The 2010’s were a rough time for any alternative rock band, and although a handful of “scene” bands (READ: bands whose shirts you can find at Hot Topic) broke the Billboard Top 10, it paled in comparison to the lucrative success MTV bands like Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday saw in the mid-aughts.
Whiny songs about being a hopeless romantic or fishnet-wearing goth aesthetics never went away, they merely got co-opted by mainstream pop/rap acts like Post Malone and Billie Eilish, leaving any young band after 2014 playing punchy power chords to play 100-cap venues/basements. Here’s what’s going on with what NPR calls “guitar-rock” and what to expect in the 2020’s.
Goodbye pop-punk, hello retailcore
The early-mid ‘10’s saw a resurgence of zany pop-punk, in no small part to the ironic turned non-ironic “Defend Pop Punk” meme that sold thousands of hoodies. Now you’ll hear the likes of Broadside, Real Friends, and Lexington’s own Emarosa sounding less like Blink and more powerpoppy à la Paramore, complete with those high-pitched disco chords you still hear while browsing through the clearance rack at Old Navy.
The success in failing at punk rock
The most popular punk rock of the ‘10’s shared a depressingly common theme: being in a band is financially unstable and socially crippling. If albums titles like The Dream is Over, No Closer To Heaven and After The Party bummed you out, it sold like hotcakes. This summer had a tour package called “Sad Summer Fest” for God’s sake!
Emo shreds now
If you’re looking for those proggy fretboard-tapping weedly weedlies, its new home is with twinkly emo bands. Championed by Tiny Moving Parts and reinvented by 00’s noodlers Dance Gavin Dance, this newly titled “Midwest Emo” genre will have kids learning guitar leads that would make Mike Kinsella and Eddie Van Halen equally proud.
The post-hardcore “wave” crashed
Despite streaming sites making Pitchfork-type tastemakers obsolete, countless out of touch publications profiled “the wave.” i.e., Touche Amore and the fresh new crop of youngsters playing soft guitars over braying donkey vocals. The inherit nostalgia worship of it all only made way for dinosaurs like Jeromes Dream and As Cities Burn to come out of screamo retirement, relegating talented new acts like Gatherers to score a gig should mewithoutYou dust their accordion off for a comeback tour (which happened, of course).
Hardcore punk buys a flanger pedal
Whether you watch videos from Miami’s Rolling Loud Festival or Louisville’s Life & Death Brigade Fest, it is clear kids still have a thirst for diving off stages and slamming into each other for fun, no matter who is playing what. That gives a newfound freedom for heavier bands like Candy and Absence of Mine to experiment with some early 90’s grunge jams, industrial noises and even Rage-y funk metal and to positive response. Turnstile fully embraced this genre androgyny and got to play Coachella and tour with popular rappers Denzel Curry and $uicideboy$. Hoping to see more cross-promoting like this in the decade to come.
Pure Noise Records will save the scene if hip-hop doesn’t
I’ll end this by saying the biggest coffin nail for these types of bands is the lack of mainstream media to get listeners interested. The commercial radio stations who propped up the new blood in the 90’s/00’s have started playing straight pop acts like Imagine Dragons and find “rock” to be almost a dirty term-at least when it comes to investors. The only real gateway for kids to find new bands is if Lil Xan wears a Vein shirt on Instagram. So when I see a label still investing in young bands, like putting a billboard in downtown Louisville for Knocked Loose’s new album, it gives me the warm fuzzies! It’s cool watching Jail Socks play an intimate house show on Rose Street, but wouldn’t it also be cool to see LURK or Drug Church selling out venues so they can afford to continue to make great music?
P.S. Big shout out to WRFL for letting me blare this noise week after week! 😉
Tune in to Stephen Hicks’ show, “Something Completely Different” on Thursdays, 2-4pm on WRFL.
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