26 Essential Songs From The NYC Rock Resurgence
November 19, 2014 8:02 AM   Subscribe

In a broad sense, you could call it the NYC rock revival, or resurgence, or early-’00s rock boom, or something. At the time, garage-rock revival, retro-rock revival, post-punk revival, and dance-punk were all monikers used liberally, and all were things that fell under the larger umbrella of the movement. As you’ll see from the list below, there were permutations within this, but generally speaking, music history remembers this in some broader terms: a youthful, stylish brand of rock music, with a carefully manicured sense of brooding, and musical touchstones that could basically be summed up by the Velvet Underground and Joy Division and the Ramones and a few other names, primarily from the late ’70s and early ’80s. There was, of course, sometimes much more to it than that, and sometimes not. In a more cynical approach, you could look at this era as the time when a few rich kids co-opted alternative cultures of the past and brought them to masses in a slightly sleeker box.
posted by josher71 (23 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
To be fair - and NYC-specific - the Ramones and the VU weren't exactly poor or working class, and you couldn't ask for sleeker boxes in their eras than the ones Sire and Verve provided.

Also, I think you could make a strong case that there were plenty of good rock / punk / postpunk bands in NYC in the mid/late 80s and through the 90s.

The city's relentless gentrification might put pay to it, but I think the Strokes et al represented just another (maybe one of the last) generations in a pretty much continuous genealogy of New York bands.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:19 AM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Expected "Maps." Found it. Not much else there that I was into at the time.
posted by graymouser at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

What's interesting is how few of these bands are tightly linked to New York City. Of all the bands listed here, there were three that I knew were based in New York (The Strokes, Interpol, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.) And the Hold Steady I always thought was a Twin Cities band until this second.
posted by escabeche at 8:35 AM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

The NYC late 90s/early 00s rock revival is so closely linked to my moving to NY/early college days that just the opening beat of "In Her Prime" can trigger an all day reverie - which is partly why dear god these songs all sound so dated and trying so hard to me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 AM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

(Also Sad Dad music officialy moved on from classic rock to 90s alt rock and rap rock)
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 AM on November 19, 2014

And the Hold Steady I always thought was a Twin Cities band until this second.

I will always associate the early 00s with the period that bands from otherwise thriving local scenes packed up and moved to Brooklyn because Brooklyn was widely perceived as being the only scene.

As someone who was genuinely excited by the aspect of late 80s/90s music/zine culture that seemed to celebrate cool shit emerging out of weird small towns and not NY or LA but regional cities, I railed a lot about this round about the mid 00s. New York is a great city and there is a lot going on there. But I found the whole pressing need for bands to be idenitified as a "Brooklyn Band"* (as opposed to say a "Birmingham Band" or a "Boise Band") to be both depressing and annoying. **

*Note I am not accusing Craig Finn etc or any other band specifically

**See also "Brooklyn Writer"
posted by thivaia at 8:53 AM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lifter Puller was definitely a Twin Cities band and by extension I always thought of the Hold Steady as a Twin Cities band, too.

Of interest here is Kill Your Idols, a 2004 documentary on No Wave that discussed/featured current (at the time) NYC bands that show up on this list Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars. It also talks about Black Dice, who probably have not put out enough of a pop song to get on this list.
posted by mountmccabe at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh man, that playlist brings me back. I saw a lot of those bands live (!!! and Liars put on the best shows, the former being a bulldozer of dance, the latter surprisingly intimate considering their music). These bands will never mean as much to me as the stuff that was coming out of the Pacific North West and Montreal at the same time, but I'll always have a soft spot for the sea change their arrival heralded in Western music culture. I think a lot about their dominance (in the music press, if not on the charts) had to do with the fact that the Western world woke up one day and realized that it had been listening to nu-metal for years and ran screaming and hollering as far away as they could go, which took it to New York.
posted by Kattullus at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have this terrible thing that I do whenever I see lists like this: I look up the person who wrote it to see how old they are, and then get all depressed because the author is invariably mind-blowingly young. EX: The same year that the first Strokes album was released, the guy who wrote this list turned 10. ::shivers:: He did a good job, though!

Because scanning through this list makes me feel anxious and queasy, just like I did when it was all happening. It makes me feel like I've been transported back to happy hour at HiFi in mid-2003, scrolling through the EL DJ with one hand as I clutched a too-strong drink and my BOGO chip with the other, one eye on the door to see if whatever sketchy guy I was meeting there had deigned to show up yet, never unaware of the emergency MetroCard and perpetually maxed-out Visa I always had tucked into my boot. I'll never understand the reverence for The Strokes, but "Maps" sounds like slow-dancing on a Manhattan rooftop on my 22nd birthday with one of the guys from a band on the list. "Young Liars" sounds like a room full of people jingling their car keys in time with the beat, per Tunde's request. And "Most People Are DJs," well.

Early 2000s NYC indie rock is probably the most evocative music in the world for me, even as a lifelong resident of flyover country. I traveled to New York to see bands on an almost-monthly basis back then, and subsequently spent most of my 20s embroiled in some facet of scene drama or another, so this is what the list sounds like to me: a dozen tattoos and a dozen awkward hookups, pregames and afterbars and all the credit cards I used to pay my way once I got there, the Metropolitan Av G train pulling into the station just before dawn, all my Williamsburg walks of shame and strides of pride, all my long-gone friends, all the band dudes I knew who were catapulted into relative fame, all the band dudes I knew who shuffled around the periphery of relative fame for a half-dozen years before giving up in disappointment and disgust, all the band dudes I knew who utterly lost their shit because of coke or liquor or whatever other chemicals they got so busy snorting and slamming and sticking into themselves.

I don't miss it, and I wouldn't go back for all the money in the world, but man, it was quite a time.
posted by divined by radio at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm somehow okay getting older (so far), but for some reason I wasn't expecting it to happen to Interpol.
posted by armacy at 9:44 AM on November 19, 2014

I can't be arsed, as they say.

Or maybe you had to be old enough to have the 77-81 sound down pat and lived through organic true music scenes like the 80s Twin Cities and Athens, but this always seemed a pale and weak version of some kind of sound and some kind of scene.

Its a tribute to how good albums from the 77-81 years hold up sonically, both the indie/post-punk stuff and the mainstream stuff. Television, Wire, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, The Clash, Gang of Four, even early Tom Petty.

When I heard the Strokes first single my first reaction was, "how interesting, they're trying to look and come off like Dylan in "Don't Look Back" from 65, but trying to mix guitars and drums to sound like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in songs like American Girl in 1979".

Or, this could have been my first "get off my lawn" moment. But I think my judgement held up
posted by C.A.S. at 10:18 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, I had completely forgotten I inserted a not-very-veiled reference to The Walkmen's The Rat in my first novel. In fact, I had forgotten I reference song lyrics here and there in the text. When listening to the song I was just transported mentally to the café in Providence where I wrote that scene. I could even smell the pastries. It's funny how music can code certain memories like that.
posted by Kattullus at 10:48 AM on November 19, 2014

I really don't understand how the relative wealth of the people who create music (or any art) is at all relevant to it as a consumer of the art. Who gives a shit about the people really (other than not wishing them any harm and bad fortune)? The music is what matters and if you like it or love it then great. If not, listen to something else. I understand documenting how it came about, and the moment I heard the Strokes they went immediately into my personal musical pantheon and have not disappointed since. I really don't give a shit that they've been influenced by what came before. Every musical "movement" has "taken" from what came before. The motivations of the artists are entirely irrelevant. Criticism it seems to me, is far to focused on the artists rather than the art.
posted by juiceCake at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2014

There is a sociological dimension to pop music. "The music is what matters" is basically a way of saying, "I am not interested in that". That does not make it "not relevant" to people who, for whatever reason, are interested in it. If this entire subculture was dominated by wealthy people, for example, does that indicate that this was the beginning of a period when people who didn't have trust funds or whatever could not afford to spend their 20's in rock bands, because they couldn't survive on dishwashing or temp jobs like was once possible? I do not know if that is the case, but I don't think it's a frivolous thing for someone to be concerned with.
posted by thelonius at 11:50 AM on November 19, 2014

As an aside, as far as I know the majority of people in these bands were not wealthy.
posted by josher71 at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2014

I think the new paradigm of all recorded music ever created being pretty much available to anyone interested in looking, makes it perfectly cool and understandable for a kid who was 10 when the Strokes came out to write a perfectly competent appreciation of it. I could write the same thing for London 1967, when I was 2.

And I remember thinking a lot of the same thoughts as C.A.S when I heard that stuff - second rate Television, etc. But looking back now, that shit holds it's own just fine, and I'm happy that it's making kids happy now too.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:55 AM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I do not know if that is the case, but I don't think it's a frivolous thing for someone to be concerned with.

I take your point but I think, as juiceCake seems to as well, that asides about things like people in a scene being rich are usually attacks and dismissals, rather than discussions of sociology. Look at the line referred to in the post:

"the time when a few rich kids co-opted alternative cultures of the past and brought them to masses in a slightly sleeker box."

I mean, you could say that, but so what? The maker of the music is no reason to dismiss it. If it's good it's good whether it's made by the children of billionaires or the most authentic working-class hero.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:50 PM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you are right that it is a cheap shot, and probably false too. All of them were "rich kids"? I don't personally have any idea what The Strokes did to pay rent 20 years ago.

Also done in kind of a chickenshit way: "You COULD say that...." So, are you saying it? Or not?
If you think these bands are derivative and uncreative, you could just say that, without pulling in some bullshit about how they aren't working class enough to be authentic at rock, whatever that is. Sort of like saying that an upper middle class son of a dentist couldn't be a "real" jazz musician.
posted by thelonius at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is such a weird article for me, and I think it's summed up by the slagging of Mooney Suzuki.

I was working as a music writer in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti during most of this time, and while I was a fan of a lot of indie pop, the twee toy instrument thing had largely overwhelmed the college music scene. I was so hungry for a return to rock, to loud, angry music that pushed against the chipper nihilism of Target consumer culture.

I remember magazine covers saying that Is This It saved rock, and touting the New York rock scene, but that (like this article) was so much bullshit that I wondered if they'd ever actually heard a real rock band. Next to folks like the White Stripes, Von Bondies, Dirtbombs, Paybacks, Bantam Rooster, the Strokes sounded like wan wankers hoping you didn't own Marquee Moon — "Is this it?" is the exact reaction I had after getting the hyped-to-shit promo mailed to me.

And it wasn't just Detroit — bands like the Black Lips, the Black Keys, The Gossip, Orange Goblin, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, Deadly Snakes, McLusky, The Quails, Icarus Line, Jucifer, Rogers Sisters, Boris, Exploding Hearts, Need New Body, Mastodon, The Long Blondes, The Make Up… They were all making better rock than pretty much any of the mopes on this list.

That isn't to say that I don't like plenty of the bands on there, but the New York scene was overhyped from the giddyup and an object lesson in how the American music press sucked ass.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

None of the links in the original article worked for me. They all popped up some kind of registration page instead. So I put together this YouTube playlist of their 26 Essential Songs From The NYC Rock Resurgence:
  1. The Strokes - "The Modern Age"
  2. TV On The Radio - "Young Liars"
  3. The Walkmen - "The Rat"
  4. The Hold Steady - "Most People Are DJs"
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps"
  6. Interpol - "NYC"
  7. The Rapture - "House of Jealous Lovers"
  8. Liars - "Mr Your On Fire Mr"
  9. stellastar* - "My Coco"
  10. Les Savy Fav - "The Sweat Descends"
  11. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth"
  12. !!! - "Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)"
  13. Radio 4 - "Our Town"
  14. The Cloud Room - "Hey Now Now"
  15. The Bravery - "An Honest Mistake"
  16. Longwave - "Tidal Wave"
  17. The Fever - "Ladyfingers"
  18. Calla - "Strangler"
  19. The Star Spangles - "I'm On A High" -- I can't find this one, although you can hear part of it at CDBaby.
  20. Elefant - "Misfit"
  21. French Kicks - "Trial Of A Century" -- I can't find this one at all
  22. The Natural History - "The Right Hand"
  23. Ambulance LTD - "Stay Where You Are"
  24. The Mooney Suzuki - "In A Young Man's Mind" (1:00 intro with Jack Black(!) before the song)
  25. Robbers On High Street - "Love Underground"
  26. The Moldy Peaches - "NYC's Like A Graveyard"
I have long thought the '00s was the best decade for music since the '60s. I hated most '90s indie -- which was derived from hardcore punk ("played real slow" because they've been "smoking lots of pot" to quote Lou Barlow in "Gimme Indie Rock") and noise (Sonic Youth were plenty of things but "accessible" was not one) -- so I was overjoyed to hear the new sound of indie, rooted instead in musical styles I already loved, like the post-punk pop college-rock of the early '80s and The Kinks.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:02 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Here's the French Kicks song though it may be region locked if you couldn't find it. Yeah, I looked up all the songs on YouTube too. I couldn't find Elefant's song either.
posted by Kattullus at 3:59 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks Harvey and Kattulus. I've created a Youtube playlist by listening to all the songs while I worked today. All the tracks should play sequentially. If anyone finds The Star Spangles - "I'm On A High" on Youtube, post it here (or message me) and I'll add it too.

I really enjoyed this playlist. Reminded me of grad school. I had heard some of the tracks but not all of them, so I'm glad to be exposed to this now. When Bravery, Strokes etc were new, I remember hearing them and thinking, like the article says, that it sounded like "Velvet Underground and Joy Division and the Ramones." But to me that was alright. I'd been exposed to all of that in high school when I was on the outskirts of an art/music scene. I wasn't (and am not) a consumer of music journalism, nor am I an obsessive pursuer of rare tracks. I'll cop to just listening to whatever my friends listen to, or whatever is on the radio. By grad school I didn't have so many cool artsy friends anymore. My new music acquisition came via radio. I was so happy to hear this sound become popular -- it made my long, dreary commute into San Francisco so much more bearable.
posted by wuwei at 2:42 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

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