I finally have the right occasion to take a look back at this rock decade from a wider perspective.
The decade it’s over in few months and, as any decade, opens and close a music era.
I am not off topic, the Rakes are part of what I am about to writing.
The music of this millennium, the noughties decade (00s), among other stuff is identified by the so-called (or call it whatever you want) “indie-fashion”.
I am talking about a genre started about 10 years ago. Due to the “globalized” world for the first time it blossomed simultaneously in 3 continents.
North America put the big names: The Strokes, White Stripes, Interpol. Old europe hooked to its punk past: The Hives, The Libertines. Australia contributed with the “hard-ish-rockers”: The Vines, Jet.
These folks quickly ruled the charts and indicate the path to most bands. Even U2, in search of inspiration after the failed attempt of following trip-hop-dance with Pop, went garage-rock for All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
You can argue all these groups are different, I agree, but if we step back and have a retrospective look from a higher perspective they are all part of a big family.
The bands are mostly guitar based with 3 to 5 members. They play less-then-3-minutes songs, immediate and direct. The sound is characterized by jangling guitars, often offered by a Fender Telecaster and fast, upbeat tempos. Lyrics tend to focus on their middle-class lives around love and beer, sex and night clubs.
There is a more selfish attention to themselves than to the world around.
Classic rock cliches are rejected: from guitar solos to long hair, from weird instruments to political consciousness.
They are part of myspace generation, they are all on the web but also quite proud of their local origins.
Their image has an addictive attention to fashion, their fashion. Clothes, shoes, haircut and a general coolness are carefully picked. Think at the Strokes or Pete Doherty. Their fans quickly adapt to the point that rock fans nowadays are recognizable by their ipod model instead of long hair and worn out clothes.
Such a success generated at the same time both wannabe rockstar and labels eager to sign someone and enter a “me-too” competition. Hence countless followers blossomed, especially in UK where this music, supported by NME, exploded.
In few years the indie family had its baby boom and the tree grew its branches.
Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkes, Maximo Park, Futurheads, Art Brut, Kasabian, Editors, the Subways and tonight headliners, The Rakes, fits with it.
If the first generation have released 4 or 5 albums, the second is at the difficult turning point of the third LP.
It hasn’t stopped. New bands develop. The tree is getting overloaded.
The Enemy, Maccabees, Mistery Jets, The View just to cite few not forgetting the Libertines’ follow ups: Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things.
If new bands add up, music stays more or less the same so that the space for creativity becomes tiny and overcrowded.
We are reaching the point that it is difficult to differentiate one band from the other. Few people today can recognize the difference between a 12 songs album of a single band from a 12 songs compilation made out of 12 different bands.
So, as we are approaching the turn of the decade, the vein seem exhausted and rock music will explore new lands.
Why am I so sure? Let’s go through these bands’ fate and it’ll be clearer.
Some dissolved or disappeared. For now or forever has yet to be established: The White Stripes, The Libertines, Dirty Pretty Things, Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong.
Some are on a sort of hiatus, their members distracted by side projects: The Strokes, Babyshambles, Arctic Monkeys, Interpol.
Some are still on but struggling on the way down of their experience:
Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Futurheads, Hives, Kasabian, Maximo Park, Subways. All of them do not play the same big venues they used to. Even Franz Ferdinand one of the biggest among these names give signs of slowing down and The Rakes played this sold out night in the cosy Koko but not a long ago used to sell out the massive Brixton Academy.
What about the youngest?
Good point, some are actually still around finding a way through the credit crunch, the difficulty of being innovative or the search for new directions.
The few that managed to build up a cult following which guarantees faithful fans: Art Brut, Mistery Jets.
The few that understood live music is where money are and concentrate on live shows as The View and The Enemy.
The few that have been clever to move their musical taste towards more fashionable places. As British Sea Power last year and Maccabees’ second album. Both hint at Canadian soundscapes.
There is one band left that can disprove my theory: Arctic Monkeys.
In few months we shall know which lesson they have learnt at Josh Homme‘s desert studios.
I am a fan and I have high expectations from Alex Turner and his friends. I dream of a change of direction, one of those seminal turns that set a path to follow. A move that only great bands can do.
There is one exception and it is not by coincidence.
Bands fronted by women.
Have you had enough of boring, bland, chiming guitars?
Can’t you bear miserable guys standing still in front of microphones?
Are you unable to listen useless songs played by the umpteenth hopeless band as Scouting for girls, Hoosiers, Joe Lean?
Well there is a reaction: move away. To get what?
Easy. Precisely the opposite!
Girls on vocals (in place of boys) and synth (in place of guitars).
Welcome to the sunrise of a new musical decade. The “10s”. The revenge of synth-pop will displace the last two decades of guiar-driven rock.
Quite similarly as 80s electronica stormed away 60s epic and 70s prog.
Let’s have a deeper look. Most bands with a female singer adapted and survived.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gossip and Noisettes are the first examples to come to my mind.
Some took a decisive U-Turn, abandoning garage-rock for a glossy-magazine-pop that, even when preserves a “indie” feeling, is miles away from its origins.
Watch MTV, read the charts. You’ll find Lady Gaga, The Ting Tings, Bat for Lashes and Lily Allen .
A wave of pop bands fronted by women, or women fronting pop bands.
More acts are arriving, Florence and the Machine, La Roux, St. Vincent and counting.
Teenagers and music lovers are enjoying pop. Girls power is doing the rest.
History repeats. As for the 80s, a difficult economic period move people’s free time towards lighthearted, carefree entertainment. There is no space to worry and think with music, when you have to worry everyday.
The few die-hard fans of rock, the ones which can’t digest a synth (i.e. myself) have niche alternative on some literate songwriting, folk revival, symphonic rock or all of them together.
Some will grow old (i.e. not myself) and stop listening to music until NME, in one of its future issues, around 2020, will announce: “The White Stripe to reform!”. I would bet on that.
I owe some words to review this gig.
The Rakes are part of this. They come from the New Bohemian, arty, East london scene as The Libertines .
They have a love for Eastern Europe which someway links them to Franz Ferdinand.
They clearly fit the “fashion bit”, just think singer Alan Donohoe was the face of Fred Perry campaign.
Unfortunatel they did not put on a great gig, which clicked my disquisition.
Despite people seemed to have a lot of fun, despite the band supplied a lot of energy, despite Alan Donohoe came on stage with red gloves (fashion) ignoring the warmth of the first spring to be seen in England in 5 years.
Despite everything a sensation of decay permeated me. The coolness of the glory days went to leave space to routine rock’n’roll.
The set-list didn’t disappoint. Most singles were there.
The concert started backward, opening with You’re In It first song from the last album, (the uninspired Klang), and ended with Strasbourg , their first single.
Fans loved the old stuff. 22 Grand Job and The World Was a Mess But His Hair Was Perfect had big reception.
Personally I couldn’t really pick a tune above the mediocrity of the whole.
I just realized 1989, the last single, sounds as a dull cover of The End Has No End by the Strokes. A title that says it all. The circle is closed. “Indie-fashion” is trapped inside.
Know more about The Rakes here on their [website] and [myspace]. Follow the links throughout the article to check all the other bands, most of them are on this site which you can browse by the index: artists on liveon35mm.com.
I have been to Koko quite a few times and never talked about the place that became my favourite London middle-size venue since the Astoria was closed.
At the beginning of Camden High Street, next door to Mornington Crescent tube station, Koko can host about a thousands people on several levels.
Photography wise it is a fairly laid-back venue, which is great.
Once you get a photopass, you enter, get a beer, reach the front, jump into the pit.
Often during the support there is not security counting the three songs, so you can shoot the entire set.
When the main act arrives the guys and the three songs policy take place as usual.
After your photo set you have to jump over the barrier and the front row fans (literally) and you can stay to enjoy the gig.
The stage is average, not as low as Sheperds Bush. Lights are the crazy variable, quite often (as tonight) crap, but this is due more to the band than the venue.
From the audience perspective it is as good.
Quite posh, after the entrance a neon-lit tunnel brindgs the guests to this red carpeted, baroque (in its architecture and in its labyrinthic paths to the different levels) theatre.
It is nice to explore the different floors before the gig. There are many seating areas with sofas, tables, bar and TVs showing what is happening on stage. The acustic is horrible from there so plan in advance to get back to see the show.
The standing area is small enough to make you feel close to the band but big enough if you are planning to surfcrowd.
The Bar is more expensive than average, 3.90£ for a can of lager! If you plan to drink a lot it will easily double the cost of the concert ticket.