While rummaging through my dresser the other day I found my t-shirt from the Strokes' 2003 Room On Fire tour. I had skipped school to travel from Nashville down to Atlanta with my friend Heather for the show. As we were only 15, her dad drove us. It was a magical trip over far too soon. My Strokes shirt has faded but I still occasionally wear it if only to be horrified when I realize, "Damn! Was 2003 really almost ten years ago?"
The post-punk revival (also know as the "garage rock revival" or "new rock revolution") kicked off in the very early 2000s with the release of albums like the Strokes' Is This It, the White Stripes' White Blood Cells, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' self-titled EP and the Vines' Highly Evolved. It was a breath of fresh air after the stagnant years of the very late '90s. The alternative rock that had made the decade legendary was largely over. Dull post-Britpop groups and the abomination known as nu-metal ruled radio waves. Suddenly in 2001, guitar pop became cool again.
The next few years saw an explosion of raw talent. Bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club picked up where the Jesus and Mary Chain had left off years before. Franz Ferdinand borrowed music and style tips from the mod bands before them. Bands like Hot Hot Heat and the Rapture ushered in a wave of danceable indie rock that can still be heard today. Editors and Interpol wanted to be Joy Division. When the Kings of Leon debuted, the music press dubbed them "the southern Strokes." Nearly each week a different band graced the cover of the NME touted as the new saviors of rock 'n' roll. But they all shared a common thread: the indie rock spirit and love of guitar pop that has inspired musicians for decades.
These bands provided the sound track to my high school years. Unfortunately, most of them skipped Nashville on their U.S. tours so I missed out on more shows than I care to count. Still my ever wonderful parents and friends' parents accompanied us to shows while we were still underage so we could occasionally live in the music scene that we so loved. I'm mortified by the memory of my father talking with the lead singer of the Music!
But for every band that achieved Libertines levels of fame there are a dozen bands like the Starlite Desperation and the Pattern. One of my most beloved bands of the era, the Cooper Temple Clause, received accolades in their native England but barely made a splash in the U.S. Still, the post-punk revival caught on in mainstream media. The Strokes, the Vines, the Hives and others saw their videos in heavy rotation on MTV.
Over ten years on, I can look back on those days with fond memories and longing. Perhaps it's because I'm no longer a bright eyed teenager but few bands get me excited about new music like those from the post-punk revival did. It's easy to see how the scene spawned the hipster culture that we love to hate today. I often joke that my friends and I were the original hipsters, way back at the tender age of 14. "This band is too obscure. You wouldn't know them," we'd often say about our favorite groups that hadn't reached Strokes-levels of notoriety.
Just as Britpop did in the '90s, the post-punk revival inspired an entire generation of bedroom rock stars to pick up their guitars. Maybe it's because I live in their native Bay Area, but I find myself commenting on the flux of bands that clearly graduated from the school of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The teenagers that grew up loving these bands are making music themselves. The nostalgia has set in and I'm currently planning a dance night in San Francisco where I'll spin nothing but bands from the early noughties. Albums like Interpol's Turn On the Bright Lights are being reissued for their tenth anniversary. Disco 2000s, indeed.
Check out Kayley's post-punk revival playlist: