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Rock and Roll in the OOs: No Revolution

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Rock and Roll in the 00s

I’ve been a skeptic these past two years. In fact, I’m always wary when the music press, on both sides of the Atlantic, declare scenes, movements, revolutions, etc.

Since the turn of the millenium, we’ve seen:

– The New Acoustic Movement: I Am Kloot and Alfie? Anyone?
– Electroclash: Fischerspooner killed it before it got out of the gate. And Peaches grabbed a lifeline by sampling Joan Jett and duetting with Iggy Pop on Fatherfucker.
– The Summer of Screamo: Don’t even get me started on the current state of hardcore. This already happened 9 or 10 years ago in San Diego (Gravity Records) and the Bay Area (Indian Summer, Mohinder.)

The music press will always be guilty of compartmentalizing. By developing connections between the dots, then filling column inches about these newly defined asterisms, there’s always the hope that the stargazing public will buy into these neat and tidy packages, and get excited about them. And buy, read, buy, read, ad nauseam.

Sometimes it works. Witness Everett True and “Grunge” (Gina Arnold hopped on the “hair and horse” bandwagon as well.) Brit-pop, Electronica circa 1997, the list goes on.

But the “New Rock Revolution” (NME’s words, not mine) just doesn’t jive with me. A flimsy banner wrapped around a gaggle of disparate bands from New Zealand (wanna-be Swedes,) Sweden (wanna-be American proto-punk) the UK (simply trying to hard) and the birthplace of rock, The USA, this “New Rock Revolution” was sparked by the NME’s 2001 discovery of The White Stripes and The Strokes.

Add to that the likes of The Hives, The Datsuns and The Von Bondies, and a distinct pattern emerges – we’re talking about revivalism here. There’s no room for revivalism in revolution. Revolutions are about sudden, momentous change. None of these bands measure up to the definition.

Granted, I’m thrilled to see The White Stripes experiencing the success they’ve earned. Jack White is a tremendous songwriter, and a gifted guitarist. And from De Stijl on, each Stripes album has blissful moments where Jack’s Parsifalian lyrics combine with garage rawk, kinksian melodicism and Led Zep-streaked blues to arrive at something so gloriously Deja Vu, yet so true to the core of golden-era Rock.

And Kudos to the Hives for wringing new life out those three holy cornerstones of the proto-punk temple: The Stooges, Funhouse and Raw Power. If “Main Offender” doesn’t renew your faith in power chords, sass and snear, then you are likely dead in the soul.

But none of these acts are hear to revolutionize music as we know it. It happened in 1991 with Nevermind, and died 2 1/2 years later with a shotgun blast. The Indie Rock explosion that took place in the early 90s reconfigured the music industry landscape, and solidified the foundations of the US and UK Independent music networks that were built on the shaky ground of the 80s.

There are no Cobain figures in “The New Rock Revolution.” In late 2003, The Darkness, an amalgamation of classic rock and hair metal, are the biggest band in the UK. Andrew WK’s party/puke rock is somehow circumventing the standard criteria for novelty act.

Meanwhile, bands like Turbonegro and The Hellacopters both released the best albums of their careers during the hoopla (Scandanavian Leather and By The Grace Of God, and neither seemed to get the critical attention they deserved. In an alternate universe, these two would conquer America in double-bill stadium tour. Both of them are Capital “R” rock, neither one of them is a candidate to spearhead a revolution.

And to further prove my point, here’s the track list for the “New Rock Revolution” CD the NME packaged in one of their isuses in late 2002:

THE VON BONDIES My Baby’s Cryin’
THE DATSUNS Little Bruise
INTERPOL Specialist
THE CORAL Time Travel
RADIO 4 New Disco
THE D4 Get Loose

There is no rhyme or reason here. Just a bundle of buzz bands, deemed column worthy by the birds and lads of NME.

We’re due for another revolution, and everyone seems to know it. And it’s safe to say the revolution has started. Someone, somewhere, is fingering the “strike anywhere” match, and they’re trying to figure out what to set on fire.

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About Brooker Buckingham

  • andy

    I like the Datsuns alright. The Hives can suck donkey for all I’m concerned. I hate that jangly lo-fi crap. There’s no power behind it.

    check out for a project I’m involved in. True rock and roll powerhouse.

  • Eric Olsen

    Excellent Brooker, thanks and welcome!

  • TDavid

    Wow, I need to expand my musical horizons. The only artist mentioned here that I recognized was the Cobain/Nirvana reference, Joan Jett and Led Zep comparisons.

    I guess I’m what you’d call a hopeless 70s/80s-omantic.

  • Ralph Del Rio

    Brooker the roots rock sound of the White Stripes and The Strokes is definitely in the right direction for rock. But we are at the tail end of the Disney revolution that began after Nirvana. It’s amazing that the Mouse is not doing better. But that’s neither here nor there. MTV is very fragented these days and VH1 has imploded. The new era is ripe for the picking but why does it feel like Elvis and The Beatles are leading the way these days…, ain’t it strange? Alot also boils down to radio because the slack is definitely there to pick up and if radio did it right; It would have a grand effect on the next music revolution. Which is the way it should be.

  • jadester

    finally, someone else who has a similar view to me on The White Stripes and The Hives! i haven’t really heard the others you mentioned (yet), but whilst i agree the stripes and hives are both very good bands, i dont consider them revolutionary. Their sound is too similar to older stuff to be truly new. I wait with baited breath for the real revolution…

  • mike

    Rock “critics,” many of whom are former and future record company employees, are constantly hyping “rock revivals.” The last nano-innovation was nu metal, which has run its course, and which most critics hated anyway.

    I actually thought the idea of something called “screamo” was a joke when I first of it. Straight from The Onion. Coming next: Pucko.

  • Eric Olsen

    Is that affiliated with hockey?

  • mike

    No, actually I meant to say Puke-O. It’s a new genre where the singer throws up all over the microphone to create the most authentic-sounding hardcore punk ever. Makes screamo sound like the Beach Boys!