Recently, there has been a wave of new guitar bands erupting out of various crevices across the UK and Ireland. I am not referring to a particular 80s rip-off pop-group, or one of the many gloss-rock bands, who, by the way, are the hottest band right now and are coming to your local tent/shack/cupboard/bedsit. Instead, I am talking about the bands who create fantastical concoctions of post-punk, indie-rock and (occasionally) grunge.
While they have the life expectancy of a filament lightbulb, they are far more enjoyable than their counterparts (like the filament light bulb). The reason for this gentle-punk revivalism is largely unexplained, the actuality of it is, again, relatively unexplained.
The timeline of it is abstract at best and the coherence of the ‘movement’ is similar to that of Theresa May’s Brexit strategy. This of course raises the question of why this piece is being written. It is being written because there are bands, who fit into post-punk, indie-rock and grunge mix-ups, are not categorized or pigeon-holed in ways that almost every band in the history of modern pop-music has been.
Some of the belligerents in question (not an exhaustive list, please don’t lambast me): Shame, IDLES, Murder Capital, Cabbage, Drahla, Hotel Lux, Fontaines D.C., Snapped Ankles, Goat Girl and Fat White Family
Some of the commonalities between these bands are: guitars (bar Snapped Ankles), shouting, energy and relatively short, fast songs. There’s also an obvious presence of macho virile, which is, frankly, quite unfortunate. Furthermore, whilst they aren’t quite ‘punk’, they’re not quite ‘post-punk’ either. They’re diluted for sure, which is helpful for spreading their sounds to the masses. One further commonality is that they are all particularly eclectic: Snapped Ankles like Tree Music, Joe from IDLES is a big fan of Kanye West’s works, Shame appear to like everything ever made and the Fat Whites have a strange, slightly religious affection for Mark E. Smith.
The eclecticism should be credited to streaming, or at least the accessibility of music. It means that bands can listen to any influential album ever written. Perhaps their quick burning brevity is caused by the proximity of the Armageddon clock’s minute hand to the 12th hour. The trapping of being shout-y, energetic and speedy is you’re largely stuck with smaller venues to maintain any level of atmosphere. Fortunately, the cult of the small venue, indie guitar music and novel merch seems to elicit goosebumps from any gig-going muso, so perhaps these bands are hearing the demands of the people and are delivering.
This leaves us with a plurality of key reasons for this wave of music: impending doom, streaming, small venue-local-vinyl cultism and a keenly political youth. All of these bands appear to have similar reasons for formation, similar musical tropes and they all have sprouted up within a roughly similar time-frame.
This leads to a conclusion: is this a movement? Yes and no. While all of these bands firmly resemble each other in some way, their links are disjointed, and the ‘movement’ isn’t very obvious. Their motivations can only be guessed at (to be expected). Therefore, all that can be certain is that we will know if something is happening well after the fact, and that’s largely all that can be said.