Tag Archives: dad rock

A Mom’s Guide to Dad Rock

12 Jun

Fathers Day cardIn our two-mom household, our kids have to double up on Mother’s Day but they get Father’s Day off. Probably a lot of men wish they could get that day off, too. I truly feel for dads on Father’s Day. Those guys deserve more respect.

Mother’s Day, for all its emphasis on feminine frippery and mass-produced jewelry that’s “as unique as she is,” at least comes from a place of genuine affection. It’s built around wanting Mom to bask in appreciation because “she does so much” and “she deserves a break.”

Father’s Day, on the other hand, seems to be nothing but a reminder of the guy’s shortcomings. Power tools, golf clubs, ties, cologne: those gifts tells Dad he needs to fix some things around the house, improve his game, sharpen up in the clothes department and smell better. And good luck finding a greeting card that doesn’t include one of the following:

  • Farting
  • Beer
  • Lack of hair (on head)
  • Too much hair (everywhere else)
  • The hopelessness of their musical taste

Yeah, Dad Rock often rears its balding head on the third Sunday in June. I’ve covered that topic before, but in case you haven’t committed that post to memory, the term essentially has two meanings:

  1. classic American rock from the late 1970s/ early 1980s that pretty much any Caucasian man over 40 can sing word-for-word
  2. indie American rock from the late 2000s-present that a lot of Caucasian men over 40 embrace so they can be perceived as cool, even though they would much rather be singing along with Huey Lewis instead

dad rocks the onsieThere’s been an intensive effort to reframe the term by adding a single “s” to the phrase, turning it into “Dad Rocks,” which can be easily plastered on mugs, t-shirts and other tchotchkes. Still, the better option would be to ensure that fathers have a genre they can own and enjoy without pity or scorn.

So, whether you’re a dad or not, here are three of my suggestions for freshening up your playlist without going too far off the map from familiar territory:

Kurt Vile

(Yeah, that’s his real name.) Vile’s voice is a bit of an acquired taste, and one song often sounds a lot like the next, but wait – don’t walk away! He’s got a swirling lyrical style and a muscular acoustic approach that’s kind of like a mellower version of Pavement. Smoke Ring for My Halo is my favorite of his albums – find it, pour yourself a couple fingers of something special and enjoy.

Jake Bugg

Okay, he’s a Brit. And he has only one album, named after himself. And he’s barely 20, meaning he’s younger than the baby on the cover of Nevermind. Before you dismiss him as another Bieber, try him out: he’s got Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel and even some Johnny Cash and Hank Williams in his soul. Give the opening track, “Lightning Bolt,” a listen and just try not to tap along to the beat on your steering wheel.

The Hold Steady

If you wish Bruce Springsteen would move to Minneapolis and get drunk and high a lot more often, check out these guys. Lead singer and lyricist Craig Finn is a great storyteller with some killer lines, as in “Stuck Between Stations” from Boys and Girls in America:

She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend 

And they did a song for the end credits of Game of Thrones – how much cooler can you get?

With that, Happy Father’s Day to all the men to whom it applies – and wear your Dad Rock (no “s”) shirt with pride this year!

See you on the flip side …

I live my life like I wasn’t invited

14 Dec

My older daughter and I were happily ensconced in the balcony at the Fillmore this past weekend at the Wilco concert. We both really enjoyed it, although initially she was disappointed with the seat location, having expected that general admission meant standing on the main floor within sweating distance of the band. As for me, I was thrilled. Not only would I be able to sit down instead of being shoved against the barricades for four hours, but I’d also be able to enjoy the concert with my daughter at my side rather than losing each other in the flow of the crowd. As an added bonus, I could also put my jacket on my seat and save the $4 coat check.

Jeff Tweedy's got to plow the back forty after the show

Wilco’s music has been labeled by a few critics as “dad rock.” In case you have any doubt, it’s not a compliment. Urban Dictionary has four definitions of the term, all of them pointing to the painful unhipness of fathers where musicology is concerned. There is also a distaff term:  “mom rock” is “a genre of rock music that appeals to thirty- and forty-something Caucasian women, many of whom have children. Examples include Bon Jovi, Nickelback, and Los Lonely Boys.”

This reflects a bitter truth that is as old as rock and roll itself: parents are congenitally unable to be cool, therefore any band or song we like is uncool by definition. If a parent accidentally stumbles on  a cool band or song and professes to like it, its coolness dissipates like frost on a car hood. (Adele, you’ve been warned.)

Yet every parent believes he or she is the exception to the rule and will do anything to prove it. They will provide tutorials for their teenagers on how to handle vinyl now that LPs are back into vogue. They will petition to have Nickelback sent back to Canada rather than play at halftime at the Lions’ Thanksgiving game. They will attend a Wilco concert and text pithy Wilco lyrics to appear on the screen above the stage to prove they know their stuff and deserve to be there. Attention must be paid!

Then the illusion of our collective cool is broken by a lady in her forties in Tina Fey glasses and scrunchy hat who danced like no one was watching (although a couple hundred people behind her had no choice)—a gooney shadow puppet against the wall of lights who blocked my view of half the band for half the night. We just cannot escape who we are, can we?

Wilco’s lead singer Jeff Tweedy is doing his best to make the dad rock moniker represent something noble and misunderstood, per his Men’s Journal interview:

When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock … when people hear something that makes them think, “This is derived from some sort of continuation of the rock ethos,” it gets labeled dad rock. And, to me, those people are misguided. I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?

Wilco has kept moving forward rather than becoming an ossified version of their younger selves. The band has evolved in interesting ways, moving from their country-steeped first albums through the Radiohead-inflected aural wall of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and the loneliness and warmth of Sky Blue Sky to the present. Their most recent album, The Whole Love, plays like a Greatest Hits of their previous work, which is a compliment. It has the winsomeness of “Walken,” the density of “Ashes of American Flags” and the Beatles influence of “You Never Know.” It’s pretty hip stuff, not gooney in the least.

Here, try out “Born Alone” to see what I mean:

Not bad for a dad, in my opinion.

(That never-ending chord is a Shepard tone, an audio trick the Beatles used at the end of “I Am the Walrus.” Be sure to tell your kids so they have even more reasons to roll their eyes.)

See you on the flip side …

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