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Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Noughties - WTF Just Happened? 2002: A Golden Age

The latest chapter in my examination of the music of the last decade is up now on Weaponizer:

"2002, how shall we define thee? With dance acts or with rock bands? Because that's where my head was at the time - a child of early Nineties rock who had fallen happily in love with the dance culture of the late Nineties, and could now feel them both fighting for custody of my very identity. As a music producer I was heavily influenced by hip-hop and house, yet I was still obsessed with the careers of Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, Neil Young and David Bowie. However romantic those artists appeared to me I didn't want to follow in their paths, because sonically I was still entrenched in the dance music camp, having long given up on rock as bringing anything new and exciting to the table. And that was as true in 2002 as any other year.

Last year's hot new (old) thing The Strokes are still riding high on the crest of the retro-rock wave, but a new band of better dressed garage-rock scamps was coming up the rear to challenge their position. I first saw them on Later with Jools Holland and was impressed by their matching suits and bravura performance that included jumping into the (usually restrained) crowd. They were The Hives, and they gave good show. Signed to ex-Creation boss Alan McGee's then-new Poptones label, The Hives' first official UK release was called "Your New Favourite Band" and was a compilation of previously released tracks from their native Sweden. A Swedish friend informed me that they had been releasing and touring to growing success in Sweden for a few years already. I guess McGee saw that they had honed their act there and the time was right to launch them on the British market. It worked - for a while. The cheekily titled album had the effect it was meant to (converting a lot of new fans) but also bore with it the unwanted side-effect of making any subsequent release irrelevant. This pattern of only being relevant for one album was to be repeated throughout the rest of the decade in rock, and in music in general, reflecting the much higher turnaround of new acts and the shortening of the public's attention span. I'm not going to lay the blame for this pattern completely at their feet (hello Stone Roses?) but they are a pretty good example of it in action.

I managed to blag my way into a Hives gig at the Barrowlands in 2002, and while it wasn't bad, it irked me because they only played for half an hour to artificially drum up calls for an encore. They probably would have got a great response anyway, and to me therein lies their problem. The Hives aren't a bad band, but it seemed to me their signifiers of cool outweighed the actual coolness they had. And they did have it. Another factor in why I only liked them for a nano-second was that my Sweidsh friend passed on to me a cassette (which I duly copied onto Minidisc - remember them? Minidisc was my format for a good few years, I made all my early work on a four track Minidisc recorder) compilation of original '77-era American punk and garage. I still have it and I still love it, and it made modern rock of the period seem more obsolete than ever."

Read the whole thing here.

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