This week saw the end of The White Stripes, the release of the final Streets album and LCD Soundsystem announce their final gig. Arguably three of the most important and lauded acts of the past decade, does their collective demise signify the end of a musical era?
Although a decade begins as the clock hits midnight and the disappointing fireworks erupt on a freezing December night, arguably the first year of a new decade is often somewhat of a cultural hangover. The year 2000 was characterised by tired and staid releases from the likes of Oasis, Manic Street Preachers and Travis (remember them?) and a slew of mediocre nu-acoustic acts like Turin Brakes and Starsailor being hailed as the saviours of guitar music. 2000 was also notable for the emergence of a group of UCL graduates with a sickly sweet ditty about one particular primary colour, but the less said about them, the better.
For me, the noughties really kicked off, in more ways than one, in late August and early September 2001. Whilst on a family holiday in the States that August I’d read a small piece in Rolling Stone, about a group of New Yorkers on the verge of releasing their debut album. On arrival back in the UK, everyone was going potty about said New Yorkers, Converse All Stars were being purchased by the bucket load and thanks to a campaign in the NME, said band had been moved up to a main stage slot at that years Reading Festival. The band in question were of course The Strokes and their debut album, Is This It, set the agenda for what was to come from countless guitar wielding copycats for the decade to come. Two weeks later, two planes were deliberately crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that the decade just begun was going to be a very different place from the one we had just left behind.
The Strokes arrival was followed by a flurry of interest in Detroit duo, The White Stripes, and a slew of other garage rock acts followed. Although Oasis managed to fill stadiums for several years to come, the rest of their late nineties counterparts were made to look like dinosaurs and inevitably went the way of the dodo (although apparently, Travis’ Fran Healy does still get recognised in Tesco sometimes).
2002 saw one Mike Skinner burst onto the scene, as his debut album as The Streets, saw him proclaimed as the British Eminem in the mainstream media. Although that comparison might have been a little off kilter, The Streets debut did prove that hip-hop could be done with a distinctly British voice and blew the doors open for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, and a whole host of new British hip-hop acts which were to follow.
LCD Soundsystem played a huge part in the revitalization of what had become a stagnant and bloated genre towards the end of the 1990’s, and managed to put shovels full of sentiment back into dance music, in a way that had not been seen since the best days of New Order.
Whilst these acts have left an indelible legacy on the musical landscape, which is clear to see in both the charts, and the new acts touted by the music press, does their collective ends suggest something new is likely to be around the corner? Let’s hope so.