Any idiot with a Spin magazine and an afternoon to kill can tell you what was popular in 2004. The real trick is to predict what will be hot in the upcoming year. Although, if anything, it's even easier than retrospection. Think of the pop-culture time line as a telephone cord -- a straight line formed of tightly wound spirals. Those spirals represent the cyclical nature of trends. Once you've traveled through a few of them, you begin to recognize them and can easily predict what will be in the next coil. If you just scratched your head and thought, "Telephones don't have cords," then you are very young and in for some rude surprises in the next 12 months. In that case, try instead to think of the pop-culture spirals as tightly wound coils of dog crap. Once you've seen enough dog shit, you know what to expect with regard to smell, and you also learn to watch your step.
So, without further ado, here are the trends that will rock your musical world in 2005. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Musical Throwback Style: White Boy Funk
All of this rampant conceptual theft from skittery pop outfits such as the Talking Heads and Gang of Four and Wire (yes, Franz Ferdinand, we're talking to you) and the re-formation of the original Duran Duran can mean only one thing: Even worse white funk-pop is around the bend. Expect a renewed interest in the first four albums of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, especially by the surviving members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rhythms will be syncopated, guitars will be chicken-scratched and basses will be slapped like snot-nosed children at a Channelview Kmart. By the end of the year, Hillel Slovak will return from the dead, the Infectious Grooves will re-form and the Killers will have covered a Fishbone song -- probably "Jamaica Ska," from the Back to the Beach movie.
Egregious Instrument Overuse: Bass Solo
Hand in hand with a return to funk comes heightened interest in the bass. The lowly four-string plank, instrument of girls and failed guitarists, will ascend to the top of the rock heap, stepping out for its own three-, four- or (God help us) 18-minute breakdown. Think it can't happen? Listen, kid, in 1985 Nikki Sixx took a two-string, seven-note bass solo on the Theater of Pain tour every goddamn night -- and Mötley Crüe wasn't even funk! But they were out of Los Angeles, and they could smell the Red Hot Chili Peppers sniffin' at their heels, and they knew they had to get onboard or drown. They drowned, but last year's Mötley Crüe -- the Darkness -- is smarter than that. That mustachioed gent who's not a Hawkins brother? He'll be rocking the bass solo on the next tour. Bank on it.
P.S.: That'll be the Darkness's last hurrah, by the way; once that Funk Storm hits 'em, those guys'll be the Kansas trailer park to the Urge's tornado. Find shelter now.
Ironic Fashion Statement: The White Suit (or Beards)
Okay, that's totally a hedge, but fashion is tough to call. Who'd have thought the white belt would have caught on again after all these years? But think: During the WKRP in Cincinnati years (the Fertile Crescent of white-belt culture), America was enduring the Kenny Rogers Epidemic. And what did Kenny Rogers wear? A snow-white suit, complete with a white belt to hold up his white trousers, a white vest and a full, luxurious beard. Sad, but not necessarily indicative of anything -- until you note that Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon often wore white suits in videos and photo shoots. By the time Le Bon got around to the "Wild Boys," he had also grown -- guess what? -- a beard.
There is also a possibility for the return of the vest. Why? Because they're just as stupid as the white belt, and (unlike beards) anyone can have one.
Original Band That Will Benefit from Popularity of Fourth-Generation Bands: Can
Admittedly, this is a very, very long shot. Or so we thought until those Can albums not only appeared in remastered formats this year, but also made Pitchfork's year-end best list. If the Krautrock pioneers get name-checked by those trainspotters, you can bank on the hippie/funk wizards getting name-checked a quarter-million times by people who weren't even alive when Johnny Rotten was name-checking Can the first time around. Imagine the frustration that will well up in angry young suburbanites when they learn that not only are the mechanically funky tongue-and-groove licks of Can tough to master on bass, but also that those same stone-cold riffs were laid down by hoary German grandfathers.
But as glorious as the great Can resurgence of 2005 will be, it will be but a minor flare-up in the grease fire of pop culture, because rock and roll is no longer the driving force. Hip-hop/rap is the roaring conflagration that consumes all dollars, and it shall quickly absorb the nü-funk and devour it. For a very brief period, hip-hop may flirt with the trappings of the style, but it can't work out. Remember Tony! Toni! Toné!? How long did it take before that gave way to things like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony? By 2006 the nü-funk movement will be a quaint memory, a brief cultural hiccup on the way to something else (we're leaning toward a minor "epic noir soundtrack" revival, à la Portishead, which will be quickly snuffed out by a second coming of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Brian Setzer). The only lasting effect of the nü-funk era will be the demise of the tired "-izzle" slang popularized by Snoop Dogg -- and used with shocking facility by every white teenager worth his Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. In its stead will appear the rampant use of inappropriately used German culled from the liner notes of early Can albums. It's just as impenetrable to your parents, and it sounds obscene in polite conversation. You're going to love it once you catch the hang of it.
In summation, take no jive in 2005: What was once fo' shizzle is now die Busfahrt. Deal with it, Hansl.
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