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Alternative Rock Blues

by Dan Weiss  |  August 17, 2014

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One musical tradition that never goes out of style -- whether out of sincerity or irony -- is titling a blues song after its subject: "Helplessness Blues," "Honolulu Blues," "Rich Kids Blues," etc. Of course, it's debatable whether these are even blues songs -- whether Neon Indian's chillwaver "Arcade Blues" or Swans' rattlesnake horror show "93 Ave. Blues" count musically. Still, self-aware jokers like Clem Snide ("Ancient Chinese Secret Blues," "Jews for Jesus Blues") and Eels ("Restraining Order Blues," "Electro-Shock Blues") might have more in common with actual blues tunes than some would think. Beck's "Bottle of Blues" and Living Things' perfect recession protest "Post Millennium Extinction Blues" are more obvious and less ironic, while Pavement's "Platform Blues" at least has harmonica. But Bright Eyes will be damned if you don't think "Landlocked Blues" is sad enough. At least if they're not true blues, you can call them rock 'n' roll.

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