Will the Swedes save Rock 'n' Roll?
April 17, 2002 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Will the Swedes save Rock 'n' Roll? This New Yorker article takes a look at the recent popularity of rock acts like the Strokes (boo!) and the White Stripes (yay!), and ponders whether the return of true rock is at hand. The author seems ultimately to decide that rock's redeemers will be the Hives, a fun bunch from Sweden. (Link remorselessly lifted from Overstated.net)
posted by MonkeyMeat (37 comments total)
The true savior is ANDRE- *WHUMP*
Somebody left the cap off the 409 *SMACK*
posted by Settle at 8:04 PM on April 17, 2002

I guess it's about time rock and roll got 'saved' -- it seems to happen about every 10 years, so we're over due.
posted by mkn at 8:18 PM on April 17, 2002

Rock 'n'Roll never really went away. It's just that a lot of peoples fandom follows a certain progression, from poppy stuff to hard rock to alternative(for lack of a better word), the Britney and Creed kids are just growing up a little maybe.
While the Stripes and the Hives are both excellent bands I don't really see them completely changing the face of things like say the Stones or the Pistols. The next legend of rock-n-roll is probably a high school kid in Nebraska who everyone thinks is a weirdo, tuning his guitar in the garage coming up with something us hipsters haven't even theorized, yet.
posted by jonmc at 8:20 PM on April 17, 2002

Well, what the article is getting at is that the Strokes and the 'Stripes are headed for the same kind of success as bands like Pavement and Sleater-Kinney, in that they'll be critics' darlings and popular among a limited audience, but never quite leave their mark on popular music. The author argues that there are lots of artists out there cranking out honest-to-goodness rock 'n' roll, but that they're too decentralized and isolated to produce the kind of movement that will take hold of the mainstream. "A Renaissance, in short, needs Florence," he says.

Given the current state of affairs, it's unlikely rock and its rebellious attitude will really find their niche in the american mainstream. Not that I feel the need to have the music I like in the mainstream, but I'd rather see Our Nation's Youth rock out to a bunch of moppy-haired bohemians than guys in {backward baseball caps, rubber fright masks, braided dyed beards} with anger management problems. There's a playfulness to rock that I think is missing from the current generation of rap/rock and pop that I'd like to see us get back to.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 8:43 PM on April 17, 2002

oh, god, not ANOTHER EFFING ARTICLE ON THE SAVIORS OF ROCK. for the love of kurt.

look. the problem is this: once you start looking for a savior, whether you're talking about eternal life or temporal pop, you're never going to find one. it's like those stories you hear about evangelicals finding god in their breakfast - of COURSE if you're constantly seeking something out, every danish that comes along is going to have a pattern that—well if you tilt it THAT way you can see the face of christ, right? right? look, it's right there!

(the other problem is that the new yorker's pop critics uniformly suck - lizzie wurtzel, anyone? - and i can't help but think it's in large part because they're only able to write about phenomena once they've reached some sort of rock-critical mass.)
posted by maura at 8:46 PM on April 17, 2002

posted by quonsar at 8:48 PM on April 17, 2002

Not that I feel the need to have the music I like in the mainstream,

Understood, MonkeyMeat, but rock and roll by it's very nature is a popular music and by this I mean that the historical greats of rock and roll(Elvis, Beatles, Stones, P-Funk, Dylan, Ramones etc) draw their importance not just from their music but from another factor as well.

This other factor is the sense of community and group identification among the musicians and more importantly the audience. As James Hetfield of Metallica put it, "This could be you." What the abovementioned groups have in common is that they spoke to and for people who hadn't felt that intense identification before.

Back in the early '90s when grunge and hardcore rap ruled the top 40 for a breif but sweet period, I was happy not only because of the great music, but because for awhile it felt like "my people" were on the ascent. And that despite all the undeniably good music that's around today is whats missing from today's rock scene.
posted by jonmc at 8:54 PM on April 17, 2002

The history of popular music is a lot like what I used to say about "Seinfeld" - when it was good, it wasn't really very popular. After it got popular, it wasn't really very good.
posted by yhbc at 8:58 PM on April 17, 2002

You're one of my boys, yhbc, but that's BS. all the artists I mentioned plus literally hundreds of others made great, important music that also sold in great quantities as well. Was Elvis' importance diminshed because he was succesful? James Brown's? The Who's? Led Zeppelin's?

Sure there have been tons of great acts, some of them favorites of mine who never got the success they deserved, but that dosen't mean that everything that becomes popular is bad. Make no mistake, one of the most important elements in any musical movement is looking around at the others in the audience and realizing that you are one among many, not alone.

If you look at the scene in the film version of Quadrophenia where Jimmy and his pals are on the beach chanting "We Are The Mods! We Are The Mods!" and you'll have a perfect picture of what I'm describing.
posted by jonmc at 9:06 PM on April 17, 2002

Whoa! My glib comment wasn't directed at any of the artists you mention as historical greats, and I fully understand the mo(d)b mentality you describe - my personal epiphany was yelling 'GABBA-GABBA" at Joey Ramone while surrounded by thousands of other yellers in Dallas, 1983.

My concern is that the "new" groups that anyone sees as the saviors of popular music won't become really popular until they homogenize whatever they're doing that makes them unique, and enable themselves to be marketed to a larger audience - off the top of my head, and without thinking it through too clearly, I would put Green Day, No Doubt, and before them, the DeVinyls ("I Touch Myself" couldn't hold a candle to "In My Life") in that category.

I still hold out hope, though, that there will be another breakthrough of good popular music, and that it sticks.
posted by yhbc at 9:23 PM on April 17, 2002

The next legend of rock-n-roll is probably a high school kid in Nebraska who everyone thinks is a weirdo, tuning his guitar in the garage coming up with something us hipsters haven't even theorized, yet.

You must be referring to Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and, more recently, Desaparecidos, a band that fits in quite well with both the emerging emo and garage-rock crowd.

If, like me, you like this new resurgence of scruffy, energetic guitar rock, may I suggest you check out the following bands as well:

Rocket From The Crypt
Hot Snakes
The French Kicks
The Walkmen
White Hassle
The Delta 72
Guitar Wolf
The Trans Megetti
posted by monosyllabic at 9:31 PM on April 17, 2002

Will the Swedes save Rock 'n' Roll?

The Don't Cares 7in.
Surprise Hit!! Didn't expect much with the generic retro rock band name, but this band turns it up a few extra notches with some kick ass burnin' smokin' hot fast punk fuckin' ROCK attitude!! Three songs, no losers. (Dirtnap Records)

Produced by my mentor and bud at Antennaradio, Ken Wisconsin of Dirtnap Radio.

I, ahem, first saw the Ramones in 1978 at the Rainbow Tavern in Seattle before no more than 200 people. There is something to be said about getting in on the ground floor. My ears ring to remember it. I just mention it to pull rank on yhbc.
posted by y2karl at 9:35 PM on April 17, 2002

I was speaking hypothetically, although Bright Eyes are great.
posted by jonmc at 9:37 PM on April 17, 2002

The Hives are cool as far as Swedish bands go but The (International) Noise Conspiracy is my favorite Band from Sweden. They're like a political Delta 72.
posted by drezdn at 9:40 PM on April 17, 2002

The Hives rock, there is a huge playfulness about them especially live. If you can catch them on tour I'd strongly encourage you to sell relatives, apartments and possibly even sexual favours to go and see them. They really are very good.

As for up and coming. Those French Kicks are cool, I'm going to see their gig tonight so I'll let you know what their newer stuff's like. They were a bit generic before. Promising, with a great attitude but generic.

A top band who were in support to the Hives in their recent tour and who you should all see are the Sahara Hotnights. Very good looking, all female and all rocking. They really mean it people.
posted by nedrichards at 3:50 AM on April 18, 2002

In a perfect world, The Boredoms would save American Rock And Roll.
posted by noisemartyr at 4:02 AM on April 18, 2002

Oh man, this article fails to mention Rock and Roll's most important band: Stolkholm, Sweden's: The Hellacopters who are currently on a US tour. After a 200 mile trip last weekend, I am totally convinced that these guys are the real deal! Complete in your face action rock, kids!
posted by punkrockrat at 5:06 AM on April 18, 2002

I was doing my laundry in a shitty 'wassalon' in Utrecht a couple of weeks ago with my little portable radio tuned to the BBC when I heard the Hives for the first time.

Loads of fun, but the self-aggrandisement I was hearing from the band members had me hoping they were half-joking. What I heard was fun, but it certainly wasn't groundbreaking and it definitely wasn't the "next best thing".

I'd buy a CD, though.

The next programme was John Peel, and that shitty wassalon suddenly became the best place in the world to be.
posted by tpoh.org at 5:25 AM on April 18, 2002

Small correction.

Antwerp, not Utrecht.

Not that it makes any difference. :)
posted by tpoh.org at 5:37 AM on April 18, 2002

"the Strokes (boo!) and the White Stripes (yay!)"

I second that e_motion - I listened to the Strokes for about a week or two - but the White Stripes seem more on the level and more honest with their music - they have found a long term place in my playlist.
posted by wfrgms at 6:08 AM on April 18, 2002

i wish jeff mangum would come out of his retirement soon, if only so that he can beat up conor oberst for stealing his entire approach/style/idiom/whatever. until bright eyes became so fucking popular i never understood why kate bush fans had such antipathy towards tori amos.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:28 AM on April 18, 2002

Noisemartyr: yes! The Boredoms have ruled for about the last 10 years and nobody gives a shit. And they rock, unlike bands like say Bright Eyes or The Hives or whatever, who might write nice tunes but can hardly be considered rock. And do it originally so it sounds new, unlike the Strokes and the White Stripes who sound tributes to their record collections. And they keep getting better and better. Their new one Vision Creation Newsun is just so different and inspiring.
posted by dydecker at 6:47 AM on April 18, 2002

Shit what am I smoking? The Hives above should read the Shins. The Shins don't rock but write excellent tunes. I like The Shins.
posted by dydecker at 6:56 AM on April 18, 2002

Dillinger Four, The Queers, Drive-By Truckers. Who needs the Boredoms, we've got The Melvins.

And I don't care what anybody says. Slipknot rocks. In a scary, humorless, we-really-can't-play-too-well kinda way.

But the rump-shakin' goin' on is all due to Outkast, who rock like 21st century P-Funk.

Someone wake me when Sleater-Kinney isn't cool any more. God, what an overrated band. Nashville Pussy is more like it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:10 AM on April 18, 2002

No one's saving rock but the Smithsonian. It's an artifact, like Dixieland. It ran its cycle. It's a completed thing, with its last statement being, perhaps, the Ramones. Rap and Hip-Hop, with their spectacular creative energy totally and utterly rule the culture of popular music. I mean, they suck. But they rule. We rock fans are like bluegrass fans. We'll wear our short-sleeved shirts to the summer festivals and listen to groups go through the ritual chord changes. But the action has moved elsewhere, and it ain't coming back.
posted by Faze at 7:39 AM on April 18, 2002

I tend to agree, Faze. And what is to rap and hip hop as they are to rock, Faze? Techno, drum 'n bass and so forth? When scratching, turntablism and sampling appeared, you had meta-musics, postmodern collage, a music of parts independent of traditional intruments and instrumental prowess--so eventually, I suppose, you could come up with a program that could simulate a dj, watch the dancers, read their somatics and program sequences in response. Does this mean we're evolving towards totally machine generated music? Then with AI, they'll replace the audience, too. If we're lucky, we'll living in theme parks then, if not game parks.
posted by y2karl at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2002

And heeee-re come the Cassandras! Let's give them a hand, folks! They're sixty years old and back to remind us that singer-songwriters,, disco, post-punk, new wave, boy bands, girl bands, rap, electronica, and whatever else you might ever have possibly enjoyed (and let's be serious--you could never enjoy it as the One True Rock and Roll that they sadly never bother to name) has killed rock music! They're tired and old and creaky, folks, and sometimes their back braces give them trouble with the juggling routine, but they've been at it for thirty long years, so let's give them a hand!
posted by Skot at 8:04 AM on April 18, 2002

Skot, I'm not saying rock's dead. Just finished. Like a story. It a had a beginning, middle and end. And a darn good story it was, too. You can either close the book, re-read the book, or start writing fan fiction that keeps continually re-heating the characters in the book (I suppose that is what rock music is today).
posted by Faze at 8:38 AM on April 18, 2002

Gee, Skot, I'm sorry we got to have all the sex, take all the drugs and generally test pilot your received consumer lifestyle when it was new. Maybe something new will come along--but when you get older, you tend less to define yourself and the moments of your life by what you consume, music included. It loses its tremendous significance about the time when you're old enough to have teen aged children, to whom the next big thing is marketed. If you actually play an instrument, that's another story--it doesn't matter whether it's outdated or not, at a certain level of competence, you can lose yourself in the music and make it, too. It always amuses me, for instance, to see gutterpunks hit Broadway in the summer, wearing outfits 25 years in the making. Hippie was only around for ten years when that look appeared. Faze is right--hip hop is where the stylin' is: we'll save a seat for you out front of the retirement home, rocker boy.
posted by y2karl at 8:52 AM on April 18, 2002

Wow, Grampa Karl! Tell me another story, only this time with more condescension!
posted by Skot at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2002

gotta beg to differ with you here y2karl, everytime someone has said "rock is dead" it comes back better than before, so this aging rocker ain't giving up the ghost yet.
Besides to me hip-hop falls under the big rockand roll umbrella just like Motown and funk did, I mean it all emanates from the same place, the urge for the unheard to be heard, so why bother with genre hairsplitting?
posted by jonmc at 9:28 AM on April 18, 2002

I just downloaded that Hives song "Main Offender" and it is very, very fucking good. Why I believe I almost had a consumer lifestyle experience, albiet an inauthentic one of course.
posted by dydecker at 9:38 AM on April 18, 2002

to tell you the truth, skot, I really don't know or care. It's the e-mail-itis--I was just over reacting to your taking-it-personal snotty tone. I'm not saying my experiences are any more authentic than anyone elses, just that as I get older, it's harder to ignore the puppeteers' strings, the marketing and commerce involved, the vanity of ever thinking one is a unique individual. Faze is right: nothing lasts forever.
As La Rochefoucauld said, Old people like nothing better than to give advice, since they are no longer capable of providing a bad example. I have no advice to offer but otherwise the saying's true. Carry consume on, wine, women and song, wasted words, the rest of your life. Enjoy your youth, you'll get your turn soon enough, at being mocked by the unwrinkled in mind and body. I think that you will find that what matters most changes after awhile. But perhaps you will live forever. Still the moment always passes.
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on April 18, 2002

And I didn't mean to say everything's over, nothing new will happen--that's such a cranky old thing to do. I've had it done to me. Boy, I'm so glad I didn't have children--one thing you have no concept of is how awful it is to live with teenagers--I see this happen over and over with my friends. Constantly, they get totally reamed out for the total incompetent useless you-just-don't-get-it assholes they are by their kids, have every flaw, physical, mental and emotional pointed out over and over and over, are nothing but sources of shame and cash--it's horribly painful. I cringe now to think of what I put my mother through with my moods and self importance. And I really should learned to pick up my clothes...
posted by y2karl at 12:02 PM on April 18, 2002

We don't need saving from Queens of the Stone Age, moe., and Built to Spill. These bands don't break new ground because there isn't much unexplored territory left after 50 years but they still rock.

And yet another Swedish band to add to the mix, Soundtrack of Our Lives. You can listen to an incredible live set of theirs here.
posted by euphorb at 12:45 PM on April 18, 2002

I was just over reacting to your taking-it-personal snotty tone.

Well, it's not as if snottiness deserves a particularly polite reaction. I apologize for the tone. And incidentally, I ain't no whippersnapper myself at 33 years, and have no plans to live forever. *Smokes*

Props to euphorb for bringing up the seriously great Soundtrack of our Lives.
posted by Skot at 1:47 PM on April 18, 2002

As promised further up the thread, a mini review of the 'French Kicks' from tonight. These guy's are really nice, really competant and rather enthusiastic. Oh and they come from New York which is good enough for me.

Having a lead singer who's also a drummer means that you get lots of cool driving excitement whilst two of the guitarists shuffle around him and generally wig out. In the finest traditions there's a stony faced bassist who moved twice during 40 minutes of exceptionally high energy fun. Excellent.

Point in their favour: Lyrics you can hear, it's my favourite complaint about the Strokes and their support bands tonight. Clarity of lyrics is also one of the things I really like about the Hives.

Point against them: still a bit generic, some of their new stuff it really good though and 'Young Lawyer' just continues to rock out.

Further point in their and the hives favour. Cheap records. Both of them are on the Poptones label so you can get their records for between £6 and £10. Thus I own about five poptones albums. Good stuff.
posted by nedrichards at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2002

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