Environmentalism Is New/Old Tiresome Trend In Music

Dan Gibson | March 25, 2008 2:30 am

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the next big thing among music artists from the Arcade Fire to Michael Stipe to Jack Johnson is enviromentalism, which means we can expect to hear the word “green” prefacing nearly everything we used to enjoy for the foreseeable future, as well as a number of cryptic metaphors trying to explain complex issues.

While I got no beef with Mother Earth, if these quotes are an indication of the future, tediousness will be rising faster than the oceans.

Recent years have seen the beginning of a watershed moment, as such acts as Arcade Fire and Jack Johnson are not only championing the environment but also writing songs about it. And artists across the timeline agree that there is no issue more universally important…. Now, Arcade Fire and Jack Johnson are among the current crop of acts writing to fit the times. ”No Cars Go,” from the former’s 2007 album ”Neon Bible,” says, ”We know a place where no planes go. We know a place where no ships go. No cars go” and then ”Let’s go!”

Just as Seeger wrote a ditty called ”Garbage” and sang it on a ”Sesame Street” album with Oscar the Grouch in 1974, Johnson put his voice and acoustic guitar to use in a children’s song. ”The Three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)” appeared on the 2005 soundtrack to ”Curious George.”

Guster guitarist Adam Gardner, whose company Reverb oversees the greening of major tours, says Johnson ”is truly combining [it all into] an environmental campaign … It’s an environmental campaign simultaneous with a Jack Johnson rock tour. That’s just who he is.”

But is it an issue for blue-state bands? Red-state bands? ”It has to be nonpartisan. I think we need to be green states; I’m pushing for that,” [Roger] McGuinn says. He believes music ”is becoming like a little plant coming through the crack in the sidewalk now; the green things are breaking through the cracks. I would love to see it get greener and less paved over, like the Joni Mitchell song.”

”It may be the rising of the oceans [that is] the wake-up call the whole human race needs,” [Pete] Seeger says. ”The harder you bounce a ball down on the sidewalk, the higher it bounces. Whether a Republican or a Democrat gets in, I think some of the best things are going to happen in the next few years.”

Please make it stop. Is that too much to ask? Musicans and causes are always a dangerous combination, whether it’s saying they’re not playing Sun City or the worshiping Barack Obama, but environmentalism allows for a very specific type of preachiness that tends to result in more high-minded posturing than actual converts to the cause. Even though Live Earth brought us the return of Xuxa, the entire project has disappeared into the ether of memory less than a year later. It’s another dollar added to ticket prices for “carbon off-setting”, it’s a concert for the dying icebergs, but really, it’s just boring.

Third generation of ‘green’ songwriters finding new ways to color the issue [Chicago Sun-Times]