Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Post punk revival

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Stylistic origins
Alternative rock indie rock post-punk new wave garage rock

Cultural origins
Late 1990s and early 2000s, United States and Europe

Typical instruments
Guitar bass drums keyboards

Post-punk revival (also known as "new wave revival", "garage rock revival" or "new rock revolution") is a genre of alternative rock and indie rock that developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, inspired by the original sounds and aesthetics of garage rock of the 1960s and new wave and post-punk of the 1980s. Bands that broke through to the mainstream from local scenes across the world in the early 2000s included the Strokes, Interpol, the White Stripes, the Hives and the Vines, who were followed to commercial success by many established and new acts. By the end of the decade, most of the bands had broken up, moved on to other projects or were on hiatus, although some bands returned to recording and touring in the 2010s.


Definitions and characteristics

In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped down and back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. They were variously characterised as part of a garage rock, new wave or post-punk revival. Influences ranged from traditional blues, through new wave to grunge. The music ranged from the atonal tracks of bands like Liars to the melodic pop songs of groups like the Sounds, popularising distorted guitar sounds. They shared an emphasis on energetic live performance and used aesthetics (in hair and clothes) closely aligned with their fans, often drawing on fashion of the 1950s and 1960s, with "skinny ties, white belts [and] shag haircuts". There was an emphasis on "rock authenticity" that has been seen as a reaction to the commercialism of MTV-oriented nu metal, hip hop and "bland" post-Britpop groups. Because the bands came from across the globe, cited diverse influences and adopted differing styles of dress, their unity as a genre has been disputed. For historian of garage rock Eric James Abbey, these were diverse bands that appropriated, or been given, the label "garage" to gain a degree of credibility.

Genres, scenes and origins

There were attempts to revive garage rock and elements of punk in the 1980s and 1990s, and by 2000, scenes had grown up as part of the alternative and indie music scenes in several countries. The Detroit rock scene included the Von Bondies, Electric Six, the Dirtbombs and the Detroit Cobras, while New York's included Radio 4, Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Rapture. Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from the United Kingdom, the (International) Noise Conspiracy from Sweden, and the's from Japan, enjoyed underground, regional or national success.

New wave was a term adopted in the aftermath of punk rock to describe a generation of bands who generally pursued a more commercially successful punk-influenced sound. Major acts included Talking Heads, Devo, the Cars, the Go-Go's, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello and "skinny tie" bands like Blondie and the Knack. The term post-punk was originally coined to describe groups of this era who took punk and experimented with more challenging musical structures, lyrical themes, and a self-consciously art-based image, while retaining punk's initial iconoclastic stance. AllMusic argued that rather than a revival, the history of post-punk was more of a continuum from the mid-1980s, with scattered bands that included Big Flame, World Domination Enterprises, and Minimal Compact extending the genre. In the mid-1990s, notable bands in this vein included Six Finger Satellite, Brainiac and Elastica. American band Satisfact was also considered as an early example of the new wave revival sound.

At the turn of the century, the term post-punk began to appear in the music press again, with a number of critics reviving the label to describe a new set of bands that shared some of the aesthetics of the original post-punk era. Music critic Simon Reynolds noted that bands like the Rapture and Franz Ferdinand were influenced by the more angular strain of post-punk, particularly bands such as Wire and Gang of Four. Others identified this movement as another wave of garage rock revivalism, with NME in 2003 designating it a "new garage rock revolution", or simply a "new rock revolution". According to music critic Jim DeRogatis, the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Hives all had a sound "to some extent rooted in Nuggets-era garage rock".

Commercial breakthrough

The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands: the Strokes, who emerged from the New York club scene with their debut album Is This It (2001); the White Stripes, from Detroit, with their third album White Blood Cells (2001); the Hives, from Sweden, with their compilation album Your New Favourite Band (2001); and the Vines, from Australia, with Highly Evolved (2002). Both the Strokes and the White Stripes obtained their initial commercial success in the UK, before achieving recognition in the US and elsewhere. They were christened by the media as the "The" bands, and dubbed "the saviours of rock 'n' roll", prompting Rolling Stone magazine to declare on its September 2002 cover, "Rock is Back!" The attention in the press in turn led to accusations of hype, and some dismissed the scene as unoriginal, image-conscious and tuneless. According to Simon Reynolds, "apart from maybe the White Stripes, none could really be described as retro".

In the wake of this attention existing acts like Yeah Yeah Yeahs were able to sign to major record labels. A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included Interpol, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Killers, Kings of Leon, the Catheters, Mooney Suzuki and the Go from the US. From the UK were Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Maxïmo Park, Editors, the Cribs, the Libertines, the Fratellis, Razorlight and Kaiser Chiefs. Arctic Monkeys were the most prominent act to owe their initial commercial success to the use of Internet social networking, with two number one singles and Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006), which became the fastest-selling debut album in British chart history.


As a dominant commercial force, the revival was relatively short-lived. By 2007, the initial success of the movement was beginning to subside, leading commentators to discuss its decline as a phenomenon and argue that it had been overtaken by the more musically and emotionally complex music of indie rock bands like Arcade Fire (which, nevertheless, has been characterized by critics as featuring post-punk influences and sound) and Death Cab for Cutie. By the end of the decade, many of the bands of the movement had broken up, were on hiatus or had moved into other musical areas, and very few were making significant impact on the charts. Bands that returned to recording and touring in the 2010s included Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes and Interpol.


Post-punk revival Wikipedia