Episode 178: Real People Have Arena Rock Feelings

On the TFT Podcast, we listen to and discuss Chvrches’s “Every Open Eye,” and talk with Craig Finn about his early love of Styx.

Matt, Ryan, and guest D.J. Bean discuss Chvrches’s Every Open Eye, and we talk with Craig Finn about his early love of The Bay City Rollers, Kiss, and Styx.

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Craig Finn

Best known as the front man of The Hold Steady, Craig Finn (@steadycraig) has just released his second solo album, Faith in the Future.

Our conversation with Craig starts at the 3:55 mark in the episode.

Get Faith in the Future now

D.J. BeanDJ Bean is a guest on Overthinking It Podcast 372.

D J Bean is a sportswriter and pop culture enthusiast. Check him out on WEEI and on Twitter @dj_bean.


4 Comments on “Episode 178: Real People Have Arena Rock Feelings”

  1. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    “Is CHVRCHES arena rock?”

    Well, that depends on how you define “rock.” In the butt rock conversation, we addressed this briefly by including “LMFAO” as an example of a butt rock. This assumes that “rock” is more or less entirely divorced from its traditional signifier–the guitar–and has expanded to cover all sorts of energetic pop music that “rocks,” in the sense that it causes the body to sway.

    So if that’s rock, and if CHVRCHES fills arenas with an energetic sound and an energetic audience, then sure CHVRCHES is arena rock.

    That being said, I’m not entirely ready to give up on the guitar-driven aspects of rock, particularly in the context of arena rock. The thing that made arena rock such a special thing back in its heyday was the impressive technical feat of filling an arena with a big sound. Electric guitars were key to making this possible, given its lack of problematic acoustic, wide dynamic range (low-to-high notes), and near-infinite sustain. All of those attributes are trivial to accomplish with purely synthesized instruments.

    Actually, one other thing to dispute the notion of CHVRCHES as arena rock. Another major accomplishment of arena rock is the ability to get a whole arena to sing along with songs. I’ve been listening to and enjoying this album immensely over the last few days, but I’m not sure if it’s the most sing-along-able music out there, both by virtue of its structure and the high soprano range of the melodies. Contrast that with the most arena rock of arena rock — “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. The melody is in a high tenor that sits at the low end of what women can sing along to and the high end of what men can do.

    So, maybe it’s only arena rock if the entire arena is singing along for major portions of the concert. Guitars optional.


  2. Josie M. #

    I’ll get back to that episode soon, but I have a question that relates to that one: is Depeche Mode arena rock? I saw them perform in an arena a few years ago. They’ve had occasional guitar since “Personal Jesus” at least, and almost the entire arena sang along with songs like “Walking In My Shoes”. Also, Dave Gahan does quite a lot of shirtless vamping.

    That relates to the status of CHVRCHES insofar as I think Depeche Mode being arena rock is a prerequisite to CHVRCHES being arena rock.


    • Josie M. #

      After leaving this comment I read that, in fact, CHVRCHES opened for Depeche Mode on their last tour. (The opener when I saw them was, oddly, Peter Bjorn & John). So there’s also that.

      And since comment are closed on the Some Great Reward episode: I had wanted to say that I have a weird relationship with DM because they were my ex-partner’s favorite band, the one I was with longest before my current fiance, and thus I really enjoyed Matt calling out the immaturity in a lot of their lyrics. Note to future relationships: If “Somebody” if Your Song, ya’ll are probably not going to last.


    • sheely OTI Staff #

      I mentioned this briefly on Twitter, but I think the right place to start on evaluating whether Depeche Mode and CHVRCHES are “Arena Rock” is the DM Concert Film, 101:

      The concert was filmed in 1988 (I think), at the freakin’ Rose Bowl, which is an arena to end all arenas. I haven’t watched the whole doc yet, but the songs I saw definitely seemed to fit Mark’s criteria of an arena full of people all singing along together. So I definitely think they count.

      I think that there are at least three kinds of arena rock:
      1) Historical Arena Rock-The rock that first filled arenas- This is the core commercial rock of the 70s and 80s- Journey, Styx, Boston, etc.
      2) Descriptive Arena Rock-The music that “rocks arenas” at any given point in time. This would be the decline of “Historical Arena Rock” later in the 80s and the rise of Heavy Metal and New Wave Arena Bands (this is where I place Depeche Mode). This heavily weights just what is most massively popular at a given point in time (and is thus sensitive to changing tastes and fads), but I bet that you might find more musical similarities than you might expect if you start looking comparatively at the biggest arena-touring acts of the last 30-40 years.
      3) Normative Arena Rock- Music that SHOULD rock arenas- This is where I put CHVRCHES. This is not just that I love them and want them to be the biggest band in the world. I think that “Normative Arena Rock” combines two things- some element of the anthemic musical and lyrical content that defined “Historical Arena Rock” and a growing (if not yet Arena-sized) fanbase that does rock out to the music in the way that Mark described. I’ve seen CHVRCHES in concert once, and I actually think they fit this- people do really sing along and fist pump (actually a lot more than they dance), and I can only imagine that this kind of rocking out is more prevalent on the tour for this album.

      Is there anything here? Maybe this is the next big “Theory of Rock” article, following Mark’s on Butt Rock?


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