Earlier this year, I wrote a combo review of a pile of new heavy rock discs, including Yeah!, the first notable effort in almost two decades from ’80s hair-metal titans Def Leppard. Yeah! is an all-covers tribute to ’70s British glam rock, and I gave it a backhanded compliment noting that it “acts proud to be part of a trend that’s not even happening.”
It’s time I apologize to the Leppard lads and take that back. There is a glam revival in progress, even if it’s simply a phlegm-ball in the overall trend that keeps leading new rock back to classic rock. What’s the surest sign of new interest in glam? The well-received recent disc of new material by the New York Dolls.
Are you kidding me? The notorious, short-lived New York Dolls, mythologized as elemental precursors of glam and punk, have actually put out their third studio album after 32 friggin’ years? Even with only two original Dolls still living, this is tantamount to hell freezing over. Better yet, their new disc, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, is a damn fine rock record, full of history and insight, spitting itself out with genuine flair, style and drama.
The new Dolls disc sits nicely with the latest by another glam-punk icon, grand mama riot grrrl Joan Jett. Her new disc, Sinner, is also a potent, personal and persuasive return from nonproductive remission. Can we expect other glam rock heroes to re-emerge? How about a Mott the Hoople reunion tour?
Canada’s Crash Kelly sincerely mimics T-Rex, Thin Lizzy and KISS on their second effort, Electric Satisfaction, which includes a cover of Alice Cooper’s glam-goth novelty nod to necrophilia, “Cold Ethyl.” Like the Dolls, Jett and another revivalist group Towers of London, Crash Kelly hold a clue to the musical basis of glam, which is the familiar Chuck Berry riff ‘n’ shuffle. But the Berry style exists in rock history independent of glam, which leads us back to the bigger picture: current rock’s fascination with classic rock.
Neoclassic rock sustained itself with depth for the first half of this decade. The White Stripes, the Hives and the Dirtbombs revived garage rock. Heavy metal bands like the Sword, High on Fire and Priestess pull ideas not from thrash or grunge but from the Sabbath/Zeppelin axis. Drive-By Truckers and My Morning Jacket have given a new face to Southern rock. Even the debut by Jack White’s new group the Raconteurs clearly echoes the Who and the Beatles.
At this point, I should confess my true agenda. I’m prattling on about glam and the classics because I’m really looking forward to the imminent sophomore disc Shine On by Aussie rockers Jet. This confession is a sacrifice of any hip credentials I may have; I should be pining for the new Shins album or discussing emo leaders like Talking Back Sunday, chamber-pop heroes like Sufjan Stevens or edgy indie duos like Fiery Furnaces.
Those acts all have cool albums out this year. But emo is the new mainstream, while chamber-pop and indie duos come preapproved as hip models for new rock. That leaves neo-classic rock as a real alternative. Jet are often derided for being derivative, sounding first like AC/DC and then like Oasis trying to sound like the Beatles. I’d like to gratefully add that my boys also sound like Bachman-Turner Overdrive, David Bowie, acoustic Stones and Aerosmith. Jet’s glam-punk cowbell-driven new single “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” also inspires me to quote my pals in Def Leppard by shouting out a big fat “Yeah!”