Bill Madden | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bill Madden


Stylistically, Bill Madden's musical approach may wear on those not strictly inspired by the singer/songwriter motif (think Gavin DeGraw, Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, John Mayer and, to an extent, Toad the Wet Sprocket). But let's not dismiss Madden completely. His music is refreshingly straightforward, and with Gone, he discusses political issues without sounding irrelevant or preachy.


In fact, since Madden's orchestrations aren't groundbreaking, it could be argued that politics are his strong point. Here's a lyric: "Mother Earth's a mess from pollution and war / Pillaged like a disposable whore / Environment is a news byte at best / A pile of paper on a bureaucrat's desk."

Powerful suggestions. But these words raise some questions Madden might not've intended: First, how relevant are politics in new rock releases? Secondly, what does Madden hope to accomplish? However eloquently Madden presents concepts, the issues he addresses are widely available in different mediums, such as books, movies, blogs, podcasts and talk radio. These mediums, unlike rock, allow the flow of information to be more in-depth, more roundly considered. I suppose you could say political rock is really base-level discourse: meant to initiate thought, rather than focus it.


I suppose it comes down to what's convenient for the listener, what's personally important, and what inspires emotion. But it also comes down to progress. Bob Dylan is no longer at an apex. Ditto for Jello Biafra. John Lennon is dead. Bono is (forgive me) irritating. And among Rage Against the Machine's final performances were an appearance on the Godzilla soundtrack and an interview on MTV's TRL (where Tom Morello eschewed politics in favor of a funny guitar-noise lesson with screeching 14-year-olds).


I don't mean to detract from any rock musician's attempt to discuss politics. Instead, I mean to illustrate my own confusion: Where do politics fit in rock? Is Saul Williams our only respite? In a nation so politically divided, is a politically frustrated singer/songwriter like Bill Madden relevant? Discuss.

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