It’s too obvious to point out that the role of the music media, whether you’re talking about MTV, Rolling Stone, or the street press, is a classificatory one: they promote new or unfamiliar bands or sounds in terms of familiar ones. It is also too obvious to need to point out the industrial/corporate value of such a function.
But there’s something else going on here as well: there is a pseudo-modernist urge to view popular music within a trajectory of progress, where the “true” musician will build on the classics of the past to develop an original, yet consistent artwork in the present. This myth ties in very easily with those troublesome, but completely dominant themes of authenticity on which the rock myth is based.
Sometimes, however, this urge gets the better of journalists and writers: especially if their object of review is difficult to categorise. Mark Kemp, in a 1997 review of Radiohead’s OK, Computer in Rolling Stone, evokes the names Nirvana, U2, The Beatles, King Crimson, Queen, The Byrds, Brian Eno, REM, and possibly prog rock band Family, as well as referring to psychedelia, electronica, and glam rock: all in 600 words!