When I first started working at No Frills in 2004 I found an old shelf in the storage area. Affixed to the top were an old label and two cereal box stickers promoting the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. All three of the items dated back to the early 90s, a fact that blew the minds of my coworkers and I. These were historical relics to us.
In 2014 I was still working at that same No Frills, and one day at home I opened a shoebox of memories to find my very first pay stub. It was also a decade removed from me at that point, but the distance was not quite as shocking. It was not a bygone era, just “a while” ago.
Here in 2022 I am surrounded by things from 2012 – a decade ago – and they are still in regular rotation. Life has changed very, very little in the past 10+ years. Not just my life. I mean the world. Consider that I wrote this thinkpiece five years ago and it is just as applicable today.
No, for real, it’s not just me. We’ve all seen the memes where someone states that they still feel that 1990 was 10 years ago, or another similar warped sense of time. It simply does not feel that we are 22 years into a new millennium. Other than social media and a few must-have apps, what else have we achieved? Culture is stuck, scientific progress is at a standstill, and going to the dentist is still going to the dentist.
The 90s seemed destined to be mythologized immediately by the virtue of leading into the 2000s. The year 2000 was a divider that instantly rendered everything before it as uncool and obsolete, before keeping it around for two decades in the form of endless revivals, reboots, reunions and reappraisals. Other than a handful of blips we are still consuming the same things in slightly different ways. Teens are dancing to Elton John on TikTok and watching Batman on HBO Max. We are living in a recycled culture.
The 2000s in rock were as follows:
- The tail end of nu-metal, descended from grunge
- The garage rock revival, inspired by the 70s
- The mod rock revival, inspired by the 70s
- The post-punk revival, inspired by the 70s
- Emo (partially inspired by 90s, but OK one real touchstone)
- Mainstream indie (OK, one more touchstone)
- The beginnings of indie synth pop, inspired by the 80s
Not really much in terms of originality.
Not only that, but many of the biggest acts didn’t even belong to any of these subgenres. The big lasting hits that resonate with audiences to this day are from bands like Kings of Leon, Rise Against, Linkin Park, Silversun Pickups, AFI, Green Day, The Killers, Coldplay and Jimmy Eat World. A totally disparate group of artists that in many cases were only tangentially related to the supposed big sounds of the day but fit together like peas in a pod.
They might sound completely different, but when your eyes glide over from one name to the next they do so naturally. It’s a typical 2000s alt-rock playlist without a definition of what 2000s alt-rock is. They were glued to each other by virtue of being bundled together in Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
The 2000s were the era of Guitar Hero rock.
I have written far too many times about how the entire music industry flopped hard in the 2010s and also why Daft Punk were responsible for the worst era in music history, so I’ll refrain from doing that again. After all, I wouldn’t want to contribute to recycled culture.