Yay garage rock! A lot of good bands come from across the Atlantic, but it seems that few except the English bands make much of an impact in the US. Maybe someday I will make a list of some that I’ve come across that I like, which include bands like Iceland’s Kaleo and Twopointeight from Sweden (The latter’s gravel-voiced lead singer Fredrik Erikson has released a new album, so they may have split) . But right now I am going to link you to a YouTube list of songs for The Parrots from Spain. They really seem to capture the early to mid-60s garage feel on a lot of their songs. I especially recommend the songs off 2016 album, Los ninos sin miedo… don’t worry, mostly in English. For example, check out the jangly guitars and dylanesque tone of 2016’s “The road that brings you home“. If you like King Kahn and BBQ Show you should like the Parrots.
Rock and Roll, and maybe art in general, progresses by taking from the past and improving on it; not simply replicating it. I really wanted to like the JD McPherson band, and I truly love rock bands that include saxophone and boogie woogie piano in addition to guitars and drums (see one of my 60s faves The Sonics for ex.), but even their originals simply sound like recycled 1950s rockabilly. And rockabilly was never something I much cared for anyway.
Listening to the radio in the 50s and early 60s you would often hear only white singers and bands doing covers of originals from black singers/bands since the latter were often not given airplay on US stations. Even later, when things opened up a bit, if a popular band recorded a song original done by a black person or band, the former would often overtake the latter in sales and play. Examples abound: Can you imagine teens in the 1950s being inflicted with Pat Boone singing “Ain’t that a shame”, rather than hearing the infinitely superior Fats Domino version? Or the same white singer trying to do justice to Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti Frutti”? It happened. Of course, Pat Boone wasn’t rockabilly, but people like Elvis, Bill Haley, and maybe Jerry Lee Lewis (and others) were, to one extent or another, and benefited from this not so subtle “radio racism”. Others like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran relied mostly (I think) on original materials rather than covering previously recorded “race music”.
I lived in Seattle, and I had a sister 7 years older than me who sometimes brought home 45s of the originals. I had a friend who also had a sister who was several years older and she introduced us to Little Richard’s music. (I’m not sure, but there may have been a small, R&B music station in the area at the time.) If I recall, the first black artists we heard on the pop 40 stations were Chuck Berry (always) and Ray Charles in 1959(“What’d I Say”).
So the tunes by JD McPherson are catchy, but I don’t think they do anything to add to the progression of rock music. It’s like stepping back 60 years into the past.
Update Feb 16, 2015. I have now had a chance to listen to several tracks from his new (Jan 2015) album “Let the good times roll”, and would probably recommend another listen based on this. It seems to me to be a lot better than his earlier efforts.
I first heard this song today (artist: Matthew E. White) and listened to it several times. It is different, has nicely integrated (and soulful) background singers and horns, and the singer has a unique voice. I listened to a few more of his songs and liked the jazz influences he included, although most of the songs were a bit slow tempo for my tastes. The horns were somewhat reminiscent of a late 60s – early 70s band I liked called Sons of Champlin. Then I started listening to the words and noticed that nearly all of his other songs have what I call, “god-bothering” lyrics. Sorry, but unless you are Van Morrison (Sweet Thing: live 2008 and original from 1968; bonus cover from Hozier) and only do this a little bit it is a deal-breaker for me. Keep it in your church, or market yourself as a religious singer.
Maybe his new album called “Fresh Blood”, due in March, will minimize this tendency.
We all have to pick and choose which of our interests we spend our time pursuing. I am fortunate that I now have a lot time to spend finding music I like. I am normally on a computer many hours each day, and unless I am doing something that requires all my limited brain-power, such as programming or reading a highly technical paper, I am listening to music in the background. I have stations setup on Pandora and certain genres I tend to listen to with Songza. But these are both fairly passive methods of listening and don’t necessarily get you to new music. Normally I have a TV cable news station on in the background for an hour or two per day; sometimes the music in an advertisement will catch my musical interest and I will try to catch a few of the lyrics and check them on the web. This is how I found the Orwells, a young rock band from Chicago.
In the late spring through early fall recently, Youtube and others have simulcast a lot of music festivals that can clue you into what is current. I have often come across these accidentally while doing other web-based activities.
More active methods might include 1) periodically looking at the Album of the Year site on the internet which currently has 100s of albums ranked by genre for 2005-2015; going to KEXP, a Seattle FM radio station and listen to their live stream or browse their live in-studio performances list which has a ton of good bands. Just about every band that plays Seattle makes an appearance; 3) browse Youtube.
As far as I know, the White Stripes were the premier group using this minimal configuration, and certainly my favorite in this genre was and is the Black Keys. Here are some interesting recent additions in no particular order:
Black Pistol Fire live on KEXP
Royal Blood who are interesting because they use a Bass guitar and drum. I don’t especially care for them, but haven’t heard much of their output.
Jeff the Brotherhood who use a small drum kit and often only 3 strings on the guitar and I think create a massive sound.
Update: Equal time for the ladies with The Pack A.D. from Vancouver, B.C.
I’d like to see a lot more people carrying on these traditions. Most of the artists that should be carrying the load seem to be doing rap/hip-hop. Make recommendations in the comments please.
Live 4 song compilation by St.Paul & the Broken Bones from 2014.
And the unique band that I hope you have all had a chance to hear, Alabama Shakes. I’m hoping for a new album soon.
OLDIES INTERLUDE from Country Joe and the Fish:
I think that this band’s 2012 album, “Light Up Gold”, is amazing. For a brief introduction (30 minutes) I recommend the live KEXP performance. I might update my comments after I listen to more of their more recent recordings.