Is rock dead? Well, why don't we ask Sam Fender and friends, including The Night Cafe, Circa Waves, The Pale White, YONAKA, Vistas, LITTLE MAY, Ten Tonnes, BILK et. al. Answer: fuck off no it isn't.
Is rock really dead? Or did it just go away or get drowned out? Ever since a real-life conversation about this, in a global record company, about a year ago, I’ve been paying attention to the matter of rock, rock bands and their place in the universe. My conclusion: who cares it matters not, because rock is back!
However, what does matter is that that rock has changed. Oh yes it has. It’s kind of gone a bit, well, indie. This is both good and bad. Good because rock has become highly tunes based, perhaps as bands aim to get their hooks into your ears before you twitch towards the dreaded skip button (which never happens on Song Sommelier playlists, no such fear for the bands on here). The bad side is that there is little true ‘rocking out’ these days it seems, in the way of say Neil Young’s Rocking Horse, or Hendrix, or even Springsteen. At least not that I know of. If you know different do let us know, and we’ll endeavour to look into it. Back to the good side, there are various flavours to the tuneage in this modern incarnation. There’s the punk rock of FONTAINES D.C., the slacker rock of Cabbage, the alt-rock grungy throwback stylings of The Pale White and the mixed-up punky lo-fi jazz leanings of Burning Alms.
Mostly though, this collection is indie-pop rock and, in a parallel universe these songs would all find themselves with chart slots, such is the quality of the song craft. A special mention here for The Night Café’s ‘Endless Lovers’, Riscas ‘Panic Like Tom’, Sea Girls ‘Open Up Your Head’ and Ten Tonnes ‘Better Than Me’, for making the middle-section of this playlist a pop-rock delight. This is before we are rudely interrupted (by the dustmen in CM2?) in the best possible way by BILK’s ode to estate life in modern Britain.
There is possibly a leader of the crowd here, someone who makes music that is unarguably just simply classic rock, and that’s the young fella from the North East of England Sam Fender. Rightly there is a buzz about this lad. He was a BBC Sound of 2018 candidate and won the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice for 2019. I first saw him perform to the pre-dinner crowd at The Brits this year and people payed attention, despite the mass catering and the booze on tap. I then saw him at a proper gig at the Roxy in Brixton and he was bordering on magnificence. I’m not exaggerating to say it, it was like seeing and hearing a young Springsteen. Sam’s band are not half bad either which helps. Unlikely poster child for a movement he is with his kid-next-door image and 2-day worn t-shirts, he’s the prefect figurehead for bringing rock back. No frills and spills, just good songs well executed - and performed with utter conviction. So Fender is our cover star for New Kidz, and his most recent tracks top & tail the playlist. And we can’t wait for the first proper album – having resurrected rock, can the man help rescue the album format? Apparently, Bruce has new material out soon. I’m are wondering if the great man knows of the existence of young Sam in the same way I wonder if Joni Mitchell has ever met Laura Marling.
But there’s plenty more here, and from all over the place – the USA (Weathers, Silversun Pickups), Australia (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Little May), even Germany (der wunderbar Gurr). However, one could be forgiven for being patriotic about this new wave of guitar based rock. The UK was great at indie the first time around and these isles are very good at Indie Rock in all its new forms. Fear not Fender and Gibson, the kids are still reaching for their six strings and thank god for small mercies.
Playback notes: Be a rebel and shuffle if it makes you feel better. Skip = no.