When: 11 July 2008
Where: My bedroom
Weather: Hot, dry
When Genres Collapse
The Flobots are the type of band that could only have released a hit like “Handlebars” in 2008. As the end of the Bush Administration became clear, tastemakers began deliberately distancing themselves from the rest of the decade. Girls in New York were wearing sundresses, and pants that went up to their waists. Many had even stopped shaving their nether regions, as had been the custom. Men were wearing hats again.
But these changes were not so kind to popular music. Autotune was king, Soulja Boy was supermanning ho’s. Formerly promising bands either released uneven albums (The Kooks, Kaiser Chiefs, The Fratellis), broke up (Gnarls Barkley), or simply never showed up (Arctic Monkeys). What few new bands arrived on the scene that year were seldom played on the radio and never formed a true movement. Remember all that fawning over Santigold? Rock and Roll in 2008 was like Saigon in 1975.
In in this environment, it’s no surprise that “Handlebars” by the Flobots became a hit, and it’s just as unsurprising that they were never heard from again. The Young Turks interviewed them that summer night, and there were many others like them. And with every band that came and went, I began to imagine that this was what it must have been like to live in 1980. To cope with disco, not knowing the end was near, waiting for New Wave to come and save the day. It would be a while.
Next: “And so I’ll go…”