A person only gets to say "I have seen the future of rock!" once or twice per music-writing career1, so it's important to pick your spots. I dig the White Stripes, and I have nothing but love for Radiohead, but any future-of-rock love-missles hurtled their way are so obviously misplaced as to cause massive depression, cerebral edema, painful red welts, etc.2 For all their strengths, Radiohead and the White Stripes and Eminem3 are more past-perfect than forward-looking. What is the Future of Rock?4 Who will lead us to that bright, rocking future? Will there really be a Future of Rock?5 Has the editor been reading too much David Foster Wallace?6

These are philosophical questions. I don't do philosophy.7 I just listen to rock records8 and say what I think about them. And occasionally I go to shows and say whether they did what rock shows are supposed to do.9 And that's what I did earlier this week--went to a show, I mean--which is how it happened that I became empowered10 to say "I have seen the Future of Rock."

I have already written about the Future of Rock that I saw earlier this week.11 They're a band from Diamond Bar called Radiation 4. While I needs must continue berating them for their choice of band names whenever the opportunity arises12, my personal issues in that regard do not mitigate the one simple beautiful awesome fact about them, to wit, that they have got the motherfucking power. I thought they had it when I first heard their album, Wonderland13, and as I listened ever more closely to the album, I became more convinced of it. But seeing is believing, and Radiation 4 live was like the great birthing of an idea: the bud burst into flower, the questions all answered at once.

Do they know that there's something very different and strange about their music? Yes. Is the strangeness the whole point of the thing? No. Does the singer cop multiple David Thomas moves, but sound believable when claiming, later, that he's never even heard Pere Ubu? I am telling you people, the answer to this question as well as to the not unrelated question "Will there be more footnotes in this piece?" is yes.14 These guys have got the goods, the kind of thing that makes a band both easy to write about (because there's so much to say!) and impossible to write about (because no matter what I say, it can't be enough!). As far as I know, they have only one peer in the whole metalcore wing-ding, and that's Lickgoldensky, who will shortly become like gods walking the earth and crush great cities beneath their iron-shod hooves.15 They're not having the greatest tour of all time--it's their first tour, and first tours are always tough, and some first tours are especially tough, like say if you grew up in southern California and you go out to the eastern Seaboard in the middle of January. According to their website, they've only got two dates left before they get to head home: one tomorrow night in Queens, and another one the next night in South Glen Falls. Anybody who can make it out to these shows: do yourself a favor. You're not going to get a chance like this twice, probably. Unless they finish work on the Super-Outrageous Time Machine of the Great Rock Power out there at Marriott's Great America Future of Rock Family Fun Park and Resort, in which case--well! Enjoy the ride! I'll see you last week!

1 Unless a person is really, really funny, in which case he gets to say it once or twice a week

2 "Etc." is here includes but is by no means limited to: slurring of speech, blurred vision, irregular heartbeat, delerium tremens , spontaneous abortion, microcephaly, prickly heat, cannibalism, mal de mer , the Seven-Symptom Cramp, and short-term hearing loss.

3 I assume it's cool with everybody if I call Eminem "rock." Doing so, I don't invoke the rock-critic tradition of just labelling as "rock" anything that's really good. It's a tempting strategy, sure, but in the end it's kind of chickenshit. But Eminem: really, people. Listen to the songs! The raps, as good as they are, serve mainly to move the radio-ready singles along through their (often flawless) paces! If Eminem isn't rock, then Ryoji Ikeda isn't, ah, er, whatever it is that Ryoji Ikeda is. You heard it here first/second/third/eventually.

4 Besides the most baffling theme park ever abandoned midway through construction in the hills of West Virginia, I mean. At this late date, it is almost certainly safe to say that Marriott's Great America Future of Rock Family Fun Park and Resort will never get the grand opening it so richly deserves. The Man Or Astroman?-curated "Rock In Space" exhibit will be yet another bullet-riddled dream, and the Mission-to-Marslike "Bad Company 'Til the Day I Die: Recombinant DNA & You" ride will live on only in the memories of those who'd hoped to visit the park on vacation at least once a year. Still, it is pleasant to dream of what might have been; most pleasant, indeed.

5 Yes.

6 The answer to this last question is "no," by the way, and fuck you for asking. The only Foster Wallace piece I've ever read was an (admittedly excellent) essay in Harper's . Lawrence Sterne, a personal hero of mine, is so enamored of footnotes as to make any aspirants to his footnote-throne seem like Pee-Wees on an NFL playing field. Still, I know his rep well enough to throw in a footnote second-guessing any player-haters in the house. And how about those Eagles, eh? Quiet down, you Green Bay enthusiasts. Green Bay wouldn't have gotten past Carolina anyhow.

7 I sure wish I did, though. I was reading Heidegger in late summer or early fall of last year, and it was trying to catch hold of a greased pig. I'm pretty sure that everybody would love philosophy if the word hadn't taken a terrible beating somewhere between the end of the second World War and the dawn of the Age of Aquarius. How did that happen, anyhow? I wish I knew, but I suspect that to find out I'd have to get pretty deeply into philosophy, and--well, vide the line that necessitated this footnote. Though if you do, remember not to return to this particular note, lest you get stuck in a pretty dark loop.

8 I defy anybody, by the way, to not think of the Fall's I Am Kurious Oranj when typing, saying or thinking the words "rock records." It can't be done. This is Mark E. Smith's genius, I think: he gets into your brain and just stays there. By the end of the long century that lies before us, there'll be courses devoted to Smith's unique gift for the tenacious phrase. I'd say "just you watch," but let's be honest: we will all be dead by then.

9 Depending on who you talk to: "inspire," "provoke," "flatten," "rage," "shred," "involve," "dazzle," "razzle-dazzle," "frazzle," "shpazzle." OK, fine, I just made that last one up. But you have to admit it'd be a hell of a thing to run across while perusing the Post-Dispatch for news of whether the Alan Jackson concert had been worth the sixty-five dollars it cost to get in.

10 "Empowered" is a word that has taken something of a beating since right-leaning commentators became less reticent about showing their true colors on-air. (Anybody who thinks that news media was ever actually anything other than right-leaning is either very stoned or very young.) And while one has to admit that, as a general goal, "empowerment" sounds kinda pussy, it's wrong to let people strip us of perfectly worthwhile words ("feminist," "progressive," "caring," "sharing") just because we're afraid they'll make fun of us if we don't sound like them. Empower yourself to use the term "empowered," and its multiple variants! Call yourself a feminist if you believe that women should be entitled to the same privileges as men are! (The truth of the proposition is self-apparent, I think, and if it's not, it doesn't take heavy math to work that truth out.) Say that you care when you do, without trying to couch your caring nature in tough-guy/jaded-guy/"now"-guy parlance! What? Well, yes, I have run myself off the rails somewhat. What can I say? It happens.

11 Subtitute "the Future of Rock whom I saw" if you prefer. I have grown weary and more than a little crotchety trying to make up my mind about it.

12 Although, if I can play devil's advocate for a minute, it should be said that Radiation 4 is perhaps the least bothersome band-name-with-numbers-in-it that I've ever heard, which is another way of saying that it's the best one. The issue is one of sonorousness. There was a band called "Butter 08" a few years back: can you hear yourself saying "My favorite band is Butter 08?" or "Six Finger Satellite is cool, but I'm really partial to 5ive Style"? Of course you can't. Neither could anybody else. "Radiation 4," though, concludes on a high note, the rich dipthong "ou" sliding nicely into the smooth, cerebral "r," which need not end until you're perfectly sure you're finished with it: "I sure do love me some Radiation Fourrrrrrrrrrrr." All in favor of granting Radiation 4 an exemption? Right, then, that's all of us.

13 Its title, incidentally, does not seem to refer either to the house in which John Holmes may or may not have killed some guy back in the go-go eighties, nor to the film of the same name, which film I did not see, though the reviews it garnered came this close to forcing me into the theater: every critic who wrote about it used words like "depressing," "sordid," "tawdry," and even "vacuous," this last in describing the absence of a moral center anywhere near the film. Well! This must have been a pretty interesting film, no? But I had already seen Auto-Focus , which was both excellent and morally confusing, and you gotta watch your intake on the morally confusing stuff. Oh, yes, you do, too, Free Speech people. It's not a free speech issue in the end. It's a you-are-what-you-eat issue. Pornography, for example, is just fine by me, but I don't suspect I want to spend much time with a guy who's been watching it for eight hours a day ever since he moved out of his parents' house. And why not? Well! It's hard enough being that guy...( cue rimshot, hasty exit from stage )

14 The David Thomas similarity--the whole Pere Ubu similarity, really--is striking. Now, on the one hand, Radiation 4 are essentially a metalcore band. They have broad tastes among their members, but at the end of the day, it's the who-knows-how-to-correctly-detail-its-geneology-except-to-invoke-Converge-somewhere bang-wail-chord of metalcore that yanks their chain the right way. On the other hand, though, singer Chris Negrete's theatrical manner is unique to the genre: wholly consumed by music and by the totality of the band's vision, Negrete fakes right and faints left, his hand reaching out Juan Gabriel-style, the several sound-crunching toys nailed to a board before him on a miclesss mic-stand responding wildly to his surgical (violent, but precise) touch. The band both responds to him and is oblivious: they have their own rather complicated parts to work out, but everybody seems mainly focused on making this thing happen, and the reason for it seems to be nobody else is gonna make this happen, so the duty falls to us. I suppose hardcore Pere Ubu people will want to tell me how Thomas is sui generis and so forth, but go see Radiation 4 first and remember while you're watching that these guys couldn't pick Thomas out of a lineup. And then be quiet, because I am listening to Radiation 4.

15 This is an exaggeration.

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