Back to the fu­ture

As rock en­ters its sixth decade, it seems that ev­ery pop star has be­come a mu­si­cal time ban­dit, raid­ing past decades in search of trea­sure, bring­ing it back to the fu­ture and sell­ing it at 10 times the orig­i­nal price. Kevin Court­ney puts to­day’s bands in

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

PINK MAR­TINI

OCK mu­sic – it’s so last cen­tury. No, re­ally, it is. Take your pick from the crop of new bands and chances are they’re still in thrall to the sounds of the 20th cen­tury. Af­ter all, it’s the only ref­er­ence point they have.

At the end of the last mil­len­nium, rock mu­sic seemed to have been hit by a col­lec­tive Y2K bug and sim­ply stopped go­ing for­ward. OK, you had a few post-rock bands who re­mained so far out­side the main­stream grid that they avoided get­ting zapped. But, by and large, the start of the new cen­tury saw an un­seemly scram­ble to scav­enge the re­mains of the old one in search of an easy hit.

Dance mu­sic pro­duc­ers, for ex­am­ple, have been scoop­ing up bits of cheesy 1980s songs and shov­el­ling them back onto the dance­floor to feed the hordes of trance zom­bies. At least rock mu­si­cians do it with more panache – we’ve moved on from Oa­sis’s clod­hop­ping re-en­act­ment of Beatle­ma­nia. To­day’s pop­sters can re­ally in­habit their cho­sen era, bring­ing their au­di­ence right back to CBGBs, the UFO club or Ron­nie Scotts dur­ing their hey­day.

In the past, bands looked for­ward to a brave new rock’n’roll world; fu­tur­is­tic sorts such as Bowie, Kraftwerk and Floyd en­vis­aged a 21st-cen­tury pop scene peo­pled with gui­tar-strum­ming aliens, com­puter-wield­ing ro­bots and vo­corder-voiced lu­natics.

Now that the fu­ture has ar­rived, we do have our fair share of the above types, but mostly ev­ery­one just wants to sound like a dead pop star from the past. We still don’t have the tech­nol­ogy to bring th­ese stars back to life, but we’ve got no short­age of young ge­niuses who can re­cre­ate their he­roes’ sound with such ac­cu­racy, you hardly need lis­ten to the orig­i­nals any­more.

So throw out all your old Led Zep, Joy Di­vi­sion, Si­na­tra and Beach Boys al­bums and make way for the new crop of wannabe oldies. We can’t list ev­ery band who has bor­rowed from the past be­cause, well, ev­ery band has. But here are some who go just that lit­tle bit fur­ther to re­cre­ate the sounds of their cho­sen decade. And a few of them . . . well, you just won­der if they’ve got a Tardis stashed away in the back of the re­hearsal room.

1940s/50s

The post­war years of­fer a wealth of ideas for those will­ing to delve that far back – and there are plenty of hep­cats dig­ging that era the most, daddy-o. “Pink Mar­tini is like a ro­man­tic Hol­ly­wood mu­si­cal of the 1940s or ’50s, but with a global per­spec­tive which is mod­ern,” says pi­anist Thomas M Laud­erdale, who formed the 11-strong lounge-swing-latin combo with singer China Forbes while both were study­ing at Har­vard in 1994. “At one mo­ment, you feel like you’re in the mid­dle of a

MR HUD­SON & THE LI­BRARY

RICHARD HAW­LEY

RU­FUS WAIN­WRIGHT

Also:

Pup­pini Sis­ters Boo­gie woo­gie bu­gle girls keep­ing the Blitz spirit alive. Detroit Co­bras B-movies, and pulp fiction pro­vide raw ma­te­rial for Rachel Nagy and her retro rock­ers.

1960s

You can­not be in a band and not be in­flu­enced by the decade that saw the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of all-time rock leg­ends.

PETER BJORN & JOHN

With their third album, Writer’s Block, fea­tur­ing the sum­mer 2006 smash Young Folks, this Swedish trio left their hearts in Haight-Ash­bury. “I sup­pose it was a lot of Mad­ch­ester and shoegaz­ing bands that re­ally in­flu­enced us, but also a lot of old stuff like Beach Boys, The Byrds and Burt Bacharach,” says Peter Moren. “When I was 10 years old, I only lis­tened to Six­ties mu­sic, but then The House­martins came along and I started lis­ten­ing to that.”

THE ALIENS

samba pa­rade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next mo­ment you’re sud­denly in a French mu­sic hall of the 1930s or in a palazzo in Napoli. It’s like an ur­ban mu­si­cal travelogue.” “I don’t set out to be dif­fer­ent. It’s just that I don’t want to limit my­self to any one style, any one sound,” in­sists Birm­ing­ham­born Ben Hud­son, the lit­er­ate leader of this very­multi-styled combo. Hud­son’s in­flu­ences run from hip-hop to reg­gae to Mor­ris­sey, but he has an over­rid­ing pas­sion for jazz and swing, par­tic­u­larly the sounds of Cole Porter (yeah, I know, he’s pre-war) and Nat King Cole (he cov­ers the lat­ter’s The Street Where You Live, trans­pos­ing the set­ting to the tower blocks of mod­ern-day Bri­tain). When your dad has jammed with Ed­die Cochran and your mum has had a sing-song with the Everly Brothers, chances are you’re go­ing to grow up with a few 1950s in­flu­ences. Af­ter an ap­pren­tice­ship in var­i­ous indie bands (in­clud­ing Pulp), Sh­effield lad Haw­ley de­cided to lis­ten to those voices croon­ing in his head, and such al­bums as the Mer­cury Mu­sic Prize-nom­i­nated Coles Cor­ner are filled with the ghosts of Gene Vin­cent, Fats Domino, Johnny Cash and Ol’ Blue Eyes him­self, Frank Si­na­tra. Some boys wanna be Bono. Oth­ers wanna be Bowie. The son of Loudon Wain­wright III, how­ever, al­ways wanted to be Dorothy, but didn’t get to ful­fil his dream un­til June 2006, when he recre­ated Judy Gar­land’s leg­endary 1961 con­cert in Carnegie Hall, com­plete with 40-piece orches­tra. When The Beta Band broke up, two of its mem­bers, John McLean and Robin Jones, looked up old mate Gor­don An­der­son, who used to be in the Be­tas un­til men­tal prob­lems forced him to re­treat to his cot­tage in Fife, Scot­land. Given the band’s heady blend of early Pink Floyd, Soft Ma­chine and 13th Floor El­e­va­tors, you’d swear An­der­son had been clois­tered away as long as Syd Bar­rett, and missed out on ev­ery­thing that hap­pened af­ter 1968.

THE HOR­RORS

It’s the dead of night, the moon is full, and a howl­ing can be heard on Clapham Com­mon. Is it Christo­pher Lee turn­ing into a were­wolf? No, it’s Faris Rot­ter and his psy­cho-delic retro-rock­ers, hell-bent on re­an­i­mat­ing the scary, Ham­mond or­gan sound­tracks

to Ham­mer hor­ror films.

AMY WINE­HOUSE

With her de­but album, Frank, the teenage Lon­doner was all smoky jazz. For her cur­rent big­gie, Back to Black, Wine­house fast­for­warded to the Mo­town soul of the mid-1960s, toss­ing some dance­hall reg­gae and mod­ern r’n’b into the mix.

PIPETTES

Th­ese polka-dot­ted Brighton belles want to “turn back the clock to a time be­fore The Bea­tles ru­ined ev­ery­thing”. For them, the true spirit of the Six­ties lies with such girl groups as The Ronettes, The Crys­tals and The Shangri-Las, and (close your ears,

Liam Gal­lagher) the Fab Four aren’t fit to lick Phil Spec­tor’s chelsea boots.

Also:

Espers A band from Philly who sound like Pen­tan­gle, Fair­port Con­ven­tion and The In­cred­i­ble String Band – in­cred­i­ble!

1970s

Prob­a­bly the most fer­tile decade in pop, em­brac­ing prog, punk, glam, heavy metal, Krautrock, disco and, of course, Abba.

FRATEL­LIS

In the sum­mer of ’71, ev­ery­body sang along to Mungo Jerry’s ram­bunc­tious an­them, In the Sum­mer­time. In the sum­mer of 2006, ev­ery­body sang along to The Fratel­lis’ ram­bunc­tious an­them, Chelsea Dag­ger. Noth­ing changes.

THE HOLD STEADY

Five blue-col­lar, beer-drink­ing, pool-shoot­ing salt-of-the-earth guys from Brook­lyn, The Hold Steady are the torch-bear­ers of pas­sion­ate, old-school rock’n’roll, and their cur­rent album, Boys and Girls in Amer­ica, is the true suc­ces­sor to Spring­steen’s Born to Run.

THE RACON­TEURS

When Jack White from The White Stripes got to­gether with Bren­dan Ben­son and two guys out of The Green­hornes, they sounded like Led Zep, Deep Pur­ple and, er, Joe Jack­son. White’s 1970s in­flu­ence even ex­tends to Bri­tish TV com­edy show The Good­ies – the new White Stripes album is called Icky Thump.

SCOTT MATTHEWS

Wolver­hamp­ton brought us Robert Plant and Noddy Holder – and this 31-year-old singer (al­though his de­but album, Pass­ing Stranger, is more Led Zep III than Slade in Flame). Matthews signed to Is­land, be­cause “as a la­bel it says ev­ery­thing to me about what I want to do with my mu­sic. Nick Drake, John Mar­tyn, Bob Mar­ley – there’s just a great mix of artists who’ve been on Is­land.” Sev­en­ties enough for ya?

MID­LAKE

“The sound is some­thing more re­lated to ’70s folk rock, but not in a gim­micky way,” says Tim Smith, singer and song­writer for the Den­ton, Texas band, whose cur­rent album, The Tri­als of Van Oc­cu­pan­ther, has be­come a crit­ics’ favourite. “I have a great affin­ity for those bands from the ’70s, the mu­sic just seems to move me more.”

Also:

Cold War Kids Delta blues bel­ters. Pop Levi Check the Glam slam of Sugar As­sault Me Now. Wolf­mother The Aussie love-chil­dren of Uriah Heep and Black Sab­bath.

1980s

From Franz Ferdinand to The Brav­ery, the decade has spawned some of to­day’s most pre­ten­tious – and in­ter­est­ing – bands.

CAP­TAIN

RA­ZORLIGHT

At first we weren’t quite sure which decade the Lon­don-Swede band be­longed to, but now we’ve got them sussed: In the Morn­ing is INXS to the max, while Ameri- ca is U2 do­ing Cyndi Lau­per’s Time Af­ter Time. And don’t you think leg­warm­ers would suit Johnny Bor­rell per­fectly?

GUILLE­MOTS

They saw the whole of the moon, thanks to their live-wire leader, Fyfe Danger­field, who chan­nels the spir­its of Mike Scott, Roddy Frame and Lloyd Cole to cre­ate the Big Mu­sic for to­day. De­but album, Through the Win­dow­pane, is a mas­ter­class in mak­ing up­lift­ing, Eight­ies-style pop with­out once sound­ing like Howard Jones.

NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB

“I can give youwhat you want,” in­tones Tahita Bul­mer, the fire­cracker front­woman of this Lon­don indie-elec­tro band, on fab new sin­gle, Ice Cream. If it’s Blue Mon­day mixed with Heart of Glass and oo­dles of at­ti­tude you want, then NYPC will de­liver in spades. (See Gig of the Week, page 2.)

Also:

Franz Ferdinand Glas­gow’s arty gang of four. Edi­tors Well, some­one had tomake the fol­low-up to Joy Di­vi­sion’s Closer. Au Revoir Si­mone Depeche Mode with pretty girls in­stead of pretty boys.

1990s

The past decade was hardly cold in its cof­fin when the graver­ob­bers started tear­ing off parts of it and us­ing them to cre­ate their own heavy mon­ster sounds.

FIELDS

“We’ve al­ways been a bit of a sucker for a bit of sweet melody, but try­ing to off­set that with a blis­ter­ing wall of death noise,” says for­mer school­teacher Nick Peill, whose band falls neatly­be­tween My Bloody Valen­tine’s Isn’t Any­thing and Smash­ing Pump­kins’ Si­amese Dream.

EN­TER SHIKARI

Take two of the more ir­ri­tat­ing sounds of the 1990s – the ravey squall of The Prodge and the nu-metal grind of Korn and Limp Bizkit – mix ’em to­gether and you have the hy­brid howl of this Hert­ford­shire band. The fact that they sound like cats fight­ing at the gates of hell hasn’t stopped a mil­lion teenagers who feel “dif­fer­ent” flock­ing to their gigs to meet a mil­lion other kids who also feel “dif­fer­ent”.

THE FRAY

When Nir­vana broke big, ma­jor la­bels rushed to sign wa­tered-down grunge bands such as Bush and Nick­el­back. Now, this Den­ver, Colorado crowd are car­ry­ing on the bland­ness with their ra­dio-friendly unit shifter, How to Save a Life. No won­der Kurt Cobain topped him­self.

KLAX­ONS

They’ve been de­scribed as “The Cocteau Twins do­ing Coldplay” and a mod­ern-day At the height of rave, Klax­ons were in kinPre­fab Sprout. The twin vo­cals of Rik der­garten get­ting high on fiz­zle sticks. Flynn and Claire Szem­bek call to mind the “When you’re grow­ing up you also like to blue-eyed pop of Dea­con Blue. Their dego out and party a lot, and the mu­sic that but album, This Is Hazelville, is pro­duced we would hear go­ing out would be techno by Trevor Horn. Let’s face it, Cap­tain and elec­tron­ica,” says James Righton. couldn’t get any more Eight­ies if they “And ear­lier stuff like the Prodigy. It kind wore leg­warm­ers, rolled up the sleeves on of stood out from ev­ery­thing else. Y’know, their Mi­ami Vice jack­ets and got Kenny Firestarter, where did that come out of? It Log­gins in to do some guest vo­cals. sounded alien and oth­er­worldly.”

Also:

Tapes ’N’ Tapes Pave­ment sang about a “very spe­cial band”. This is not them. Brand New Nick­el­back stole grunge – Brand New are steal­ing it back.

ON COVER: 1950s – Ru­fus Wain­wright; 1960s – Amy Wine­house; 1970s – The Racon­teurs; 1980s – Franz Ferdinand; 1990s – Klax­ons

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