Pattern Recognition

Mapping out the trends of 2005

Any idiot with an afternoon to kill can look back at the preceding 360-odd days and tell you what was popular in popular music; there's no mystery to it. Unfan the copies of Spin on your coffee table, actually listen to that record store putz (the one with the mesh trucker hat and the opinion about every damn band on that new-release end cap), or watch any random hour of VH1/MTV/MTV2 and you'll soon learn what was hot and what was less hot in 2004. It's a goddamn racket.

The real trick is to predict what will be hot. If anything, it's even easier than retrospection. Think of the pop-culture timeline as a telephone cord -- a straight line, but formed of many 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 twelve 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 dogs 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, ya dainty Scotsmen) and the reformation of the original Duran Duran can mean only one thing: Even worse white funk/pop is lurking around the bend. Locally, this means a revival of the Sinister Dane/the Urge paradigm. Nationally, expect a renewed interest in the first four albums of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, especially by the surviving members of the RHCP. Rhythms will be syncopated, guitars will be chicken-scratched and basses will be slapped like snot-nosed children at an O'Fallon Kmart. By the end of the year, Hillel Slovak will return from the dead, the Infectious Grooves will reform, 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) eighteen-minute breakdown. Think it can't happen? Sonny, in 1985 Nikki Sixx took a two-string/seven-note bass solo on the Theater of Pain tour every goddamn night and the crowd went wild -- and Mötley Crüe wasn't even funk! But they were comin' out of Los Angeles, and they could smell the RHCP sniffin' at their heels, and they knew they had to get onboard or drown. They drowned, but the Darkness (last year's version of Mötley Crüe) 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' last hurrah, by the way; once that Funk Storm hits 'em, those guys'll be the Kansas trailer park to the Urge's tornado. No, we're not happy about it either, but it's comin'. Find some shelter now.

Ironic Fashion Statement: The Vest (or Beards)

OK, 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 then it hit us: 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 Simon Le Bon wore a very similar white suit in the live video for Duran Duran's "Reflex!" If Le Bon were not a poncy Englishman, would he have grown the beard? The answer, most assuredly, is yes.

And in his effeminate fashion (or "androgynous manner," if you're feeling charitable), Le Bon shows us the style of the future. Vests are to be the white belt of the next year, because they're just as stupid as the white belt, and anyone can buy one. Not everyone can grow a beard, and so the chin strap is less likely to catch on. However, common sense and practicality never determine anything in the rock arena, so don't rule out a run on fake beards by late 2005. In fact, if the winner of the 2005 Best New Artist Grammy is not wearing both a beard and a cheesy leather vest when accepting the statuette, we'll discount once and for all the RIAA awards show as a viable barometer of what's worthwhile in music.

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 they also made Pitchfork's year-end best list. If the Krautrock pioneers get namechecked by those trainspotters, you can bank on the hippie/funk wizards getting namechecked a quarter-million times by people who weren't even alive when Johnny Rotten was namechecking Can the first time around. Imagine the frustration that will well up in angry young suburbanites everywhere when they learn that not only are the mechanically funky tongue-and-groove licks of Can tough to master on bass, but those same stone-cold riffs were laid down by hoary German grandfathers.

But as glorious as the great Can resurgence of 2005 shall be, it will be but a minor flare-up in the grease fire of pop culture, because rock & 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 shall be a quaint memory, a brief cultural hiccup on the way to something else (the Magic 8 Turd Orb is a little cloudy on this, but 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.