Sunday, December 28, 2014

bands from nowhere, or, "faceless rockno bollocks"

Rather enjoy the way the radio (here at least - LA) throws up these groups that seem to come from nowhere  - you've never read about them, they don't appear to tour or play gigs -  they go from obscurity to ubiquity just like that (but you could be standing in line next to them at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's and never know it).

Often it's rock with an electronic tinge, or at least a studio-airlessness - suggesting that the music, while it might have electric guitar or bass guitar in it, has been assembled in the studio rather than developed through playing the song at gigs - basically not much adherence to the performance model of the rock band going on here.


what actually made me think of the genre-not-genre is this lot (or person - who knows, who cares?). "Dangerous" sounds to me a bit like DFA if they weren't playing to the hipoisie gallery - DFA if they were more concerned with serious bread than serious cred - DFA coated with some Phoenix-y melodic flair.

(Phoenix -  although I had read about them, know they are rated by Pitchforks and Spins and so forth - feel like an archetype for this kind of "faceless rockno bollocks"  - electronic but not EDM - tuneful as hell -- but as much as I love "Listomania" when it come on the radio never felt much of an urge to find out anything about them, listen to their albums - which makes me like most radio punters I should imagine)

Another archetypal band-from-nowhere with a song I always turn up is Foster the People "Pumped Up Kicks" - this instantly struck me as a cleaned-up take on Ariel Pink  - the vocal, the weak but insistent drums (could almost be mouth-generated), the hazy elegaic production, the wistful melody, even the Dark Lyrics about, what, a school shooter, a Columbine-style misfit?

One hallmark of these bands is they usually have really wack names.

The other big hallmark of these bands that you don't really care if you ever hear anything else by them. Even if the track  is wonderful, there's zero investment of expectation for a follow-up.

I suppose F.U.N. would count here

(But I suspect they also have fans, an actual following... )

A key ancestor for all this is  "Young Folks" -  although this I also heard first through the usual hip channels, where it seemed vaguely in the zone of Sally Shapiro and stuff like that. But certainly "Young Folks" crops up on modern rock stations in LA as a "recent oldie" as if they were just a Big Data / Foster the P type one-off

What a great beat...

Scandinavians do seem good at this kind of thing, or maybe it's more the case that American radio consigns them to this position - ensuring they'll always be the One Radio Hit band, never achieve that sort of Foo Fighters / Tom Petty / Steve Miller dependable-perennial status on rock radio

One of the first examples that caught my ear

I mean, what is that? How would you genre-assign it?   It's not dance music, it's not rock music, it's not what most people think of when they think of pop (Rihanna, Britney, Ariana, et al), it's not indie....  The video has a bit with a drummer bashing away in it but the groove doesn't sound like a real drummer.

All these tunes sound much louder and forceful on the radio, through compression and whatnot, but outside that context, it's wispy stuff. Denatured to the point of insubstance.

But rather that than the vintage-artisanal rock of Black Keys or Jack White's sundry strands of raspage

stop press: another one i meant to include, reminded of its existence by Ricardo in the comments


  1. I'd think of it as the real nu-AOR - as opposed to all those neo-revivalists who almost invariably records for Frontiers Records and whatnot. Just like the original 80's AOR acts (arena rock types grudgingly - or maybe not - adapting to new wave), these are radio rock bands attuned to Pitchfork indie, thus making it palatable for mass consumption - or whatever shred of it there still is for pop/rock bands these days.
    You could add AWOLNATION or the very British The 1975 to that list.

  2. Yeah, good point. indeed i was thinking that these groups are in the Tradition of Sniff and the Tears's "Drivin' Seat" or something. Which was a sort of slight New Wave-isation of group clearly formed for the AOR format. Rock, but very produced.

    I meant to add "Sail" by AWOLNATION to the post, actually.

  3. Sniff 'n' the Tears aren't a bad point of comparison. Motors, The Vapors, Tommy Tutone, even The Romantics wouldn't be out of place either.
    I was, though, thinking more along the lines of Loverboy, Toto, even Survivor. Bands with a commercial rock edge and a hard rock image, but totally willing to adapt new wave and synth-pop stylings, in order to score hits. I must confess that, when I mentioned new wave, I was really adopting the American definition of it, which is far more inclusive than the British one.

  4. sorry if this is a dup comment - sound slike everything on aus national youth radio - triple J