Coffee Cup Reading: Return of the Conquerors of the World

9 Sep

And now for the least Unsung post of all time!

Some words about the biggest rock bands in the world: being the biggest rock band in the world used to be a badge of honour, because being the biggest rock band in the world simply meant that you were the biggest band in the world. It doesn’t mean the same thing as it did when (a) the Beatles were battling the Stones, (b) the Stones were battling The Who, or (c) the Stones were battling Led Zeppelin for the generally accepted (and often self-appointed) title; for we now live in the Age of Pop-Hop, where twerking (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself fortunate) and machine based melodies are generally the preferred way of the under 25 set to get down and get up. Is Rock burning out, or fading away? Is it merely reinventing itself, or will its dwindling number of apostles keep the concert lighters flickering until a new Jesus-Elvis emerges? Wait and see, but for now the discussion is subdued, and I daresay under the radar. Those of us who are old enough to remember what a guitar sounds like (does that sound ageist and smug? I’m over 30, I have a right to be curmudgeonly) can get excited about right now, because the stars have magically aligned and the 5 biggest and best rock bands of our time (with apologies to everyone’s favorite folk minstrels) will be releasing new music, and keeping the home fires burning brightly! Today is a good day to be alive. Love live rock.

Kings of Leon

Most everybody heard that the last tour was a near miss disaster low on Gatorade and high on…erm, life, and that the Southern kings of rock seemed to be imploding via a heady mix of family in-fighting, model wives, and booze. Then there was the inevitable hipster backlash to ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’, songs so massive and initially pleasing to the ear that they had to be bludgeoned to death by never-ending repeated radio plays, which actually led the Kings to stop playing them in shows, because some ‘fans’ would leave after hearing them. It seemed like the end of respectability and relevancy for Kings of Leon. But if the first two singles from new album ‘Mechanical Bull’ are any indication, the boys are back in all their foot stomping, rooster crowing, boozy-balladeering glory. I’m proud to say I have been a fan for more than 10 years. There will always be a place for bands like KoL, and all the drama and ups and downs only add to the story and poignancy of the songs; this is what a soon to be legendary career in Rock looks like. As long as Caleb is singing those songs and the rest of Followills are willing to follow (see what I did there?), the rock will keep rolling. New album out September 25.

Coldplay

No new album is in sight, just a lovely return to form piano ballad for a movie soundtrack that sounds like it could have been right at home on ‘A Rush of Blood To The Head’. It reminds us all that Coldplay can do this in their sleep, and that the Eno-isms of the last two albums, while sonically interesting, are really just glossing Chris Martin’s root talent – all the studio trickery in the world can’t match the voice, accompanied by piano or guitar.

 

Hopefully more good things to come from the world’s self-proclaimed biggest soft rock band….

New single out now.

Arcade Fire

Can we be anymore excited for this? Their last album, ‘The Suburbs’, was a brilliant and bold concept piece, daring to go where few bands go without sounding pretentious or arty for the sake of being arty (See: Pink Floyd, Radiohead), and live, they are as vibrant and life-affirming as ever. New album ‘Reflektor’ has rumoured collaborations with David Bowie and LCD Soundsystem….who knows what we can expect?

New album out October 29, new single to debut tonight!  

U2

Like their ‘dinosaur rock dad’ forbearer the Rolling Stones, prodigal Irish sons U2 have been at it longer than most of us have been alive. While their last album didn’t spawn any hit singles, it did have the biggest grossing tour of all time. Sound familiar? Every time U2 have a commercial or critical flop (see: Rattle and Hum, Pop) they come back swinging with reinvented, yet familiar, sounds and big anthems. And Bono isn’t one to go gently into that good night, as he so recently confessed: “U2’s gotta do something very special to have a reason to exist right now.” Succinctly put, these are the stakes for U2: remain culturally relevant, or risk becoming a nostalgia sideshow like the Stones, forever trotting out the greatest hits package of years past.  New album out late 2013.

Arctic Monkeys

Ask my friends…..I’ve been wrong before about the world conquering potential of a band before you have ever heard them (see: The Strokes) but I’ve also been very right (see: Coldplay, Kings of Leon). So what do I think about the Arctic Monkeys? They…could be big. Really big. 7 years ago, their debut album became the first true internet phenomenon, the fastest selling UK album of all time. It was all buzz and vigour, capped by lead singer Alex Turner’s keen observations of home town streets and dance clubs, all delivered with the wry and snotty wit of a then 19 year old punk. Each successive album has honed the band’s craft and expanded their sound and confidence, with Turner’s songwriting, bravado and range becoming increasingly captivating. Just listen to “Cornerstone” or “Love is A Laserquest”:

And you know what? Teenagers actually like them. Yup, those same teenagers with the hormones and the rap music. The new single Do I Wanna Know’ is genuinely swaggering, a fusion of modern rap beats and lounge rock sex. It will bust open the US for Arctic Monkeys; what follows from there remains to be seen.  I think they are on the verge of creating an Achtung Baby for the new Millennium, and while I haven’t heard the rest of the album yet, things sound promising.

New album comes out tomorrow.

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