The social upheaval of the 60s gave music lovers the alternative, interesting, inspired culture of the hippies (Sly and the Family) and the Detroit guitar fuzz sound (MC5). The 70s youth movement kicked out the jams with a punk (Sex Pistols) and jah soundtrack (The Wailers). The 80s, with the Thatcher driven ‘greed is good’ mantra, rebelled with hardcore punk (Black Flag) and interesting alternative bands (Sonic Youth and the Birthday party). The 90s, possibly the strongest and last rebellion, gave us angry young rap stars (Public Enemy) and rap/rock at it’s finest (Rage Against the Machine).
Savage with their intensity, and creating art from a deep, ingrained, feeling that social norms, and their governments, were letting them down, these bands put themselves, their careers and their futures on the line. Not for them were safe careers and career ladders, rather a drive to create inspiring artistic statements; placing personal values above corporate and comfortable lives.
Brave choices indeed.
If alternative music should mean anything, then it should mean the creation of an alternative culture which is aspirational, inspirational and wrapped in serious intention.
If alternative music should sound like anything then it should be a style of music which expresses something different to mainstream music and trends- themselves which have become so corporate and market-driven that it makes you sick.
With the exception of grime, mainstream radio has played nothing of note this decade.
It’s more than likely that the most alternative guitar sound which can be created at the minute is, paradoxically, songs with strong melodies and pop hooks. The MC5 and Sonic Youth didn’t just have loud guitars, they had tunes which were instantly memorable and were created to be sung along to in large crowds.
It’s the next generations turn to create a new alternative to the old ways of thinking. Perhaps Great Waves may not have the rage of the traditional alternative sound, but they do have intensity in their playing and, crucially, they have strong song structures and melodies.
They remind us of the type of impact that guitars, and the indie sound, can have on the younger generation; particularly in their ability to bring people together in a communal state and enjoy music.
Great Waves are a band creating interesting songs with the reason of bringing people together and having fun; they’re doing exactly what they want to do and enjoying it. And sometimes that’s a brave choice indeed.