Retro rock recycles old with new

Joe Austin

The Strokes. The Hives. The White Stripes. You have heard these bands. Their videos are on rotation on MTV. They get played on the radio. In a busy world of dirty pop and teenie-boppers standing in Time Square for a glimpse of J. Lo, what are a bunch of young twenty something’s who shop at Salvation Army and play garage rock doing in the public eye? While looking amongst the flashy gold chains and baggy pants, it’s easy to spot 50 Cent, J.T., or Christina. So, if this is the standard, how are these energy-filled rocksters, who think it’s 1968, so damn popular?

It started getting big back in 1999 and 2000; that “retro-rock” thing. A band called The Strokes had a single called “Last Night” off their debut record “Is This It?” The single hit the air waves and was immediately a smash. The video was even more impressive. They began touring large venues, and by the end of the year had gained enough popularity to make it cool to like rock again. The stage had been set for followers.

Soon, bands like The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines had hit the scene along side The Strokes. The airwaves were jam-packed with these catchy singles like The Hives’ “Hate to Say I Told You So,” The Vines’ “Get Free” and the White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl.” All had videos in constant rotation, and it seemed as though a new wave of rock had surfaced (it just wasn’t actually new wave). Their popularity grew as word hit the streets that these “crazy” new rock bands were on MTV winning the No. 2 video spot on TRL and pushing Britney to number three. One video that stood out in particular was The White Stripes,’ “Fell in Love With a Girl.” Constructed out of animation involving Legos, it did well at the MTV Music Awards and began hitting up No. 1’s on TRL!

The Vines were another band who did well with MTV. They performed at the 2002 MTV Music Awards, and at the end they destroyed their equipment in a very Nirvana/The Who fashion. This was all at the pinnacle of the rock revival. It seemed to almost end. The bands spread out and played less. They all went back into the studio to record more albums, and no one really knew what they were up to for about a year. But then they hit again, for a second turn.

The White Stripes released their latest album, “Elephant,” in 2003. Rolling Stone gave it five stars and called it one of the best albums of the year. They were recently nominated for a Grammy. The Strokes also released a new album, “Room on Fire.” It has been received with mixed emotions, but has turned out very well. The latest video for the single “12:51” has a Tron-like vibe for a song that is in the nature of The Cars. Yes the rock is still strong, but it still seems like quite an enigma. Where did it come from? Are there more bands and kids out there who like the same music? What’s going on?

It seems like a bunch of teenage kids got together after listening to The Kinks for a week and decided to make bands. Even though there are those who have exceeding popularity, the independent scene for such garage rock is even more promising. There are underground bands like The New Pornographers, Moods for Moderns and The Flashing Lights who have been making garage rock records since the mid-’90s. Although it is simple to produce and engineer a basic rock record, their music is still creative both instrumentally and lyrically. It sadly seems, however, that there is no room for these bands in the main stream. But that’s why they are called independent rock. They don’t need to be on MTV. Playing small venues and releasing E.P.’s is all they want to do.

In spite of the ups and downs in the popular eyes of music critics and fans, it seems as thought the rock scene has reestablished itself. Kids aren’t listening only to pop anymore. For a while, quite a few of us got nervous that Britney Spears would dominate the music scene forever. But now there’s hope. It seems as though there are musicians who listened to the Beatles when growing up. Hopefully, more bands like The Strokes will begin to emerge and continue the rocking and rolling for a while.