It is a popular sentiment right now that rock is back. With the recent success of neo-garage-rock groups, members of the press and public alike are gearing up for a new golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. You can hardly read an album review without seeing groups like The Strokes or The Hives tossed around like they are The Beatles and The Rolling Stones of the new millennium. (I swear I saw an article about Enya that spent three paragraphs talking about Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls’ bathroom antics and incessant bong rips.)
The tide of music may indeed be turning, for almost a decade after grunge had its death rattle, and as geek-chic loses steam, people are again ready for their rock stars to be dirty, loud and even a little crazy. But when backlash comes on the heels of hype and when the darlings of the scene are given their tickle-me-elmo craze by opportunistic record companies and overly optimistic reviewers in the hopes of latching on to the “next big thing,” it’s a perilous time to be a rock star, leather jacket or no.
I place a good deal of blame on the popular press. “But aren’t the evil record companies the ones artificially flooding the market with their bands of choice and controlling what you hear?” you ask. Does the Pope shit in the woods? Sure, the record industry sucks as always, but nothing makes rock writers happier than being just ahead of the trend.
Being able to point to a group or an artist and say “This is the band” is a rock writer’s wet dream. The unquenchable thirst for this power of premonition is one of the primary reasons that we now see wave after wave of prophecies about the future of rock and the next big movement, and it is the reason we see asinine claims in the British press that The Vines are the second coming of Nirvana. And to be honest, I can’t say I blame them for trying.
Who wouldn’t want to be the guy who first spotted Jimi Hendrix in a club or the guy that wrote that first big story about Nirvana. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of goal. The only problem is that most of the warnings of the rebirth of rock are big, fat false alarms. For every band like The White Stripes, who represent a truly innovative step for rock music and the most important interpretation of the blues since Led Zeppelin, there are going to be a handful of bands who are force-fed to the public with a spoon-full of sugar in the name of the new revolution in rock.
The record buying public is also at fault. The current (well, current here, last year in England) swarm of praise for The Vines says more about the public (and their need to quench their thirst for solid rock) than the band itself. Any port in a storm, an oasis in the desert, pick your clich