Casual Cadenza: Alt-rock, innit?

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From Joy Division to beabadoobee, alternative rock is a genre with melancholic lyrics and spunky guitar melodies. Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels.

To turn your attention away from the current political turmoil and the frequent “I hate it here” phrases that every aspiring expatriate seems to utter these days, I thought it would be a good idea to delve into the musical culture of a country other than America. The way English alternative rock has taken over a good portion of my liked songs on Spotify has ultimately convinced me of its potential to be an engaging topic to discuss and thus, I’ll just list some of my favorites. 

Joy Division — “Disorder” 

The title “Disorder” kind of gives away its theme to begin with. Paired with a fast-paced conjunction of drums and a fluctuating bassline, the lyrics are pretty depressing, as most Joy Division songs go. “It’s getting faster, moving faster / Now it’s getting out of hand” and “Lights are flashing, cars are crashing / Getting frequent now” are likely references to lead singer Ian Curtis’s epilepsy. His struggles with the disorder led to severe depression and his untimely death in 1980, the day before the band’s debut of their North American tour. Having made the promise prior to Curtis’s death that the bandmates would not continue Joy Division should a member leave, the remaining members continued to perform under a new name: New Order. 

New Order — “Age of Consent” 

Three years after the band’s reformation, New Order released their second album, “Power, Corruption & Lies,” the opening track of which is “Age of Consent.” A stark contrast from Joy Division’s recurring themes of darkness and despair, the song is carried out by a playful guitar tune and upbeat drumming with lyrics that explore the communication barriers between a seemingly youthful relationship: “And I’m not the kind that likes to tell you / Just what I want to do / I’m not the kind that needs to tell you / Just what you want me to.” Overall, I would describe it as the perfect addition to any coming-of-age playlist and supplier to anyone’s interest in being the main character. 

King Krule — “Dum Surfer” 

Although it’s not alt-rock, King Krule’s music has managed to grow on me within the past two months. “Dum Surfer” is the best example of Krule’s unconventional style and extensive use of his deep voice that has essentially become a trademark of his music. It gives off an almost-broken jazz sound, creating an irregular tune that, paired with lyrics narrating the chaotic account of a drunk Krule, somehow works really well. In this messy narrative, the title “Dum Surfer” refers to “Dumb Surfer,” a character who Krule originally casts as beneath him but realizes at the end of the song that his convoluted behavior makes them equals worthy of change: “Dumb surfer, don’t suffer / Ay, some things won’t change for a while / Keep me, keep me as the villain / But my prayer, you don’t own.” 

Peace — “Wraith” 

After being introduced to the song in high school, I’ve probably listened to “Wraith” about 200 times or so. It’s difficult to characterize it as anything other than a good time when listening to the spunky guitar melody that accompanies the smooth crescendo from verse to chorus. According to lead vocalist Harrison Koisser, the lyrics “You could be my ice age sugar / You lay me down and make me shiver / Blow me like a floating feather / And we’ll be dark, we’ll be dark, we’ll be dark forever” encapsulate falling in love with a prostitute. Whether you’re into that or not, dancing is a likely side effect for those who enjoy this song. 

beabadoobee — “Space Cadet” 

“Space Cadet” is one of my many favorite songs by beabadoobee, mainly due to its addictive beat and its offer of consolation for bad days. The lyrics “Let loose, we live only for a little while / In hindsight, we’ll die anyways” and “So quit being so negative / It’s fine, don’t be a temporary fix / You say I don’t write happy songs / So I guess this is the first one” act not only as an ode to the unusually positive demeanor brought on by the song, but they also outline the significance of positivity within the insignificant periods of our lives which are words most of us could use right now. And when a genre of music offers the best advice you’ve heard during quarantine, you just can’t help but write about it. 

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