A Conversation About American Rock Part 2: Has the Influence of Rock Died?
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
This blog post is part 2 of a conversation on the cultural influence of American rock. See part 1 at A Conversation About American Rock Part 1: Has The Influence of Rock Died? (oldmanindie.com)
Dane: Now, allow me to step off my podium and tell you about some of my favorite current American Rock bands. I don't think any of them are going to bring the genre back to any cultural relevance, but they all write great songs and are a lot of fun!
I’ll start with my favorite artist of the last few years, Jeff Rosenstock. Rosenstock is a Long Island born singer, multi-instrumentalist, and punk rocker. He is a chameleon within the punk rock genre, with each record combining elements of hardcore, ska, pop-punk, and post-punk with near-perfect songwriting. His rise to the top of the underground punk world was paved by his previous bands, the DIY Arrogant Sons of Bitches, and ska/punk collective Bomb the Music Industy!.
Rosenstock’s most recent solo effort, the album NO DREAM, navigates the line between staying true to his DIY roots and living a comfortable life as a successful punk rock artist. He complains about being a sellout for buying the latest Nikes while also addressing socio-political issues and accusing political parties of "weaponizing what's left of your empathy'. This dichotomy is amplified by Rosenstock's group of house musicians, occasionally referred to as "Death Rosenstock," It’s the band’s face-melting hardcore songs that add a sense of urgency to Rosenstock's warnings.
Rosenstock is carrying the flag for a genre that never fully goes away and always is associated with the counterculture. Is there room for an artist like Jeff Rosenstock to ascend to rock stardom? Probably not, but he'll keep the genre satiated until the next punk rock wave claims America's attention.
Old Man: Rosenstock certainly has that rough DIY rocks sound. American punk bands with that type of sound generally have struggled to get airtime (I’m thinking about Dead Kennedys and the Ramones). But I remember kids coming back from a trip to New York with a Ramones album and how if you were lucky, you’d get to hang out and give it a listen. But to your earlier point, the counterculture has largely glommed onto hip-hop instead of artists like Jeff Rosenstock. Having said that, I feel like he’s an important artist.
The band I’d like to suggest is The Tennis Courts.
This band, comprised of the duo Patrick Walsh and Andrew Clarke, started releasing music right in the middle of the pandemic. To date, the band has only released a total of seven songs (though they do have six other “Demos,” including an early version of “OK,” showcasing their DIY roots available on their Band Camp page). The band’s EP, Best Regards, includes the rocking tune “Red Wine” which includes a substantial guitar solo in the bridge and so much great distortion. The song “OK” screams The Strokes and the band completely pulls it off (distorted vocals and all). Their new single, “To Feel Young,” is a substantial step forward in production and vocals. This is a commercial rock song. This shows the growth and the promise you want to see in an emerging band. At this point, Tennis Courts can only dream of having the following that Jeff Rosenstock has garnered.
Dane: The guys in Tennis courts are worth keeping an eye on. The songs I listened to all resemble something between Kings of Leon and The Strokes. So often, when rock n roll reinvents itself, it comes back in a stripped-down, "back to basics" fashion. Recent examples include Nirvana, The White Stripes, and The (aforementioned) Strokes. I wonder if rock n roll's next big thing will be a throwback roots sound, or something groundbreaking, like a Radiohead or TOOL.
The next band I’d like to introduce is…
To be continued…