Hive Five: Drone Music by Popular Bands

A woman listens to drone rock, probably. Photo: Getty Images

Popular rock bands are popular precisely because they make music that the “masses” can get behind. But there’s also been cases of popular rock bands going rogue and making classic “eff-you” music, more commonly known as drone rock. From the groundbreaking anti-music of the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” to the chaotic breakdowns in Radiohead’s “National Anthem” to entire eardrum-pummeling albums by metal acts like Liturgy, the ambient drone comes in so many forms, making it hard to define.

But, like porn for your ears, you know it when you hear it. And you’ve probably been hearing it a lot lately, thanks to No Age (who just released Collage Culture featuring essay readings over music), and Chromatics (whose Kill For Love ends with 14 minutes of planetarium music). So here are five of our favorite examples of rock’s ambient-drone tradition by artists who’ve sold a ton of albums, yet are still quite popular these days. Whether or not it’s listenable, well, you be the judge.

1. Pearl Jam, “Stupid Mop”

This 8-minute bit of musique concrete is grunge’s “Revolution 9.” The foreboding final track from Vitalogy features rampant cymbal crashes, looped reverb, and various mental patients’ spoken ramblings that Eddie Vedder recorded off his television. Mood music for budding serial killers.

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