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This Is the End

Friday May 31, 2013

It is with much sadness that I report that this is my final blog post as the Guide for Rock Music here at About.com. The decision has been made to cease publishing new content, although the reviews, articles, interviews and lists that I've written over the last five years will remain on this site.

It has been a pleasure writing about rock music, especially during a period of uncertainty in the genre. Since 2008, we've seen a crop of new (or newish) bands carry the torch for a younger generation -- Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys immediately spring to mind -- while at the same time bands from the 1990s like Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have tried to recapture past glories by reuniting recently. This site, which was tasked with chronicling contemporary rock from the '90s to the present, has always sought to find that middle ground between the aging legends of classic rock and the more experimental leanings of alternative music. That proved to be an interesting challenge as rock continues to see its market share shrink. The most obvious sign of this was when Billboard near the end of last year radically redesigned its rock singles charts, essentially banishing most of what would be considered traditional rock for more pop-leaning artists. There are still plenty of good rock bands out there, but they have a hard time making a dent on radio or in the public consciousness.

Consequently, this site's unofficial mission has been to document what exactly constitutes "rock" in the 21st century. Long replaced by hip-hop and other genres as the dominant and most culturally significant musical art forms of the age, rock has faced something of an identity crisis, wrestling between retreating into the past or trying to stake out new territory. Retro groups like the White Stripes have managed to do both simultaneously, but they're that rare exception. It's difficult to guess where rock will go in the future, but I'm sorry that I won't be covering it here at About.

I want to thank you, the readers, for your thoughtful emails and lively discussions over the last five years. It's been a treat to run this site, and I hope you enjoyed what I brought to it. If you'd like to stay in touch, you can reach me at my personal blog as well as on Twitter. By the way, I titled this blog post somewhat in jest. Since the rise of punk in the late '70s, naysayers have been sounding the death knell for rock 'n' roll. Despite its creative peaks and valleys since, the music has never gone away. Every supposed "end" of rock music has simply been a transitional period before some exciting new permutation. This site may be wrapping up, but the music it covered is far from finished.

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Nine Inch Nails Releasing First Album in Five Years

Wednesday May 29, 2013
In November of last year, Trent Reznor hinted that the newly reactivated Nine Inch Nails could get around to putting out new music. ("All signs point to yes," Reznor said at the time. "Yeah, there will be new music. There are some things in the works.") Yesterday, just days after unveiling the band's new touring lineup, Reznor revealed what had been suspected for a while: He's been working on a NIN album.

"I've been less than honest about what I've really been up to lately," he wrote in an official announcement. "For the last year I've been secretly working non-stop with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly [expletive] great. This is the real impetus and motivation behind the decision to assemble a new band and tour again. My forays into film, HTDA and other projects really stimulated me creatively and I decided to focus that energy on taking Nine Inch Nails to a new place. Here we go!"

This enthusiasm is a far cry from where he was in the summer of 2009 when he sounded positively burned out on Nine Inch Nails. "I've just reached the point ... where it has invaded every other aspect of my life," he said of the group. "Also I think creatively, my time would be better spent on other stuff that could be NIN or outside NIN."

This new album, which doesn't have a title or a release date, will be going out through Columbia, which also put out How to Destroy Angels' Welcome Oblivion. Columbia said in a press release that the NIN disc will come out "later this year."

It's been five years since the last Nine Inch Nails record, The Slip. Since then, Reznor has gotten married (to HTDA singer Mariqueen Maandig), won an Oscar (for his score to The Social Network) and started a new band. The decision to reboot Nine Inch Nails certainly can't be looked at as a tactical retreat considering what a good run he's been on lately. And now you have to wonder if he'll debut some of this new material when NIN hit the road this year.

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Photo courtesy the Fun Star.

Stone Temple Pilots Are Taking Scott Weiland to Court

Saturday May 25, 2013
Ever since Stone Temple Pilots decided to mend fences and get back together in 2008, one had to wonder how long it could last, with reports circulating almost immediately that there was still tension between the members. That tension came to a head in February when the group kicked Scott Weiland out of the band. On Friday, the fight between the band and its former frontman spilled over into the courts.

The remaining band members -- Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo, Eric Kretz -- filed a lawsuit that wants the courts to bar Weiland from using the Stone Temple Pilots name on his own. According to Associated Press reporter Anthony McCartney, "The suit sheds light on the band's breakup, accusing Weiland of interacting with bandmates only through lawyers or managers and showing up late to the group's 2012 shows. It cites Weiland's addiction struggles and poor performances as detriments to the band's earning potential." That last sentence is especially striking considering that Weiland definitely seemed to have quite noticeable problems during different recent STP tours.

"Without relief from the court," the lawsuit states, "Weiland will continue violating STP's rights, misappropriating STP assets and interfering with the band's livelihood."

This lawsuit comes less than a week after STP announced that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was now going to be their vocalist. Apparently, the suit also alleges that Weiland's lawyer tried to keep KROQ, an influential modern rock station, from playing STP's new song with Bennington, "Out of Time," on the grounds that it violated Weiland's contract with the band.

Weiland hasn't yet responded to the lawsuit, but earlier this month he made it sound like the rest of his former bandmates couldn't carry on as Stone Temple Pilots without him. "I started the band," he said in an interview in early May. "I'm not gonna go into, legally, but there's things in place, like certain clauses that are in place that keep that from happening."

It seemed pretty obvious from the moment Weiland got fired that lawsuits would start flying soon after. That's where we are now. If you're a fan of legal sniping and bad blood between former bandmates, this will probably be the one rock story you'll be most interested in following over the next several weeks and months.

Update: Scott Weiland responded on his website. "Like any band that's stood the test of time and made music for more than two decades," he wrote, "STP had a special alchemy -- the four of us together were greater than any one of us apart. So if my former bandmates want to tour with a new singer, that's their prerogative. I don't give a [expletive] what they call themselves, but it's not Stone Temple Pilots." And he makes it clear that, to his mind, "they don't have the legal right to call themselves STP because I'm still a member of the band." To be continued.

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Photo: Chapman Baehler.

'Modern Vampires of the City' Toast of Rock Charts

Friday May 24, 2013
Riding much hype and stellar reviews, Modern Vampires of the City is one of the year's most anticipated albums in alternative rock. Vampire Weekend were able to parlay that into strong sales in their debut week. Not surprisingly, then, the East Coast quartet are the big story on the Billboard Rock Charts, but it's also worth pointing out that Imagine Dragons finally lost their stranglehold on all of our singles charts. Check out my rundown of this week's Rock Charts to see where your favorite tunes and albums ranked.

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Photo courtesy Nasty Little Man.

What Do You Think of the First Trailer for 'Metallica Through the Never'?

Friday May 24, 2013
As you may know, Metallica will be releasing their first 3D concert movie on September 27. Called Metallica Through the Never, the film is rather unconventional in that it features both a narrative -- about a band crew member, played by Dane DeHaan, on a special assignment -- and performance footage from a Metallica show. The first trailer has been revealed, and it definitely showcases both sides of the film's concept. So how do we think it'll look?

On Wednesday, the trailer hit the web, and I confess that I'm a little concerned. Admittedly, it really is intriguing to see how director Nimrod Antal meshes the live songs and the story, but this first trailer makes it look more like a big spectacle than anything else. With that said, to see and hear Metallica songs on the big screen in 3D and IMAX could be a treat. (I still say one of the best recent 3D movies was U2 3D.) But Through the Never's storyline, what little of it we can see, doesn't seem all that interesting. My fear is that, while watching this movie, I'm just going to keep impatiently waiting for them to cut back to the Metallica concert whenever the plot kicks in.

That's my take. What's yours?

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Photo courtesy BB Gun Press.

Sick Puppies Reveal Track List, Release Date for 'Connect'

Tuesday May 21, 2013
The Australian band Sick Puppies made big strides, commercially and critically, with their 2009 album Tri-Polar. Can they continue the trend with their new disc? We'll find out on July 16 when the trio release Connect.

As for what the album might sound like, frontman Shim Moore recently spoke with Loudwire, saying, "It's a louder record, but we went for a different sound in terms of the layering of the guitars. So there aren't as many guitars, but the ones that we do have we've turned up a lot more. So if that gives you an idea, it's a louder record but it's much more musical."

Truth be told, some of the best moments on Tri-Polar were the more musical and melodic. If Sick Puppies have figured out how to meld volume with their sharp melodic sense, they might really have something. In less than two months, we'll know.

Connect Track List:

  • "Die to Save You"
  • "There's No Going Back"
  • "Walking Away"
  • "Gunfight"
  • "Poison"
  • "Where Did the Time Go"
  • "Telling Lies"
  • "Connect"
  • "Run"
  • "The Trick the Devil Did"
  • "Healing Now"
  • "Under a Very Black Sky"

See more upcoming rock releases

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Photo courtesy EMI.

Stone Temple Pilots Musicians Join Forces With Linkin Park Singer on New Track

Sunday May 19, 2013
Ever since Stone Temple Pilots decided to fire Scott Weiland, there's been curiosity about what the musicians would do without him. (Those wonders only increased after the vocalist made it clear that he may need to take legal action to keep them from using the band name without him.) Well, the drama deepened Saturday night when the Weiland-less STP played a show with Chester Bennington, the singer from Linkin Park.

The show in question was the KROQ Weenie Roast in Los Angeles, where the band unveiled a new song, "Out of Time." They've also recorded the track with Bennington, and once you hear it you'll notice that he sounds an awful like Weiland on it.

The STP members haven't yet announced any sort of album plans, but guitarist Dean DeLeo did tell KROQ, "We know Linkin Park will always be [Bennington's] priority, but we thought it would be cool to try something together. We managed to find the time to record a song and we're all really happy with the result."

If they try to release this song for sale on iTunes or elsewhere, though, how will they bill themselves? Do they get themselves in legal hot water if they keep calling themselves Stone Temple Pilots? It might be funny if they opted for Stone Temple Park or Linkin Pilots instead.

Update: It looks like Stone Temple Pilots are serious about having Bennington as their vocalist. They've even doing promotional photos with the guy.

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Photo: Chapman Baehler.

Nine Inch Nails Make Some Lineup Changes Before Reunion Tour Begins

Sunday May 19, 2013
Back in February when it was revealed that Trent Reznor was going to be reactivating Nine Inch Nails for a new tour, I noted that it wouldn't necessarily be the same lineup as it had been at previous times in the band's run -- and that it probably didn't matter one way or the other. "This reunited NIN will feature a new lineup, though, including former Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery, although for most fans, this band starts and ends with Reznor," I wrote at the time. Well, even if most people associate Nine Inch Nails with just Reznor, there's been some changes to the band this week as they prepare to start touring in July.

First came word that Avery was pulling out of NIN. On Wednesday, the bassist took to his Facebook page to say, "its been a tough call and i don't know if its the right one. but i really want to focus on my musical life here in la, on film work in particular. as the tour dates kept growing... i just got overwhelmed." The reason for his decision stemmed from having just gotten off the road with Garbage, which he called "a year of heavy travel." This, by the way, isn't the first time he's pulled the plug on a band. Back in 2010 as Jane's was getting things back together, he tweeted that he was dropping out of the group before they started working on their new album, which would eventually become The Great Escape Artist.

But then on Friday, somebody new was added to the NIN lineup. It's not a bassist, though -- It's Robin Finch, a guitarist who has been part of Nine Inch Nails in the past. "The addition of Robin to the mix of players I've assembled makes this band incredibly powerful and versatile," Reznor wrote as part of the announcement. "We are deep in the rehearsal process and it feels exciting and great to be back at this."

So if you're keeping score at home, that means the NIN touring lineup consists of guitarist Adrian Belew, keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, keyboardist Josh Eustis, guitarist Robin Finck, drummer Ilan Rubin, and Trent Reznor. They're doing two dates in Asia at the end of July, and then it's back to the States for a performance at Lollapalooza in August. For a look at what else is on their tour itinerary, best head over to the band's website.

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Photo: Rob Sheridan.

Imagine Dragons Join 'Great Gatsby' as Kings of Rock Charts

Sunday May 19, 2013
The new movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby is well on its way to making more than $100 million at the box office (and that's just in the U.S.), so it shouldn't be a surprise that its soundtrack has been a big hit as well. The Billboard Rock Charts welcomed the album with open arms, but they still also had plenty of love for Imagine Dragons and their double-platinum smash "Radioactive." Of the three singles charts that we track, it's been at No. 1 on all of them for at least eight weeks, a really impressive feat. Just think if the Las Vegas group had a song in The Great Gatsby. Check out my rundown of this week's Rock Charts to see where your favorite tunes and albums ranked.

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Photo courtesy Total Assault.

Puddle of Mudd Vocalist Facing Domestic Violence Charge

Wednesday May 15, 2013
Puddle of Mudd have had a tough time of late maintaining the sales momentum that their early-2000 records enjoyed. They put out their last studio album of new material, Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate, back in 2009, and it barely cracked the Top 100 on the Billboard album charts, although the singles "Spaceship" and "Stoned" had some impact on rock radio. But lately, the band has been in the news for the hijinks of its lead singer. Those tabloid scandals got more serious on Monday.

According to TMZ, Los Angeles police arrested vocalist Wes Scantlin after an incident in a store in which, allegedly, he shook his ex-wife and tried to drag her by force. He's believed to be currently in jail on a charge of domestic violence.

Scantlin has faced legal issues for a while now. In September of last year, he was arrested after allegedly getting into an altercation with a flight attendant concerning selling him alcohol during the flight. As TMZ reported at the time, the pilot landed in Austin for an unscheduled stop just so that Scantlin could be removed and arrested. (For what it's worth, Scantlin later insisted he was sober and that the flight attendant was being rude to him.) A few months earlier, he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession. And that's not even mentioning an incident from earlier this month when police caught him speeding and, according to TMZ, noticed that he had warrants out for his arrest.

As you can see, this domestic violence arrest is just the latest legal embarrassment for Scantlin but, sadly, this isn't the first time he's been associated with this specific charge. In 2002, he and his fiancee at the time, Michelle Rubin, were arrested in connection to a domestic violence investigation. According to MTV News, "Several witnesses reported seeing a man forcing a woman into a Jeep Cherokee driven by a third person." Unfortunately for Puddle of Mudd fans, Scantlin's public dramas have been part of the band's legacy almost from the beginning.

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Photo courtesy Total Assault.

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