee “Scratch” Perry, Steve Reich or Neu!; I might never have noticed the sound of the studio in my headphones, and my music life wouldn’t be as rich.
Let’s not forget Post-Rock. It’s good for us. Much better, anyways, than a genre rife with misogyny and homophobia. It has plenty to say, it just chooses to do so musically.