“Don’t Look Back:” A Pop Revival Primer, Part III (2010)

Living in 2010 it was easy to see that things were changing. Florence and the Machine had a hit album; Mad Men was finally getting the mainstream attention it deserved. Straight storytelling was taking the place of stand-up comedy, wayfarers had replaced aviators as the sunglass of the masses, and neon was king again.

It was a victory for good taste, but at the same time America saw the debut of Ke$ha, Jersey Shore, and those weird shoes with the toes. To be a hipster meant living with the fear that every new and exciting cultural phenomenon would be quietly crushed. But they weren’t.

The term Pop Revival was coined by the Fling in May of 2010, who described their sound as sixties pop mixed with nineties technology. In faraway Australia, Dream Pop* was being born. And driven by Mad Men, the aesthetic style of the 1960s came back in a big way. Television had displaced radio as a cultural catalyst, and the success of Pop Revival owes as much to Don Draper as it does to Alex Turner, Jon Fratelli, Cassie Ramone, or Ezra Koenig.

Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of the action.

*The term “dream pop” is thirty years old, but the original usage relates the the same naming problem that gave us the troublesome terms “post-punk,” “new wave,” and worst of all “indie.” If you are curious what the problem is, I can explain it all in the comments.

MGMT – “Kids”

When: 28 May 2009
Where: The southbound 605
Who: Assorted people
Weather: Mild

I was invited to a beach party by the girlfriend of an old neighborhood friend, and I decided to go. Unexpectedly I found myself with more than a few girls I’d known from middle school, but the Pasadena area catholic school circuit is a small world.

That spring was my britpop phase and I was on my way out, but it was a shock to hear contemporary music on the way down to Orange County. They alternated between KIIS-FM and KROQ, and was surprised to hear this song. Wasn’t it already pretty old? The whole ordeal made me feel very out of place, and I decided that once I got my composure and got back to San Francisco, I’d make more of an effort to be in touch with current culture.

It would be a while.

Next: “Take it on the run.”