2 · Final Straw

Rock. Dad Rock. One is cool; one is sad. What was once Rock can become Dad Rock—the Who, for example, or U2—while some Dad Rock springs whole from the earth, ejected from the volcano of fashion by the seismic shifts of youth culture. The age of the performers has nothing to do with it: if you appeal to thirty-something men, you’re Dad Rock. Bad luck, kid.

If you are a thirty-something man, you might bristle at this label, especially if you’ve been known to pick Dad Rock classics as your albums of the year. Well, screw it. I like Coldplay, and Travis. I know they’re derivative; so what. Who isn’t?

But even I balked at Keane, who are derivative of Coldplay and Travis. They don’t have a chance of being Rock without the Dad—where are the guitars? And yet... those first few listens to Hopes and Fears got their Dad Rock hooks into my thirty-something brain. Okay, catchy singles, I’ll give them that. Okay, “Can’t Stop Now” is good too, the way they sing “cahhhnt”. And there’s “On a Day Like Today”, which was inexplicably omitted from the non-UK/Japan versions of the album. In fact, very little of it is bad, except the track that sounds like 10CC. So why does it leave me uneasy?

My theory is that if the progenitors of this particular rock lineage—Bends-era Radiohead—are the equivalent of a natural high (coca leaves, say), then Coldplay and Travis must be a synthesized drug: refined and addictive, but a bit of a cheat. Which makes Keane the electrodes feeding directly into the pleasure centres of your brain. Sure, you want to keep pressing the button, pressing the button, keep pressing it, keep pressing the button... but you’re being played. There are record company executives in lab coats doing a Dad Rock experiment on your head, and you’re the monkey with shaved temples.

And so you turn away from the easy pleasures of Dad Rock, and search for something new. How about Ash—aren’t they teenagers? Okay, weren’t they... eight years ago, when 1977 was your album of the year. Never mind, the new album rocks! Loud, abrasive, tuneful, and almost as good as... their stuff from eight years ago. Not that new, then.

How about that band your tasteful friend recommended—the one with the really long album title that you keep seeing in the Scottish Bands section of Avalanche? (Not originally Scottish, as it turns out, but they’re based here.) They have a new one out... and it’s really very good. Very good. Excellent, in fact. So good that it’s racing up the charts... and being advertised on television, and making every critic’s list of favourites, and being nominated for the Mercury Prize. Which means that in a few years everyone will be calling it Dad Rock.

This time, I really don’t care. It’s not often I hear an album as strong as Final Straw and a band as accomplished as Snow Patrol. The singles “Chocolate” and “Run” must have been arbitrary choices: every other track on the album is just as good. After pressing the button umpteen times, I swapped over to their previous album, When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up, and it’s almost as outstanding; I should have paid attention earlier. Their first (Songs For Polar Bears, nearly the same vintage as 1977) is less well-developed, but has its moments too.

So, nineties indie may have mutated into Dad Rock, but fresh strains of Rock are still breaking out across Britain. While everyone was watching Keane, the keen eyes were on Glasgow, and 2004 ended up belonging to Snow Patrol and Franz Ferdinand (whose debut was also good, but I was too busy listening to Final Straw to give it the attention it deserved). Pick up a copy of the best rock album of the year and go, Dad, go.

Here’s what people said about this entry.

Well, that didn't take long. For “a few years” read “a few hours”: today's Guide in The Guardian lumps Snow Patrol in with Keane as Coldplay-influenced bands that aren’t “remotely interesting” and are both, presumably, Dad Rock. Silly me, thinking that Snow Patrol were eminently listenable and distinctive. Thanks for setting me straight with your withering English wit, Grauniacs!

Added by Rory on a Saturday in December.

There's still Aerogramme and Biffy Clyro, definetly not Dad Rock.

Added by Matt on a Monday in December.

Thanks for the tip, Matt—I’ll check ’em out.

Added by Rory on a Tuesday in December.