Jun 192012

Stray Cats in black and white.

I heard Brian Setzer on the radio this weekend. I started to think that here is a guy that has made a long career of being a musical revivalist. I loved the Stray Cats for a short time — dancing to “Rock This Town” ’til I was a sweaty mess.

I also saw the first incarnation of the Brian Setzer Orchestra in the early ’90s at DC’s 9:30 Club. At the time, I took my now-wife, we were just looking for something to do — and had no idea what we were in for that night. We saw them setting up the Lawrence Welk music stands with a “BSO” logo and I thought — “we might want to get up close for this.” It was a fantastic show — and one my wife still talks about.

Sure the schtick got old for both bands, but the first time you hear or see it, it can be kind of cool.

So my question is — what rock revivalists do you enjoy?


  40 Responses to “Do You Like Any “Revivalist” Rock?”

  1. Great question, funoka. I’ll have to think about this, since I love lots of music that’s tied into past styles but often balk at outright revivalist rock. When they came out I found the Stray Cats extremely exciting for about 12 minutes, for instance, before getting snobbish about them. I’m not sure I stand behind my behavior, mind you.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Funoka — we may have commiserated about this in a past thread, but I think we both went to that BSO show, with the same expectations, and the same blown-away/holy shit/that was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen experience. Mockcarr was there, too, BTW. In fact, I think he was the guy that instigated the ticket-buying, though I can’t for the life of me imagine why. Neither of us were/are Stray Cats fans.

    As far as revivalist music is concerned — it’s hard to pinpoint where revivalism starts and ends in a genre like the blues, but if there was ever a revivalist blues band, I’d say the Fabulous Thunderbirds were it. I loved all their albums up to “Tuff Enuff,” and still break them out today, even though I now know most of the source material to which they were slavishly devoted.

  3. bostonhistorian

    I’m currently digging J.D. McPherson, who’s doing the late 50s early 60s r’n’b rock and roll thing.


    I find blues revivalists and rockabilly purists kind of boring, since both forms are really limited in what you can do with them and almost all of the ska revival (both second and third waves) is terrible. That being said, I’ve also enjoyed the 70s soul style of someone like Mayer Hawthorne. And would you call Green Day revivalists?

  4. 2000 Man

    Isn’t everything some kind of rvival? I almost always like 2nd generation things more than the first, like bands that sound like The Beatles or Led Zeppelin more than I like those bands themselves. One of the things I like most is usually called garage rock revival, but it never went away, so it just sounds like garage rock to me. I don’t need people to reinvent the wheel. I just want them to write good, fun songs.

  5. shawnkilroy

    I like the Blues and Carnival music revival of one Tom Waits.

  6. Ska is a good example — I still break out some English Beat and Specials from time to time — is that second wave?

    To me, Green Day has more of their own thing going, although I never was a huge fan. I see them as more derivative than aping a style — andy relying so heavily on covers — like the Stray Cats did.

    On the country-rock side of the house, I still dig Dwight Yoakam, who has written some great songs of his own — but mixes in a bunch of Buck Owens-style stuff that is clearly revival-esque.

  7. The English Beat and The Specials are 2 clear revivalist bands I like a lot. I run, however, from 3rd-wave ska bands from Boston and places like that.

  8. I like some revival music although I will turn on it quick if it devolves into a paint by numbers rote performance. Unfortunately, blues has been ruined for me by seeing too many of these types of performances.

    I like the Hot Club of Cowtown, a three piece based in Austin who play old timey music that is two thirds Bob Wills and one third Django Reinhardt. Their recordings are good but to see them live is a whole other thing. They are flat out virtuosos, but they still retain a warmth that I find often gets lost with most other players of the shredding variety (bluegrass, metal, etc.) I may have mentioned it here before but two of them were in a 10 piece Texas Swing band in NYC. They would play every Monday night for free, and often when I went to see them, there were more people on stage than there were in the crowd. I never could figure that out. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, it was so well done that I don’t see how it couldn’t be interesting on some level.
    Here’s the group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXe-K_gLX6A

    and here’s just Whit, the guitar player:

    I also have a soft spot for the rockabilly revival subculture. I like the music but am also amazed at their dedication to the scene, (the right instruments, clothes, cars, etc)

  9. Dwight Yoakam is great, as is Junior Brown: http://youtu.be/VRMNeoaosQw

    I recently discovered that Junior Brown does the music for Spongebob Squarepants.

  10. If you like rockabilly (and I do!), I suppose that the entire genre is by definition revivalist. Except that if you limit yourself to only the orignal recordings (which I don’t), does that make you a traditionalist instead of a revivalist? Same question with swing or jump blues. I like the originals (e.g., Louis Jordan) and the revivalists (e.g., Big Sandy, who does all kind of genres, including jump blues). If you like jump blues, or swing, or whatever else you want to call it, I suppose you must be revivalist. Same thing with other genres like garage, surf, or even bluegrass.

  11. Suburban kid

    Here’s something pretentious I wrote on this topic about a particular band, on an old defunct blog:

    The Milkshakes (featuring Billy Childish and Mickey Hampshire) were, to coin a term, extra-retro, that is, not simply revivalists or nostalgia merchants, but a group of artists respectful of past traditions who also actually improved on the original. (The original, in this case, being Cavern/Star Club-era British beat.) Kid Vinil in Brazil wrote in his blog about a show he saw where the Milkshakes opened up for Link Wray at the Electric Ballroom in London in the early 1980s. Google Translate mangles his native Portuguese:

    But it was there that understand the intent of the sound of Milkshakes “garage” in their smallest detail.

    The sound was dirty, the amplifiers were all old vintage, and the voice of Billy was connected to an old valve amplifier that sent you a few boxes of estouradas and voice distorted.

    Initially I was disappointed with the technical quality of the sound, as expected at the main stage with all that paraphernalia of light and sound.

    Now the originality and authenticity of sound Sixties thing that moment was priceless, it seemed that I was back in time and was seeing a band called the “British Invasion” in the 60s. The show of Link Wray was spectacular, but the brightness of Milkshakes that night was in my memory for ever.

    It’s in my memory forever too – I was there, and also at a few other Milkshakes gigs, most memorably at the legendary Hope and Anchor pub in Islington. Listen to their take on Bo Diddley’s Cadillac to hear this sense of respect for tradition without stooping to mere tribute; listen to their own composition – Jaguar – to hear a straight-faced British twist on the long-established American tradition of singing about cars.

  12. Suburban kid

    Basically, punk-informed rockabilly/beat/garage usually does it for me (take one genre and avoid being a revivalist by throwing in another genre wist), as long as it isn’t too cartooney. I love the Cramps, but their legacy is too many rockabilly and garage gig posters with graphics of skeletons in cowboy hats driving dragsters.

  13. Slim Jade

    Well, The Cramps are up there, of course. Ditto Hasil Adkins, anything Billy Childish related, The Flamin’ Groovies, Tav Falco, The Crawdaddys, The Paladins, and the 5,6,7,8’s.

    Currently, there are a couple of good bands that dig around in the attic, irregardless of Simon Reynolds’ wincing reaction.

    I like Hanni El Khatib’s “knife fight music”, the Northern Soul of Nick Waterhouse, Bloodshot Bill’s Sun Studios pastiche, and the garage buskers The Ferocious Few.

  14. misterioso

    My gut answer is “hell no.” That revival rock and its fans is the equivalent of Civil War reenactors. Vaguely pathetic. But as several have pointed out, huge swaths of rock and roll can be pegged as revivalist in some sense–from the Beatles on down. Partly, of course, it is a question of the artist’s stance towards the material, and generally I am as uninterested in the self-conscious revivalist as in the blatant rip-off artist. Which category Brian Setzer goes in is unclear to me, but after the initial kick of hearing “Rock This Town” all those years ago he simply does not interest me. Whereas The Flamin’ Groovies were one of the great bands ever. So.

  15. Very cool, Suburban kid. I think Childish is heads above most other musicians who work in this general territory. On record his bands really do conjure a weird, specific sound and scene. I wish I had seen the Milkshakes live.

  16. Yes! Another great example that I haven’t listened to in awhile! The Hot Club of Cowtown fiddle player — Elana James — put out a great solo record too. Some of you may have seen her play with Dylan, too.

    Not really rock, but I also like Laura Cantrell, who did a revialist Kitty Wells tribute album last year. She did a great cover of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”


  17. The Flamin’ Groovies may be most like The Milkshakes. They really straddled standard, slavish revivalism and revivalism, which brought a certain era’s sound and vibe back to life. The fact that they were doing so just a couple years after the fact of the originators of the music they were plundering makes them all the more unusual.

  18. There do seem to be certain genres almost incapable of “progressing” – and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.

  19. mockcarr

    Yes. Good songs don’t give a shit about genres.

  20. That’s deece.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    No you don’t. Besides Childish’s lantern-jawed, he-man good looks, the band seems to have nothing on display here:


  22. BigSteve

    As Mod suggests, the most important part of revivalism is making the old style come alive, and too few musicians are up to it. There’s a fine line, and we each have to draw it, but if you don’t bring something to the style you’re trying to revive I will be mortified.

  23. Suburban kid

    At the risk of making excuses (the good looking guy isn’t Childish btw), the video shot for that gig in Nottingham also failed to bring out the original, grungy, vibe of the other London bands who were filmed at that festival. They were in a big venue away from their local fans and small club comfort zone and miked up by a film crew telling them where to stand, etc.

    Maybe the After School Sessions LP instead? Seriously greasy sound, valve amps, all pre-1967 gear and early R&R songs but played by guys who were teens in 1977.

    Childish does not always hit the mark and repeats himself a lot (with that volume of material who wouldn’t) but he’s still an example of a revivalist who isn’t slavish.

  24. bostonhistorian

    I also got a kick out of BR549, which were as revivalist as it gets.

  25. bostonhistorian

    Yes, English Beat and Specials are second wave. Most of the third wave bands apparently decided they wanted to be Madness, whom I love, but couldn’t pull it off.

  26. bostonhistorian

    Hot Club of Cowtown is good stuff.

  27. Slim Jade

    Crazy ’bout that North Side Gal!

  28. I like a bit of those Nuggets 2 garage-rock revival guys like The Lyres, Fleshtones and Original Sins.

  29. America, we don’t do ska very well.

  30. 2000 Man

    I love that whole Rockabilly thing. I know, the whole genre is based on manipulating the same damned song, but it’s a great song! You have to admire their dedication. They’re never gonna get rich, or famous. They play in front of next to no one. But I love seeing that stand up bass, and maybe a stand up drummer. One of my favorite local bands around here pretty much forever is The Lords of the Highway. I’ve seen them a bunch of times and they’re always great. Older videos have a woman named Sugar playing the bass. She puts on a hell of a show, lemme tell ya!

  31. 2000 Man

    I’ve got Thee Headcoats – Beach Bums Must Die and I think it’s terrific, but I don’t think I need a shelf full of Childish’s music. He’s definitely the real deal, though.

  32. 2000 Man

    I like a lot of that stuff, too. But like BigSteve said, some of it can be a bit much (I don’t know about mortifying!). Like The Chesterfield Kings or Brian Jonestown Massacre, when they nail it they really nail it. When they don’t put forth 100% effort it gets hard to convince some people there’s anything there at all.

  33. The Original Sins were great. I don’t think they were slavish and the personality of JT dripped all over any sense of slavish reenactment.

  34. One act that I like, sort of a faux revival band, was Kid Creole and the Coconuts. They slapped together a bizarre melange of Big Band, Latin, Ska and Disco and made it work. I first encountered them live opening for the English Beat, and they were awesome.

  35. ladymisskirroyale

    They’re “a wonderful thing, baby.”

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    There was a big cross over between those 3rd wave ska bands and the mid/late 90’s Swing revival bands, like Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. They were fun to dance to but were kind of cloying and lacked the staying power of the 2nd wave ska bands (either that or I’m an old fart).

    I still prefer a lot of the 2nd wave ska to the originals; it wasn’t until the last 10 years or so that I realized that many of those Specials songs were covers. I’m still a sucker for Terri “Mum, I want to go home” Hall’s voice.

  37. hrrundivbakshi

    I disagree. Our *popular* ska sucks eggs, but there’s lots of good ska out there on the indie circuit. Hepcat was freaking glorious. I’m currently producing an album for a DC group called Eastern Standard Time, and they’re the real deal as well. Here’s a horrible video of theirs, for an excellent track with the HVB touch (a preliminary mix, but not bad). Please note, the band had *no involvement* in the creative process for this video! Also note that the only band members actually featured are the singer, and — briefly — the drummer, during the scooter scene. I feel compelled to point this out because the video is truly dreadful. It was a student project at a local university. Anyhow, close your eyes and enjoy the sweet music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlLMTJavA2U

  38. We have a local band named Jumpin’ Jupiter that plays small bars, outdoor car shows, etc., and I don’t hate it when I see them. They also opened for Jim Lauderdale (who is somewhat of a bluegrass revivalist himself at times) when he was “in residence” at the old 9:30 as I recall.

    Robert Gordon is another rockabilly guy that I don’t think anyone has mentioned. My buddy had his “with Link Ray” album and it was pretty good as I recall.

  39. Slim Jade

    I wouldn’t call them revivalists per se, but Jon & Jared Mattson do a great contemporary jazzy twist on the Surf genre:

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube