More on Dad Rock

 Posted by
Jan 052011

My sister got me one of those nifty USB record players for Christmas, so I can burn all my vinyl to iTunes. Last night, I loaded up Rockpile‘s Seconds of Pleasure and NRBQ‘s At Yankee Stadium, and I got to thinking about certain musical values (as the Mod might say) that we highlight on this blog which are no longer au courant. And I got to thinking about Dad Rock again. So I’ll just flat-out ask this: Is Dad Rock basically anything that swings?


  57 Responses to “More on Dad Rock”

  1. [Mr. Mod sets down his pipe…] If that’s how the young punks who throw around that term define it it’s even more damming than that swing-less music they listen to!

  2. Two of my all-time favorite records (and this was true before I was a dad).

  3. Dad Rock is anything that explicitly tries to sound like and/or takes all of its stylistic cues from older forms of pop music. Sheryl Crow is Dad Rock, because someone weaned on ’70s singer-songwriters would find nothing challenging about her music, her lyrics, her Look, or her persona.

    Similarly, the last LCD Soundsystem album is Dad Rock because from the album cover on down, it’s all about Fripp ‘n’ Eno ‘n’ Bowie ‘n’ Byrne.

  4. bostonhistorian

    I’ve always thought of dad rock as being the kind of music that non-music lovers buy, i.e. they buy a couple of CDs a year from bands with a catchy bass/drums/guitar song they hear on the radio and then listen to it as background music, if at all. I also agree with the great 48’s point about it recycling older popular forms, although I’m not sure how many dads were Fripp/Eno/Bowie/Byrne fans. I shudder to think that dad rock is basically anything that swings, unless we’re talking huge Dave Kingman swings that miss a lot more than they connect…

  5. BigSteve

    I’m impressed by Oats’ LP priorities too.

    Aren’t dad rock and classic rock indistinguishable? Or maybe dad rock is either classic rock or something influenced by classic rock. Does classic rock include Blues Brothers type R&B, because that seems to be mostly what middle aged guys with garage bands play.

    But I don’t know, I’ve heard Wilco referred to as dad rock.

    I think an alternate definition to the one based on swing would be ‘anything featured in Mojo magazine.’

  6. I’m not particularly fond of the tag, but I can see why younger folks would coin a term like “Dad Rock.”

    If you were putting a Dad-rock-a-palooza concert together, I guess you could throw John Hiatt, Marshall Crenshaw, Graham Parker, and Garland Jeffreys on the bill.

    Relatively newer artists could be The Gaslight Anthem, The Greenhornes, and The Hold Steady.

    BTW — great NRBQ clip — man, didn’t Carlene Carter have it going on back in the day? She didn’t look as good after her final drug-fueled road trip with Howie Epstein. I saw her a couple of years ago at the Barns of Wolf Trap and she’s back on the straight and narrow, evidently. Still got a great voice.

  7. Wilco is a good call. Anything remotely alt-country — like Ryan Adams or Tweedy or Son Volt — is “dad rock” to some of the younger dudes I go on a golf trip with every year. These guys, who are in their mid-20s, listen to rap, or rap rock, or jam bands.

  8. YES!!! the great 48 is back! Man, no joke, you have been missed ’round these parts. Hope all is well.

    As much as I bitch and moan about this term, I do understand it. It was only a few years ago that I stopped derisively referring to the stuff the likes of cdm was trying to turn me onto as “Sinatra music!”

  9. misterioso

    I think some clarity is lacking here–maybe it is a generational thing, where some younger townspersons are actually thinking of music their dad likes/would like whereas others are thinking of a more general vibe such as bostonhistorian described well, since our dads probably didn’t listen to rock at all.

    Cheryl Crow seems to me a good example, i.e., rock-like music that people who have no particular interest in or knowledge of rock music can listen to or at least put on the stereo without feeling like they have completely surrendered to Lawrence Welk-dom.

    Whereas NRBQ–as much as the reverence towards them has always puzzled me, since I see them as not much more than what I saw in the clip, a supremely competent, not terribly interesting roots rock band with serious look issues–does not fit this description.

    I think, too, a major discussion (this is important, people!) needs to had to distinguish dad rock from golf rock.

  10. Golf Rock could = Dad Rock! — Hootie & the Blowfish, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Mick Fleetwood, Mike Mills, and more!

    Here’s a Golf Digest article from 2006, which is a pretty funny read.

  11. misterioso

    Ehh, I don’t know–I don’t see golf rock being coterminous with dad rock, nor do I see golf rock necessarily as the product of rock musicians who golf. Hootie, Fleetwood Mac, Huey Lewis? Heck yeah. Neil Young, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper? Not really. Golf rock can be made by non-golfers–it is not necessarily a direct connection to golf that makes golf rock but something less tangible and which I am having a hard time articulating.

  12. cherguevara

    I’ve written too much on this subject already, so I’ll just leave it by saying the term “dad rock” is a straw man dismissal of any music which the user of the term (most likely an elitist hipster) has decided has become too mainstream or well known to maintain any street cred or indie cachet.

  13. I sense cher’s got it right. I’m hopeful that someone who uses this term sincerely will step forth to educate some of us on what’s really intended. A big-assed DJ/former booking person once described my band as “good, for Dad Rock.” I need to know if that meant “good, for being influenced by actual Classic Rock bands I’m too cool to simply admit to liking” or if it meant – heaven forbid! – “good, for being influenced by the same shit as Counting Crows.”

  14. Well, mostly. I also see the validity of the Cheryl Crow position.

  15. bostonhistorian

    When I hear the term “dad rock” all I can think of is the cover of Huey Lewis and the News’s “Sports”.

    This topic is interesting since I spent last night putting some more music on my seven year old’s MP3 player. I’m afraid I’m setting her off on the path of being widely unpopular among her peers…

  16. bostonhistorian

    How many times have you ever heard someone use this term though? I’d never heard it until I started hanging out here. Usually I’ve just described the things enjoyed by dads and hippies as “crap”.

  17. I hear it/read it every other month or so, enough that – combined with (anymore) hearing songs from the mid-’80s on what used to be “Oldies Radio” – I feel like I’m 72 years old.

  18. cherguevara

    What set me off about it in the first place was when I saw some blogger refer to Arcade Fire as “dad rock.” I get the Sheryl Crow thing too and the whole Classic Rock/Golf Rock thing. I have never seen or heard the term used without negative implications.

  19. cherguevara

    How big was this DJ’s ass, exactly? Can we have a discussion about mom jeans too? Can you wear mom jeans while enjoying dad rock?

  20. Yes, I’ve seen that term applied to Arcade Fire too. Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that they were all the rage with the Pitchfork crowd? What is this, musical babies makin’ babies? Is it because they’re now Boss Approved? Is it the lead guy’s bad hair? That seems especially unfair and shortsighted of some young hipster punk. Aren’t those guys saving the planet with their 2-chord, 14-member stomps?

  21. I can see I still have my work cut out for me. This whole time I’ve been trying to turn you on to “Race Records” (no offense to Frank).

  22. I’m sorry if I reopened some old wounds regarding “dad rock.” That wasn’t my intention. I was more interested I guess in the lack of swing in music. Residual revulsion from the ’90s swing music revival? Something about those rhythms seems to set off “old timey” bells for some people, whether its Rockpile or Bob Wills. Right? Maybe I’m way off-base here.

    I don’t even think it’s necessarily a dad rock vs. cool rock thing. Springsteen doesn’t really swing, not since Ernie “Boom” Carter left the band, anyway.

    I’d like to add that this is maybe more about what music gets covered than what people actually listen to. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot always tell what a person listens to based on their perceived “coolness” factor, just like I can’t always tell what townspeople listen to when I visit them in the nursing home;)

  23. It’s funny, Oats, that you now hear swing as old fashioned. I’ve been complaining for years that “new music” doesn’t swing, that the minimum I wish for is a new band that swings (not really, because I’ll probably find fault with 10 other aspects of most bands). Meanwhile, I AM old fashioned. No need to apologize for opening old wounds. It’s all part of the process of healing.

  24. Maybe it’s directed at the music of a generation of aging rock fans who are still looking for something interesting but can’t quite keep up to date with the latest synth-fuzz-pop duo from Williamsburg. If so, it’s directed at me and I don’t care.

    And if that’s what is intended, it’s reductive and throws the baby out with the bathwater. But when a lot of us were coming up, we didn’t have a bunch of old dudes who wouldn’t get out of the way so I can see why it would be annoying… That said, the well-past-their-prime Donuts are playing at the North Star this Thursday followed by the still vital Nixon’s Head! We go on at 8:30.

  25. I heard about that show. I’ll see you there!

  26. I’m with Cher on this. Dad Rock is a dismissive term created by folks too cool to be seen listening to any music with classic rock values. I hear it applied to folks like Wilco and Neil Young. The folks that I know that listen to this are trying to find something tolike in the current music scene and finding very little. Sheryl Crow and Hootie are mainstream rock – this category still exists for people who but 3-4 CDs a year (says the guy who made a full post about Counting Crows, Rob Thomas and the Fray).

  27. Don’t use the term “Dad Rock” on the posters, OK?

  28. 2000 Man

    I use that term to bug people now and then. Mostly, I think it’s funny. Most people love their dad, but they don’t want to like his music, I suppose. Maybe they don’t want to like some other guy’s dad’s music. I think the playlist on WNWV V107.3 here in Cleveland is pure Dad Rock. It’s not bad, but it isn’t exactly groundbreaking and none of it will be The Next Big Thing. I checked their playlist and they played Yardbirds – Shapes of Things, Todd Rundgren – Can We Still Be Friends and Emotional Rescue by The Stones for some oldies. What else would that stuff be other than Dad Rock? Soccer Mom Rock? The Yardbirds just fall out of place for that distinction.

    The newer stuff was The acoustic version of Plush by STP, The Black Keys – Howlin’ For You, Phoenix Burn by Alpha Rev and Dogs Days are Over – Florence and the Machine. I love The Black Keys, but at this point in their career they aren’t as flat out brutal as their first album, and it’s pretty easy to get behind. The other stuff fits in and even if it’s brand new, it has a sense of familiarity to it. The new stuff fits in with some of the indie hipsters, too.

    I like to reserve the term for those dads that still seem to think that at this point, The Black Crowes are gonna make a great album, and so will Guns ‘N Roses and Rock will once again be king, and even their fifteen year old Rap fan kids will be converted by The Power and Glory of Rock. Fat chance. I don’t care if Bob Plant’s latest wound up on the top of some year end lists, in eighteen months no one will remember what it was called and the dads that bought it will still go to Physical Graffiti and forget they even had that latest album.

    If the term had existed, then Rockpile would have earned it, but I still think that’s a truly great album.

  29. Your thoughts round out the discussion nicely!

  30. ladymisskirroyale

    So, going back to Cher’s comments about Mom’s jeans, is there such a thing as Mom Rock? Do Moms rock? Does Mom Rock refer to a softer, gentler, more lyrical form of Dad Rock? RTH vocabularists want to know…

  31. 2000 Man

    This fucking football game is killing me.

    There’s definitely Mom Rock. I think it’s more Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift than anything right now, and that stuff is about as Country as Sak’s. I think Pink is definitely Mom Rock, and I think Mom Power is what drives Adam Lambert’s career, too.

  32. “is there such a thing as Mom Rock?”

    Yes. It’s called the Lilith Fair.

  33. mockcarr

    Football is such a Dad thing to watch.

    After Mom Rock is taken care of, are you gonna do Creepy Uncle Rock?

  34. cherguevara

    Watching my mother-in-law unexpectedly swoon over the idea of going to see a Rod Stewart concert was a stomach turning moment for me.

    I have another question for you all: Have you ever given up on a band/artist because they became popular?

  35. We may have to Main Stage this telling question. What do you think?

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    And don’t forget subgenre, Etsy Rock.

  37. bostonhistorian

    Is Pomplamoose Etsy Rock? That’s that came immediately to mind:

  38. Mom Rock – Sting, Sugarland, James Taylor, 90’s Elton John, Moody Blues (best of ), Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon (aka exactly what is on my Mom’s Cd player right now)

  39. And Pomplamoose…that’s a real “band” of some sort? Isn’t that the duo featured in some holiday-themed ad I saw 8 billion times over the holidays? I developed both a crush and disgust for the woman in those ads by the 6 billionth viewing. Where have I been?

  40. Black Crowes have broken up and G&R will not make another great album (or even a G&R album) in my lifetime…the “Dad Rock Dream” is over…(sigh)… win Linkin Park (damn you!)

  41. I have heard KT Tunstall described as “music your mom or auntie would like.”

  42. I’ll say! Is that David Arquette in 3 years’ time at the 1:23 mark?

  43. Let me second the welcome return of the great 48!

  44. I’ve commented before that indie/alternative/emo/every other genre of rock since Nirvana are just different ways of saying, as far as I’m concerned, “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”.

  45. machinery

    Dad Rock to me is like Danel Lanois — a “newer” guy but sounds like an “older” guy. So a dad can name drop him without sounding totally out of it or stuck in the 80s.

  46. machinery

    C’mon Mr. Mod … you can’t be this web savvy and not know Etsy!!

  47. machinery

    Robert Plant’s solo stuff feels Dad Rock to me. Old but new … if your kids heard it coming out of the car stereo they wouldn’t cringe (too much.)

  48. Really, I don’t know. I tried to Google the term, but the first dozen results that popped up seemed to be specific to some business and/or something about vintage stuff. I’m on pins and needles.

  49. BigSteve

    I was trying to explain the term to my 38 year old work colleague who had never heard it before. When I said ‘guitar-based music that refers to earlier styles,’ he said ‘you mean like Stone Temple Pilots and Nirvana.’

    I said I didn’t think anything punk-related counted, but now I’m not so sure. Wouldn’t a youngster consider London Calling dad rock, if not classic rock?

    Does irony, or its absence, play into this concept?

  50. bostonhistorian

    I dunno if they play shows or not. They’re big on the Yout Ube or something. They were indeed in the car ads. Hell, I’m just happy to see someone get paid, and I do like the style of their videos, which really demystify the music making process.

  51. bostonhistorian

    I take it this wasn’t the Rod Stewart she was excited about seeing: the guitar sound on this is ungodly. I haven’t given up on a band because they became popular. I’ve given up on plenty of bands because of what they’ve done to become popular.

  52. cherguevara

    Can I get “Dad Rock” rulings on the following artists?

    The Pixies
    Arctic Monkeys
    My Morning Jacket

    Thank you!

  53. alexmagic

    I don’t think it’s happened yet, but there is tremendous untapped power in the statement “The Clash is Dad Rock”. Seriously.
    Somebody younger than any of us, some day soon, is going to use some variation of that phrase on a blog or a music review site and will get a book deal/20 year pop culture commenting gig based solely on his/her use of said concept, regardless of how much, if any, truth there is to it.

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