“Pop” Alternative: In Defense Of The Genre

Last year Bring Me The Horizon dropped not just a brilliant new single, but arguably one of the most important songs of 2018 for the alternative scene. With it’s huge riffs and catchy hooks, Mantra sets the tone of things to come, solidifying the sound the band has been polishing over the past few albums, but the track has become both a hot topic and an easy target for keyboard warriors of late, with old men yelling at clouds saying “They’re pop. They sold out. They don’t belong. ” Well to you good sir, madam, or non-binary person, I say, “Sit down, shut up, and remember where you came from.”

My personal upbringing through alternative music was quite a charmed one; and one of my most important happenstances that lead me to be the punk I am today occurred purely by accident. When I was 10 years old, my aunty gave me triple j’s Hottest 100 Vol. 4 on CD for my birthday. Track two on CD 1 was a little ditty by Tool called Stinkfist. 10 year old me was blown away. I didn’t understand at all what I was listening to, but I played it again, and again, and again, until it sunk deep inside of me, and if you put a gun to my head, I’d probably call it my favourite song ever. 

After that experience though, I didn’t dive straight into the world of “cool” alternative acts. I didn’t immediately discover Nailbomb and G.B.H. I didn’t appreciate bands like Primus or At The Gates. No I fell head over heels in love with bands like Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, Green Day, and Blink 182, which I’d contest are the poppiest bands of their respective genres. Artists that were, and still are, maligned by the purists of metal, goth, and punk as being too commercial, and yes, too pop. Songs like American Idiot, The Beautiful People, and Rollin’ became the gateway for an entire generation of kids just about to hit puberty, because they were catchy, easy to consume, and didn’t take a lot of brain process to understand, but these are ostensibly just heavy pop songs. These days I’d consider The Dillinger Escape Plan one of the greatest bands on the face of the planet, but if you had played Farewell, Mona Lisa to 10 year old Redbeard, he would have called it unlistenable and completely wrote them off. 

This is how we all discovered alternative music. We found the easily digestible tracks, and from there our tastes evolved into the deepest and darkest corners of the alternative world. The ultimate proof of this lies in the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Countless punks of this generation will reference that soundtrack as their gateway to the alternative scene. If I drop Goldfinger’s Superman (easily the “poppiest” track on that game) in a nightclub, everyone loses their mind; but follow that up with Unsane’s Committed, and very few would even remember that song was on the same sound track, let alone attach any sort of credit to that band for their music tastes today.

The current generation of purists will reference Bring Me The Horizon’s 2006 break through album Count Your Blessings, and the follow up Suicide Season the “sound” the band has deviated from, but these were the sounds of a band in their very adolescence still trying to figure out who they were. By comparison to Mantra, those albums are immature, rushed, and for the most part, fairly poorly written. A band can take many years to truly discover who they are, and it wasn’t until 2013 when Bring Me dropped Sempiternal on the world, that people started paying attention. That was the moment that both us as the listener, and the band themselves, got a better understanding of exactly who Bring Me The Horizon are. That was also the moment that Bring Me The Horizon joined the ranks of Limp Bizkit and Green Day as an ostensibly “pop” band.

Of the 4 millions streams Mantra has had in the first few days, countless kids just like you and I once were, have discovered alternative music for the first time. They’re going to listen to Mantra on repeat because it’s far easier to consume than Pray For Plagues. Then then go back to That’s The Spirit and Sempiternal. They’re going to look into the fact Bring Me last toured Australia with Architects and ’68 and discover those bands. They’ll fall in love with Oli and find tracks from You Me At Six and Deez Nuts that he’s featured on. Before you know it they’ll be wearing Coalesce t-shirts and doing their best to hide their poppy musical roots, just like you’re doing now. 

Embrace it. Accept the fact that Limp Bizkit are hands down the greatest band in the universe, and that Bring Me The Horizon are the most important band in metal today. Not because they’re the best, but because they’re the ones that are going to keep our scene alive in the hearts of the next generation. Mantra isn’t the song we deserve, but it’s the one we need.