Author’s note: This is all in good fun, and I highly suggest checking out the Trevor Project, a nonprofit endorsed by Imagine Dragons aimed at ending conversion therapy: more than 700,000 LGBTQ people have been subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy, and an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will experience this unprofessional conduct in coming years, often at the insistence of well-intentioned but misinformed parents or caretakers.
Besides the odd editorial, I haven’t really written for Alternative Nation in years, and I was floating the idea of coming back to write some sort of “top of the 2010’s” list, but instead of doing that, I’d just rather say “Fuck Imagine Dragons”.
Josh Homme (the man behind the best rock album of the decade and, uh, face kicker) said he was “drunk and misunderstood” when he said “Fuck Imagine Dragons”. I am sober and of clear mind right now, and let me be perfectly clear: Fuck Imagine Dragons.
I joined the ranks of Alternative Nation in 2013, when founder Brett Buchanan’s upstart grunge blog, GrungeReport.net, was making the jump to the new name and needed staff.
“Great,” I thought, young and optimistic about internet journalism in a pre fake news and clickbait era. “Mainstream rock music is due for another revolution, and I wanna be like that kid in Almost Famous at the center of it all.”
That was before that shitty ass weapon of mass destruction of a song called “Radioactive” hit alternative rock radio. It was like someone took Mumford and Sons and rewrote it to sound like lizard people having an emotional crisis. Imagine Dragons’ big debut, Night Visions, was a resounding success. It was a never ending barrage of crap like “Demons” and “On Top of the World”. Imagine Dragons were what people THOUGHT Phil Collins was in the 1980’s. Now he’s more like Dying Fetus next to this band.
Even so, I decided to give them a fair shot. I got absolutely nothing against pop oriented acts in general; maybe I was being too hard on them. I interviewed drummer Dan Platzman in 2015; the band was in the middle of promoting their second full length album, Smoke + Mirrors. He was a really nice dude, and I separated the art from the artists. They’ve done some good things for the LGBTQ community, amongst other activism. That’s good on them. Besides, the album also fizzled out really quickly. I thought we were free.
Not to mention, with Donald Trump on his path to becoming president, and the Second Cold War heating up, I thought that at the very least, as a consolation prize, we would get some sort of upstart rock revolution in the same vein as how grunge flourished in opposition to Reagan.
But nope, instead, everyone, up to and including Hawkeye, just wanted to be the next fucking Imagine Dragons. We couldn’t escape that shitty X Ambassadors song “Renegades”. As a Hudson Valley, New York resident, as soon as THAT song came out, I just thought, “Oh fuck, soccer moms are gonna love it, it’s gonna be in Jeep commercials, and the local minor league team Renegades is gonna take it as their theme song”. And sure enough, all that shit happened.
Then, Imagine Dragons returned from the dead by transforming with their new album, mercilessly named Evolve. Holy shit, Night Visions wasn’t even their final form. Their lead single, “Thunder”, sounded like it was written in committee by Hillary Clinton’s campaign planners solely to sell uggs and mocha frappuccinos.
Alternative rock radio wasn’t rebellious anymore. Now it was fucking “These Are My Friends” by Lovelytheband. Instead of building legacies that will be remembered in twenty years in the vein of artists like Jane’s Addiction and the B-52’s, everyone’s ambition now is just get one popular, non-offensive enough commercial jingle to play a parking lot stage at Coachella and then fade into obscurity behind the counter at a local Starbucks. Fuck, Lovelytheband even has a song called “Coachella”. Modern alternative rock became so lame, Brett Buchanan’s audience would rather read about Billy Corgan’s curdled foreskin.
We had a lot of cool rock albums catching mainstream interest over the past year. MCID is the scatterbrained grunge-rap opus of rock’s most currently interesting frontman, Highly Suspect’s Johnny Stevens. Badflower kicked some ass on their debut, while FIDLAR’s Almost Free is a new pop punk classic (they too, call out “all bullshit bands on the charts [you know who you are]” on their awesome song, “Too Real”). Even though MCID took a dive into hip hop-pop territory, Johnny Stevens still doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to pushing the wrong buttons, and fights off angry soccer moms on his Twitter on a daily basis.
That’s the thing: the above albums had a diverse set of sounds that fell under the “rebellious rock” territory, but aren’t “heavy”: rock music can be pop. Nirvana, The Beatles. Pop music can be rock. Lorde, Grimes.
But 95% of the shit that was peddled out to 2010’s rock radio wasn’t rock; it was commercial jingles. Donald Trump almost looks poised to get a second term as the DNC struggles to put out any worthwhile candidates whatsoever. For these times, we need something real.
Not fucking “Hey Ho” from The Lumineers.
Happy new year/decade from Alternative Nation!