Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Nerd/Geek music in nothing new many can point to Tom Lehrer and Weird Al Yankovic as antecedents to the current Nerd/Geek music movement. There are musical acts that are considered mainstream that have huge Nerd/Geek followings. It is not just Pop Culture Nerd/Geek followings, but also Music Nerd/Geek followings. Also some musical genres and sub-genres owe good deal to their Nerd/Geek followings as well. I will start with the genres then go into individual bands. I will by no means cover all the possibilities. I hope to get to a good selection of what is out there.
Progressive Rock AKA Prog Rock has had a serious Nerd/Geek following. First its experimental style attracts the Music Nerds/Geeks. Some bands use a good amount of Fantasy and Science Fiction imagery in their music as well. Since Nerds/Geeks are thinking people and Progressive Rock is a thinking person’s musical genre, it is a match made in musical nirvana. Bands that would fit this are Yes, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel era Genesis,
and Palmer, Primus, and Dream
Heavy Metal itself may not seem nerdy/geeky, but some bands are notorious with their horror, comic book, Science fiction, popular culture, and fantasy references. Anthrax wrote a song about Judge Dredd and Iron Maiden wrote a song about the 1960’s show The Prisoner. Heavy Metal is full of Comic Book fans like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Scott Ian and many more. The Power Metal sub-genre is full of fantasy imagery everywhere in the songs. Do not forget the album covers, many fantasy artists worked on a Heavy Metal album or two back in the day. There are also quite a few fans in the genre of Horror in all it forms. Monster Kids would definitely be at home here. Bands that would fit this would be Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, White Zombie, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and more.
New Wave, specifically that from the 70’s and 80’s, has not just influenced Nerdy/ Geeky music, but also Nerdy/ Geeky fashion. Bands like, but not limited to Modern English, Depeche Mode, Boomtown Rats, Thomas Dolby, Elvis Costello, and REM have given various styles. Quite a few Nerds/Geeks still rock the horned rimmed glasses and skinny ties Elvis Costello made fashionable. It also helps that most of the older members of the nerd/geek community were in their teenaged years during this period. In some ways the modern hipster has stolen much of his style from this genre. Musically this is also a vast and diverse genre, New Wave begat New Music which begat Alternative. For a time the term Progressive Music was used for these styles.
David Bowie may not be a Nerd/Geek; however he inspired many of them and inspired a diverse group of genres. Without
Bowie there is no
Glam, Glam Metal, New Wave, Goth, New Romantics movement, Alternative, Grunge,
and others that do not come quickly to mind.
Bowie worked with Science
Fiction imagery first with Space Oddity then with Ziggy Stardust. Bowie
also is an Actor who starred in various Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror films such
as The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, The Prestige, and The Hunger.
Queen’s Nerd/Geek following is for numerous reasons. First, they are popular among music and theater Nerds/Geeks for their theatrical and operatic styles both musically, lyrically and performance wise. Second, their two forays into film Soundtracks are Nerd/Geek classics, Flash Gordon and Highlander. Both are in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Third, their style changes for song to song, Operatic one, then ragtime, and hard rock on another. This would happen on the same album. They worked within Rock, Jazz, Ballads, Funk, Operatic, Punk and anything they could think of. Freddie Mercury had an amazing versatile voice with a huge range.
Ronnie James Dio
Here I mention Ronnie James Dio and not his band Dio. Why? That is because it is all of his work including the various bands he was in: Rainbow, Elf, Black Sabbath and Dio. Ronnie was not only the vocalist, but lyricist. He liked Fantasy and injected it into as many songs as he could get away with. He loved the Sword and Sorcery imagery. Many cite him as being one of the pivotal people in bringing those themes into Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. He was not the first or the last, but still was very influential.
Rush has a Geek/Nerd following, because of their musical mastery and their lyrical theme. Music Nerds/Geeks love the tight musical style the trio made famous. Their lyrics follow Sci-Fi and Fantasy themes as well. Recently they did their first concept album in a Steampunk setting. With songs about Inter-Galactic Empires, Robots, Mystical Quests and Necromancers how would Geeks/Nerds not love them?
Devo’s aesthetic and their absurdist humor have always appealed to Nerds/Geeks. They were weird for weirdness sake. To this day they are the epitome of Nerd/Geek New Wave. They delight those into synthesizer, Art, and just plain weird. Nerds/Geeks who felt weird just for being themselves felt a kinship to Devo.
Talking Heads were part of the original Punk movement of the early to mid 1970’s. Their style became more closely associated with New Wave. They were an Avant-Garde Art band. They had some of the similar absurdist predelictions that is found in bands like the B-52’s and Devo. Their being a little out of left field made them fun and again made them resonate with Nerds/Geeks.
Muse has its Nerd/Geek followers for multiple reasons. They are like the band that writes soundtracks for movies that do not exist. They are hugely reminiscent of Queen. For Music types, their delving in musical influences as diverse as Telestar by the Tornadoes and Ennio Morricone, which was just in one song, shows knowledge and skill. They can go Pop, Dub-Step and Operatic. Their lead singer does not have Freddie Mercury’s range, but no one does. He does very well with the range he has. Muse is part of a new generation of Progressive Rock acts. Like Queen they straddle Prog Rock and Pop.
Weezer came out during the heyday of the Alternative Rock scene of the early mid 1990’s. With songs like Buddy Holly and In the Garage, they proved their connection to Nerd/Geek Culture. They were Nerds/Geeks. They were not going to hide it. They somehow gained a mainstream audience without alienating people like themselves. They from time to time would tap into influence like Talking Heads and other bands mentioned here.
Oingo Boingo in all its various incarnations has been known for being weird, strange and a little dorky too. They wrote and performed the title song for the John Hughes Nerd/Geek classic film Weird Science. They love
kitsch including Mexican Day of the Dead imagery. They started as a musical theater group in
the vein of Frank Zappa and Spike Jones.
If that isn’t Nerdy/Geeky, I do not know what is. They have been known for their Halloween
concerts. Danny Elfman, the lead singer,
went on to be a big soundtrack composer on projects the Nerd/Geek community
love like Batman (1989), Beetlejuice, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Simpsons,
The Flash (1990), and Tales of the Crypt.
The Barenaked Ladies
The Barenaked Ladies are a alternative band from
whose style is very folky. They are
included here for a few reasons. They
created the theme for Nerd/Geek TV show the Big Bang Theory. They mentioned Aquaman, X-Files and Akira
Kurosawa in their song One Week. They
also do not take themselves too seriously on and off the stage. Songs like If I Had $1,000,000, Enid,
Be My Yoko Ono, Brian Wilson, One Week and Pinch Me show this silliness and
They have kitschy 1950’s/ 1960’s style. They are known for their tongue and cheek approach to lyrics, the B-52’s are definitely well loved among Nerd/Geek types. Their penchant for B Movies and alien invasion motifs are popular in the Nerd/Geek community. Their music is also retro to the late fifties and early sixties as well. With the bee hive hair dos and almost novelty type songs they have a fun irreverent energy.
They Might Be Giants
They Might Be giants have been known to cover Nerdy/Geeky subject matter in their songs. They covered the 1950’s song
(Not Constantinople). In recent years,
they have recorded many Children’s songs including songs for the Disney Junior
show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. They are
also known for the Malcolm in the middle Theme, Boss of Me. Their humorous and unconventional style has
made them big amongst Nerds/Geeks.
This iconic punk band is known for Horror imagery in their album covers, merchandise and songs. The Misfits are considered the progenitors of the Horror Punk genre. They also were known to appear in makeup with horror themed costumes. Musically they are reminiscent of fifties and sixties rock, but sped up. Horror Nerds/Geeks gravitate to this bands iconic style and imagery.