Too Sexy for Their Rock

Fashionable retro rock has jumped the shark. Here's why

Thus began the age of retro rock, the sound of bands that steal from groups that existed B.N., or Before Nirvana. In addition to The Strokes and The White Stripes, acts such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, French Kicks, The Walkmen, The Vines, The Datsuns, The Libertines, and dozens more roamed the Earth. Each had its own sound, more or less, but all of them -- with their shaggy hair, rumpled jeans, and coy, pasty visages -- could be placed under that one giant umbrella.

Now, the upside of this trend is that, by and large, it produced some great music. Fashionistas or no, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one fierce trio, and I'll concede the same for Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, and, to a lesser extent, The Killers. But, merely as a matter of timing, Interpol's Antics is the beginning of the end, for it arrives when these bands are truly starting to become caricatures, plastic and prefabricated, and offering no new outlook on the world beyond catchy narratives about hitting the club. I'm not saying that everybody has to be tortured and overwrought, but when a band's thoughts are trained strictly on making it big, its music tends to lack pathos. And while these groups may end up making some snappy, sultry dance rock, it is, at the end of the day, pretty disposable snappy, sultry dance rock, no less contrived than music made by the boy bands and rap-rock stars they replaced.

Once upon a time, Interpol's snooty fashion sense was excusable because it was an anomaly. Now that it's the norm, it's going to get old quick. So here's what I'm willing to bet: Despite its brilliance, Antics will be forever remembered as the album that marked the time when retro rock jumped the shark, going from early-'00s movement to late-'00s embarrassment. We can expect a Creed-like version of The Strokes to show up on MTV any day now. I can expect my fifteen-year-old sister to ask for a set of hoop earrings and some leg warmers for Christmas.

Scissor Sisters
Courtesy of Universal
Scissor Sisters

Oh well. At least Kevin and I got in one good road trip with the stuff before it rotted like old fruit.

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