Monday, September 23, 2013

20 Post-Punk Revival Bands Worth Their Weight

Many music geeks acknowledge that much changed in and around 1977 with punk changing the musical landscape permanently by largely pushing passion and energy ahead of technique and musical competence. I have always been more fixated on what came next. A refining of the punk aesthetic with a focus on song writing and refinement without completely abandoning the looseness of it all. Bands like Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Cure, and Talking Heads (to name but a few) were tagged as "Post-Punk", all with a different take on what ultimately equates a will to be weird, and all at the forefront of what would become alternative and all the other silly genre labels that help us categorize the bands we like.

This is not a history lesson, mostly because offering history lessons takes me out of my musical depth very quickly. What it is however, is some very quick background for what seemed to start about ten to eleven years ago. People would call these newer bands new wave/post-punk revivalists. Whatever. That's probably fair and unfair in equal parts. For my role, these bands are influenced by some of the aforementioned post-punk bands and have projected nicely the dreary and ominous side of the sound, while capturing the energy and upbeat elements at the same time. Interestingly, the original wave was heavily resident in the UK, where this most recent wave are largely US bands, and in many cases from NYC. My default sound preference for this bucket of bands should be readily apparent quite quickly.

Interpol

In 2002 when Turn Out The Bright Lights was released, Gen Xers kind of lost their minds and those younger did so as well, for perhaps different reasons. This was what a post-punk record in the 2000's should sound like. Unfairly rubbed as Joy Division way more than once, the influence was still clear, but something had been revived. These guys should have had more than two perfect records to offer, but sadly, it feels like that's what we're left with. Interpol produced songs like PDA with such ease, especially for a band who mostly met each other just prior to becoming a band.


Amusement Parks on Fire

AAPOF released few quick records that feel mostly tier B with fleeting moments of brilliance. I remember hearing them called noise pop and I am sure someone would say emo (if someone could also tell me what the fuck emo really was, that would be great). Regardless, there is 1979 muddled all through a lot of their stuff, and I always had a soft spot for their sense of melody.



The Walkmen

It is actually quite unfair to strictly categorize The Walkmen in the vein of "post" anything. Their catalogue has touched a number of styles and eras over a decade, including Dylan and other bits of more folky Americana. In 2004 however, they felt very post-punk, sitting nicely alongside similar New York contemporaries. Let me also once more go on record as saying "The Rat" is one of the greatest songs written in America in the last ten years.


The Organ

The debut record from this all female band from Vancouver, could easily be written off as derivative eighties, if it was not so perfectly and genuinely executed. Always felt like they were gone way too soon. The song "Brother" hits all the high points of what their fave artists sounded like before them. More female vocalists should channel their inner Morrissey imo.


I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness

Not sure why they only made one album. Perhaps it was because they never recovered from having such a shitty band name. Regardless, there are some class tracks on that record, including "Lights". If The Killers had released "Lights" it would have been a huge hit. Thankfully they did not.


The Stills

Much like The Walkmen, these guys started closer to something approximating a mix of sad chords, upbeat rhythms, and assorted John Taylor basslines. I love where both bands took their sound, but have a special place for how they sounded out of the gate. New York via Montreal and sadly no longer an active band.


Calla

Another 90's formed leading into 00's New York alumni, and perhaps the most solidly entrenched in post-punk and goth principals at heart. Calla are perhaps the most overlooked among the first wave of revivalists. 


Editors

In the early to mid 2000's it felt like perhaps the US bands were beating the Brits at their own game a little bit, with so much Post type sounds coming from New York. I always felt like if Interpol were in fact a modern day answer to Joy Division, then Editors seemed like an answer to Interpol in some strange way. Similarly, consistency seems elusive to these guys, but the first record was really well done and true to the over arching Post sound.


Longwave

Again with the New York. Their first album is what many would describe as "unfuckwithable". They never hit that stride again. Longwave always felt to me like what a less commercial Killers would resemble. In theory, trying to lean more toward the Killers side of revivalism may have been what hurt these cats. Wake Me When It's Over is without question one of my favourite records from the 00's, bar none.


Cold Cave

Wes Eisold's time in hardcore bands comes through in spots, but mixed with baritone and moody synth parts, the Cold Cave records could be easily slotted into 1982 with ease. The sparse arrangements and deadened drum mixes give, the first album especially, a real back in time ambience without compromising a sound to now relevance.





The XX

 I am guilty of genre name dropping, but try to stop short of the hair splitting that ends up with bands assigning themselves to foolish categories like Sad Core. Call The XX things like Indie Pop or whatever you prefer, but both of their amazing records are rooted in good old fashioned gloomy and melancholic Post-Punk. Nice to see London adding its two cents with these kids to the current landscape.


Diiv

I am not sure what caused so many Brooklyn bands to embrace and expand on the Post-Punk sound so seamlessly, but albums like Diiv's debut are part of the wonderful net effect of it all. This is textbook stuff here. Excited to see where these kids go next.



Wild Nothing

You know what sounds a lot like The Smiths? Blacksburg, Virgina in 2013 apparently. Initially sounding more like the jingle jangle side of the coin a la Morrissey and Co. or Boys Don't Cry era The Cure, Wild Nothing easily fit into the nice bucket of indie pop groups like Beach House and Real Estate, while being loosely entrenched in the past.


The Horrors

Across three records, these lads have been all over the map musically. Glam, shoegaze, garage, and yes Post. Their last album, Skying, flexes on all types of influence, not the least of which is a really respectful and clearly deliberate nod to the early Simple Minds material. They have McCulloch swagger, Bob Smith aloofness, and Peter Hook...ahem... hooks. Cannot wait for their new album this year.



School Of Seven Bells

It is actually a bit unfair to categorize this band so generally in an exercise like this, but on so many tracks the vibe and aesthetic feels about thirty years young. Gorgeous combination of voices and solid playing. When songs remind you of New Order in spots, a band is absolutely doing something right. I adore this band.


Crocodiles

Until recently I actually thought these guys were from the UK and not San Diego. My skew and bias to British music aside, there are times when it sounds like Crocodiles have gone all in on Jesus & Mary Chain. If more people knew or cared about what that meant, then perhaps it would be problematic. In my view it just means they're doing it right.



Holograms

I am reasonably convinced that Sweden is able to produce not only any type of band, but have them all excel in their given musical style. These guys have two albums now, but are still quite new to me. Holograms are evidence that the Swedish can also do Post-Punk. Well.


Savages

Another London group of females with extraordinary energy and poise for a young band. They have an "it band" feeling right now. Also, if reincarnation were possible, my money is that Ian Curtis has resurfaced as a young female with short hair and solid onstage karate moves.



Merchandise

In their more sombre moments, the ones that land them on a list like this for me, Merchandise embody the Bunnymen, but perhaps with a less twee Morrissey on vocals. Bands like this should have dark sunglasses on in their videos, more often than not. Check.



 The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

On their second record, this band seemed to move closer to a 90's Siamese Dream bracket, versus their debut that bounced around more readily between 80's Brit styles. Not sure where they plan to head next, and I like both records a great deal, but tracks like this from their debut is what got me excited about Pains instantly.



EDIT...plus one more...

The Longcut

Seems almost poetic to forget this band in my initial post rendering. Highly underrated and virtually unknown, but for some initial hype in the UK with the release of their debut, The Longcut without question sound like a Manchester Post-Punk band. Extended jam parts without venturing into dirty hippy territory. Defiant vocals and driving percussion. I really hoped these guys would be huge in relative terms. This track kills.