I have always thought that labels within rock music, especially within punk rock, served no useless purpose and consider them, like Dave said, nonsense.
Take for instance the genre "alternative." This is a ridiculous label and whoever thought it up should be hung upside down by their shoestrings! I hate this label! It does not describe a single thing in regards to music. Alternative to what? When I hear the term "alternative" in regards to music, I have to ask "What do they sound like?" because that term is a meaningless term.
Alternative is used way too often. Alternative rock. Meaningless. Alternative clothing. Alternative to what clothing?!? Alternative life-styles. Are we basically just saying this as a more gentle way of calling some one's lifestyle not normal?
Yeah, alternative doesn't describe a damn thing to me and people should stop using it.
Grunge rock is another stupid term. I think this was originally used to describe a cross breed of heavy metal and punk. Just what we need. Words to describe hybrid music and to further darken the issue of what a band sounds like.
I do agree that SOME of the labels do well to describe a particular style of music. "Soul" or "rap" for instance. You have a pretty good idea what you are about to listen to when you hear these genres.
But labels like "rock" "hard rock" "heavy metal" you really have no idea what you could be getting yourself into.
And the punk rock sub-genres. Some of them are completely useless. I don't understand the difference between "street punk" and "crust punk" and "hardcore." I have no idea of how a person distinguishes an "emo" band from an "indie rock" band or a "math rock" band.
And "surf punk" or "skate punk." Aren't these basically the same thing? Do I have to be a surfer to like "surf punk?" And weren't the Beach Boys considered "surf rock?"
A lot of times you can't always tell if a band is punk rock or just rock. Take the Descendents for instance. They are not necessarily what I would call a "punk rock" band. There is a lot of pop music in their style. So thus, they get lumped into the "pop punk" category. Which of course serves to further confuse the issue.
Whenever someone asks me what type of music my band plays, I usually respond "I dunno. punk maybe. indie rock maybe." What type of punk? "I dunno, maybe pop punk." Then to try and make it easier to understand I tell the person that some of our stuff sounds like this band but other songs sound closer to stuff done by that band. I try to make it simple by saying any punk or indie rock which of course does not help.
And the more I think about it, the term indie rock is almost as stupid a term as alternative. It doesn't describe crap. "What type of band are they?" Indie rock. "Ok but what do they sound like?"
That is the problem with these labels. Practically all of them. If I have to ask someone more than one question to get an idea of what a band sounds like, the label(s) isn't working!
Heck, even with country music these days you need to add a modifier to what an artist or band sounds like.
Come to think of it, even rap has sub-genres. Gangsta rap. East coast rap. West coast swing. Hip Hop. WTH?!?!
Oh and electronic music! That is a crazy one I will ever figure out. Industrial. Rave. Trip hop. Electronica. Synth pop. And some of these even cross over. Industrial can fall under heavy metal. Trip hop can cross over into rap. Come on! Do you really have to make this MORE difficult? No crossing over! Pick a genre!
Just for grins, I thought I would check out my iPod and go through a general breakdown of what genres I have on it (iTunes assigns a genre to music). So here is what I came up with:
Christian - there are 43 songs in this genre
Christian Hardcore - 150 songs
Hard Rock - 3
Indie Rock - 142
Metal - 28
Pop - 4
Punk - 507
R&B - 7
Rock - 436
Rock/Pop - 22
iTunes is not helping this issue!
And now here is a list of some of the genres and subgenres with a very short description of what each one means and an artist or band that someone has assigned to that particular genre. I used several resources to get these descriptions and thus did not bother to quote any of them.
rock - a style of popular music that derives in part from blues and folk music and is marked by a heavily accented beat and a simple, repetitive phrase structure. That's a pretty non-specific, generic definition.
heavy metal - very loud, brash rock music, often with shouted, violent lyrics. Couldn't this refer to punk too?
Bands: Black Sabbath, Kiss, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden. hmmm...i never thought of Def Leppard as a band with violent lyrics
hard rock - the original form of rock'n'roll, basically dependent on a consistently loud and strong beat.
Bands: The Who, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Van Halen
soft rock - a comparatively unaggressive, melodic style of rock'n'roll in which the arrangement and lyrics are emphasized more than the beat.
Bands: Air Supply, Billy Joel, James Taylor...
rockabilly - a form of popular music combining features of rock'n'roll and bluegrass.
Bands: Amazing Royal Crowns, Hot Rod Lincoln, The Stray Cats
pop music - a genre of music that features a noticeable rhythmic element, catchy melodies and hooks, a mainstream style and conventional structure. Mainstream? huh?
Artists: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Police
Pop rock - a hybrid of pop music and rock music that uses catchy pop style with light lyrics over top of guitar-based songs.
Artists: Rod Stewart, Elton John, Peter Frampton, Chicago..
alternative - a genre of rock music consisting of various subgenres that emerged from the independent music scene since the 1980s. Absolutely ridiculous definition. means nothing as I have said about this genre.
punk rock - aggressive form of rock music marked by a fast, aggressive beat, loud guitar with abrupt chord changes and nihilistic lyrics.
Bands include: Black Flag, X, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys.
pop punk - a fusion genre that combines elements of punk rock with pop music.
Bands include: Ramones, Descendents, Buzzcocks.
hardcore punk - subgenre of punk rock that is generally thicker, heavier and faster than punk rock where songs are usually short, fast and loud.
Bands: Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat.
emo - rock music typically characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, confessional lyrics.
Bands: Sunny Day Real Estate, Embrace, Rites of Spring.
screamo - evolving from hardcore punk, this subgenre applies to a more aggressive offshoot of emo using short, chaotically executed songs.
ska - genre originating from Jamaica that combined elements of Caribbean music and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues characterized by a walking bass line accented with offbeat rhythms.
ska punk - a fusion genre that combines ska and punk rock containing
Bands: The Specials, The Beat, Operation Ivy.
indie rock - a subgenre of alternative rock oh great! that refers to rock musicians that are or were unsigned or have signed to independent record labels. so...that would make Black Flag and Bad Religion indie rock>.
Bands: Aztec Camera, The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Husker Du.
Oi - working class street-level subgenre of punk rock with simple musical structure.
Bands: Street Dogs, Dropkick Murphys, The Business.
street punk - working class subgenre of punk rock that emerged from the oi style characterized by single note guitar lines and short solos.
Bands: Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, UK Subs.
skate punk - originally a derivative of hardcore punk, it is fast and aggressive but focuses more on melodic and harmonious vocals and usually more technical.
Bands: JFA, Agent Orange, Suicidal Tendancies, Pennywise.
math rock - rhythmically complex, guitar-based style of rock music that is characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures including irregular stopping and starting, angular melodies and dissonant chords.
rhythm and blues (R&B) - was originally called "race music" or "black music" it refers to any music made by and for black Americans combining styles of jazz, blues, pop and gospel. this sounds damn racist if you ask me.
soul - combines elements of gospel and R&B using catchy rhythms and an intense vocal sound.
Artists: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight.
rap - music characterized by the rhythmic spoken delivery of rhymes, wordplay and poetry delivered over a beat.
hip hop - consists of a rhythmic vocal style accompanied with backing beats. term is used synonymously with rap.
Artists: Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang.
gangsta rap - genre of hip hop that reflects the violent lifestyles of inner-city youths.
Artists: Ice T, NWA, Boogie Down Productions, Ice Cube.
industrial - music comprising many styles of experimental music and electronic music characterized by an abrasive and aggressive fusion of rock and electronic music.
Bands: Throbbing Gristle, Front 242, KMFDM, Ministry
rave - consists of forms of electronic dance music including some forms of trance music which features samples, loops and synthesizers.
Bands: The KLF, 808 State, DJ Scot Project
trip hop - refers to a music trend of downtempo electronic music characterized by breakbeats and a sample-heavy, moody sound.
Bands: Massive Attack, Portishead.
new wave - emerging from punk rock, it incorporated various influences such as electronic music, disco, and funk.
Bands: Talking Heads, Television, Blondie.
synth pop - subgenre of new wave and pop music where the synthesize is the dominant musical instrument.
Bands: Kraftwerk, Flock of Seagulls, Spandau Ballet.
So there you have it. Does that help you at all to describe a band's music? Not me. These descriptions seem to confuse me more often than they help.
My brain is starting to hurt.
It is time to go back to the drawing board on the naming of music genres!!!