Saturday, August 16, 2014

For those about to rock?

What do you do about rock when everyone seems only to want pop? Ignoring the genre-mutations and blurred definitions we know that rock doesn’t die but when it goes this quiet is that somehow worse?

I saw a bit of Black Star Riders with Tax The Heat at the Asylum last week. I have no doubt that it was the right venue, it’s a great room for proper rock and this was it. I couldn’t help thinking however that a band containing ex-members of Thin Lizzy and authentically performing those songs should really be in a bigger venue. Is this what it’s come to? Even when they weren’t littering the ‘pop’ charts the rock and metal bands of old were still routinely filling venues.
We can blame the economic situation and the lack of disposable revenue, we can even point to the high-ticket prices of acts like Eagles taking money out of the market but they seem like flimsy excuses. Rock doesn’t seem to have the cachet anymore.

I’m relatively confident that things will come around. Music tastes are notoriously cyclical. It just seems to be taking a while to rotate in rock’s direction. I still believe that the casual music-listener yearns for a standard, classic, well-written song with the familiar format of guitar, bass, drums and vocal. The issue is possibly whether those tastes have deviated too far into the middle of the road; someone’s buying Michael Buble after all.  Has the traditional role of rock been supplanted by the soul-inflexions and leanings exhibited by Adele and Paolo Nutini? Unquestionably they are controlling the physical sales in rock’s demographic.
Only seven of the current top twenty albums could be construed as rock releases. It’s unfortunate that one of them is Eric Clapton and that very few are very new but it’s a lot better than the singles chart which remains a perilously rock-free zone. A lot of this has to be down to airplay and streaming. Rock isn’t breaking big on single track sales (or play) because the songs aren’t there. Tax The Heat, Rival Sons, The Temperance Movement and their ilk will always struggle unless they find a crossover song. All of the above have had great things said about them , equally I feel comfortable saying great things about some of the acts I think have a chance of cutting a path through the pop.

I’ve tipped Royal Blood before, shortly after their Jools performance, they have momentum and a handy tag of being a British Queens of the Stone Age, almost anyway – there’s a bass driven groove that reminds me of QOTSA running through their work. This is the latest.


Twin Atlantic might be termed slightly more conventional but still with enough edge to be acceptable to the rock audience.


The best new track I’ve heard in a while merges an introspective vocal delivery with moments of ‘rocking-out’ and could consequently merge a lot of indie and rock desires. Marc O’Reilly doesn’t even have major label support as yet which makes this track only more astonishing. At the time of writing it hadn’t even hit 1000 views.


Band of Skulls also have enormous potential to swing the blues-leanings of rock that has been successful (Jack White, Black Keys, etc) a little heavier. The video is a bit obvious but they can almost be forgiven for playing the Robin Thicke/Belouis Some card.


Next week: more jukebox stuff and what the women have to say about it.

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