Rock Bands Go Disco: Why The Killers, Arcade Fire & More Returning In The Late ’70s


There might not be a more logical career choice for a band like The Killers in 2017 than playing disco.

When the new single “The Man” hit the internet on a Wednesday afternoon like John Travolta from 1977, with a rumbling synth hook, muffled drum pulse, and a Brandon Flowers chorus (in semi-falsetto, natch ), it sounded like an evolution so obvious that the only really surprising thing about it was that it took so long.

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Partly that’s because The Killers has always been at least a little bit of a disco from the very beginning. As far as the escape has struck “Someone told me,” the band’s best hits have always been seasoned with monstrous synths, propellant drums, and Copacabana glitter, sold by a neat and oft-adapted leader who looks like he’s never been held back by a cord of velvet in his life. . But that’s also because rock bands these days leaning on their disco instincts isn’t nearly the shock it once was – hell, half of the Killers’ veteran alternative rock peers. have already done this year.

Austin Spoon’s independent mainstays got sharper than ever in March warm thoughts, their once-piercing guitar attack is now choppy like Nile Rodgers, with once-esoteric singer Britt Daniel now vocally approaching fans as a culturally sensitive Robert Plant. French soft-rock groovesters Phoenix pushed their arpeggiators to Ti Amo wrote the most scintillating concept album of the year on ice cream fun. Even Arcade Fire, once the successors of flags U2 and Springsteen at their most serious, sound on the new single “Everything Now” as if they’ve just had a life-changing experience dancing down the aisles of Mom Mia! The list is long and there are more and more people.

None of these transformations are in themselves shocking. Spoon first flirted with disco ten years ago with the ghostly funk of “I Turn My Camera On”, one of their biggest underground hits. Phoenix’s European roots and heavy reliance on synths never took them too far from the electronic world. Arcade Fire’s Reflektor The album (and title song single) dove into the darker side of disco, with help from previous revivalist James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Studio 54 OG David Bowie. But none have ever gone all the way into the leisure costume era before – there’s a difference between Brandon Flowers displaying some disco DNA and him actively trying to summon Barry Gibb; between Spoon putting hips in their skeletal rock and them basically redo To kiss’ “I was made to love you.” And with the timing of all these dancefloor developments happening so quickly, it’s hard to take it as a coincidence.

Of course, it’s not unprecedented that indie is launching en masse into disco: a decade and a half ago, bands like The Rapture, Radio 4, and the aforementioned LCD Soundsystem briefly transformed “discopunk.” to the sound of the New York underground – but it was a budding scene, not a bunch of festival headlining heirloom acts making a collective conscious left turn. Really, it’s more like the first time rock and disco got together – in the late ’70s when classic rockers established as far back as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Blondie didn’t just get together. hooked on dancing 4/4 hits, but Billboard Hot 100 hits did. At the time, disco was becoming the dominant force in popular music, and rock bands (and / or their labels) felt compelled to come on board or be dusted off like dinosaurs – although many performers did. rock who attempted such a crossover were ultimately vilified for doing so, with fans memorable expressing their disgust as they gathered in their tens of thousands at Chicago’s Comiskey Park to symbolically demolish gender literally blowing up a whole bunch of his records.

Rock may have won the battle, but four decades later disco seems to have won the war: the ’10s saw most of the big rock groups being ousted from the center of the mainstream by (among other things) the boom. of EDM, leaving groups accustomed to mass success and attention to finding new directions in which they can take their music while remaining part of the contemporary conversation. Although seen as anathema to serious music fans in the ’70s, in 2017 disco represented a sort of haven for these bands – rocking has largely been wiped out from critical conversation, with the’ Disco Sucks’ movement. Was exposed as implicitly racist. and the homophobic feeling it always has been, and bands declaring their love for ABBA or Giorgio Moroder now feel as harmless as citing Led Zeppelin or The Clash as an influence. It’s an easy way for bands to make their way into the wider pop world without sacrificing their stadium largesse or their ingrained live sound, and without potentially sounding as ridiculous as they could if they adopted. a more explicitly modern genre like trap or dubstep.

In fact, even embracing disco at this point could end up leaving some of those bands abandoned as relics of sorts. Despite EDM’s dominance over the popular music sound of the ’10s, the progressive house that largely defined the first half of the decade has since given way on the charts to dancehall syncope and light tropical grooves. You can hardly hear such 4/4 stiffness on the radio these days; same The Chainsmokers and David Guetta are too soft for that at this point. There may still be a place for these songs under the ever-growing umbrella of alternative radio – the more recent singles Arcade Fire and Phoenix (“J-Boy”) both made solid debuts on BillboardThe array of alternate songs from, although the latter was slow to build from there – but on the top 40 they’re already as out of place as if they were grunge flashbacks.

However, none of this is to say that these bands’ disco experiences are failures or misguided catches in the trend jump – they’re all actually a lot of fun. The Killers sound more revitalized than they’ve been in ages, while Arcade Fire has certainly done well in shedding the concept baggage and overly valuable songwriting from the Reflektor era for something much less heavy and more immediate. But then again, those unique 70s disco pieces also aged surprisingly well: Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” is rightly one of the most beloved dance songs of its time, “Miss You” was a highlight. obvious from the end of the period for The Rolling Stones, even the much maligned “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart, still hold for its imposing synth hook.

It’s a compelling argument that genres shouldn’t be primarily forced to coexist out of necessity via rock theft, at times when the genre is historically at its weakest. Rather than hiding in a nightclub like a bomb shelter (like most ’70s bands did the first time around) and waiting for the uninhabitable landscape until they can become groups of people again. rock singles – a period that may not come for quite some time yet, if ever – it might be in everyone’s best interest for these groups to continue to tinker with the chemistry by mixing the two genres. Next time multiple coupons like these come out around the same time, maybe it doesn’t even have to look like a backtrend – maybe it just looks like pop music.

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