Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Being a nerd and liking music doesn't necessarily mean you have to switch between Houses of the Holy and "The Imperial March" from Star Wars while sitting in a basement eating Funyuns. In fact, being a nerd is at the heart of rock 'n' roll.
It all begins with Buddy Holly. The look, the moves, the glasses, everything associated with Nerd Rock is all thanks to Buddy Holly. It's impossible to think of Holly and not picture the big, large-framed glasses he wore. As with punk, how you look in Nerd Rock has as much to do with the genre as the sound.
Nerd Rock (also known as Geek Rock) is exemplified by a few traits: the aforementioned style; awkward lead singers; a heavy emphasis on synthesizers and keyboards (it also doesn't hurt to feature the keytar); harmonic vocals; and off-beat, quirky lyrics. The Talking Heads are the epitome of nerd rock, for David Byrne speaks in fragmented phrases and the band's sound is based around electronic music mixed with guitars, bass and drums.
That sound is most closely associated with New Wave, a late-70s/early-80s genre that could also easily be categorized under the heading of Nerd Rock. Bands like XTC and Devo don't necessarily sound very nerdy, but they have the Buddy Holly factor where the singer looks like (and probably is) a nerd.
Nerd Rock caught on again in the 1990s with Weezer, the band most associated with the genre. While maybe not the greatest band in the world (although everyone in high school goes through their “*Pinkerton* is the Best Album of All-Time” phase), lead singer Rivers Cuomo looks like a nerd, and they're just a nerdy band all-around—after all, they've got a lyric that goes, “I’ve got a Dungeon Master’s Guide/I’ve got a 12-sided die/I’ve got Kitty Pryde/And Nightcrawler too.”
The nerdy, quirky lyrics are what make bands like They Might Be Giants (who like to rock out with an accordion) and Barenaked Ladies both popular and respected amongst nerds, freaks, geeks and dweebs everywhere. Take the BNL song "Grade Nine," which goes, "I got into the classroom and my knowledge was gone/I guess I should've studied instead of watching *Wrath of Khan*."
If you're a nerd, it doesn't mean you're bound to be obsessing over Star Trek or working at an arcade. Thanks to Buddy Holly and Weezer, you might just be able to pick up a guitar and start a band. Don't forget the glasses, though.