Classic Rock editor Siân put it very well in her ed’s letter this month: “Sounds too much like the giants of rock past and that’s wrong. Try to expand sonic boundaries and that’s wrong too.”
It’s a dilemma faced by new/newer names in rock’n’roll; easily branded poseurs for doing things differently, or unimaginative for reigniting the ‘good old days’. For every rock lover willing to check out new music, sadly there’s another who’ll dismiss the suggestion in a heartbeat. Obviously the rock industry is under threat for myriad reasons, but however you look at it audience participation (or lack thereof) is a big factor.
This week’s IYBOAOTWMI (ok, not the best acronym) asks anyone poised to automatically scoff ‘err who??’, ‘shite’ or similar to hold fire. Biters – a group of Joan Jett-haired renegades from Atlanta – make the kind of throwback racket that really isn’t hard to like. Pop tunes in jutting Thin Lizzy-styled jackets, where everything rhymes.
They fall into the good-old-days category, to the point where you half-wonder if we actually are back in those days. “Take me back in time to 1975,” they sing on…erm, 1975. “I want a rock’n’roll girl with a real pretty face” quips frontman Tuk on the excitement-building Restless Hearts, in a manner of which Cheap Trick, The Ramones and just about anyone else in the 70s would be proud. And on the title track they unite winning riffage, stick-it-to-the-man vocals and a pretty, hippy space-out. Time, indeed, to “rock’n’roll all night like it’s 1975”.
Not that this precludes them from sounding their age. Low Lives In Hi Definition has youthful, testosterone-charged bite aplenty, and the driving, doe-eyed Dreams Don’t Die reminds us of simple longing under all the hair dye. Indeed, the nice thing about Biters is that they are unapologetically retro, but treat it as a very present-day thing. Like H.e.a.t and We Are Harlot, they’re not about to buy into the idea that 70s/80s rock’n’roll died in the 70s/80s. People liked it then. They like it now. What’s not to like about new faces giving it a freshening new lease of life?
Well, plenty, if they’re awful. But this lot aren’t. There’s a place for boundary-testing bands, and those who function really well inside the boundaries. These guys tour the UK in September and October; why not pop along and watch? Hell, you’ll probably find them having a beer at the bar afterwards. Say hi if you like; they won’t bite, even if their name suggests otherwise.
It’s brilliant that bands of this style and scale can get out there. Let’s keep it that way.