Garage Rock: moving its way up the music charts

Jan. 15, 2003, midnight | By Josh Scannell | 18 years ago

The crowd at the 9:30 Club watches a tangled mass of human flesh and hair lunge across the stage. Limbs flailing, it hammers the guitar slung around its neck. The figure crumples to the floor, then jumps into a scissors-kick. It screams into the mic, then stumbles off the stage.

Something amazing has just happened. That something is pure rock ‘n' roll.
The singer, Craig Nicholls, fronts the Vines, one of a group of new garage bands that include The Strokes, White Stripes and Hives as leaders of a fad now sweeping the world. Focused primarily in the U.S., Sweden and Britain, this new generation of bands plays aggressive rock ‘n' roll that's rooted in the sounds of '60s Detroit bands.

Garage Rock 101

Garage rock is an ambiguous term for a genre, because just about every rock band starts in a garage. According to Bomp Records, one of the first record labels to focus on garage rock, the term "garage" was first used in 1979 to define bands that had until then been considered "punk." 

These bands, and the sound that the term defined, were "raw, stripped down rock & roll with a pronounced '60s influence," according to the Bomp Records website.
But garage rock didn't start in 1979. It started back in the mid-'60s with the British Invasion that brought America groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who.
Rhino Record's compilation of the first garage bands, The Nuggets Collection, describes the first wave of garage rock as a group of American teenagers that tried to sound like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but couldn't.

These bands made up for their lack of talent with style and produced a wave of simple, straightforward rock ‘n' roll that surfaced in the American musical landscape.
In the late ‘60s, two bands, the Stooges and the MC5, emerged. They mixed blues and classic rock sound to develop a genre called "punk."

Thirty years later in a rundown building in Manhattan, five friends decided to pound out some songs and created, in 1998, the Strokes. Junior Caroline Forsythe is a self-proclaimed Strokes fanatic. One of the things Forsythe loves about the Strokes and other new garage acts is their style.  "They have a sort of attitude where they're like, 'I don't care.' They're rebels for our ages," she says.
Junior Thomas de Simon is another fan of the new genre. 

For him, it is more simple than a vibe or an attitude that's being expressed.  It's about good times.  "I feel there's a lot of happiness out of their tunes," he says. "It's more fun; it is not about teen depression."

Who are these guys?

The Strokes draw on a range of influences, from the Velvet Underground and Television to the Ramones. The Strokes' tight songs rarely pass the three-minute mark, and even the most stonefaced hipsters have a hard time standing still to songs like "Modern Age" and "Last Nite."

Julian Casablancas' New York growl mixes with Albert Hammond Jr.'s and Nick Valensi's cutting guitar riffs to make the Strokes a truly irresistible band. The group's newest album, Is This It, was certified gold over the summer.

Then there's the Swedish group the Hives. The Hives have just signed a multimillion dollar deal with Universal and are in regular rotation on MTV2 with the modern rock radio hit "Hate to Say I Told You So."
A more bluesy garage group is the White Stripes, a boy-and-girl duo composed of Jack and Meg White. Their music is more influenced by American roots than are most other garage acts. 

While not as danceable as the Strokes or as aggressive as the Hives, their music is considered by many to be equally fun. Their latest album, White Blood Cells, has sold over 750,000 copies worldwide, according to New Music Express, a British magazine.

The latest garage band to make it big was the Aussie outfit the Vines. NME described the Vines' sound as "the perfect synthesis of the Beatles and Nirvana."  Throw in a bit of seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, and the mixture is complete.

The Vines have been on the cover of Rolling Stone, and their latest album, Highly Evolved, almost cracked the top ten on the Billboard Music Charts.

The success of these bands points to a new trend that is occurring within modern rock music. Greg Shaw, president of Bomp Records, believes that a new movement has taken over a stagnant one.
He believes that these bands' success is due to "widespread boredom, the decline of rap and everything else, and the media's hunger for a fad to sell."

Good news for fans of the movement: The bands that are enjoying popularity now are not all the new wave has to offer. Just beneath the surface is a plethora of bands ready to step up to the plate.

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Josh Scannell. Josh Scannell is an 11th grader at Blair High School. He is a page editor on the Silver Chips staff. When not working, he enjoys listening to, reading about, watching and playing music. He also enjoys a good movie and hanging out with his friends. More »

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