June 29, 2019

No dance rock or garage rock revival during this vulnerable phase, unlike early 2000s, since no 9/11 this time

Earlier posts have covered the similarities between the music of the late 2010s and previous mellow, vulnerable phases of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. First, dream pop as an indie phenomenon. Second, dream pop's influences going mainstream. And third, the dissonant and spastic turn that dance music takes.

The last mellow, vulnerable phase was the early 2000s, so you might expect to see another incarnation of garage rock revival bands such as the Strokes, or dance rock bands like Franz Ferdinand. But so far -- and there's only 6 months left in the current vulnerable phase -- those two have not materialized.

Why not?

Well, they were not staples of other vulnerable phases either -- the late '80s and the early '70s were not distinguished by these genres. To the extent that there was a mixture of dance and rock, it was dark, emo, down-tempo, and brooding -- glam rock of the early '70s, goth rock of the late '80s, and electroclash of the early 2000s.

That's distinct from the bouncy, upbeat genres of dance rock and garage rock revivals that started in 2002 and lasted into the late 2000s. They weren't as unreservedly upbeat as the music of the manic, invincible phase of the cycle, though. They were clearly marked by the brooding, emo zeitgeist of a vulnerable phase, creating an unusual fusion of brooding and bouncy.

You wouldn't expect to find something that body-moving and carefree during a refractory phase, so there must've been something unique to the early 2000s -- and that was the psychological reaction to 9/11.

I've covered that topic before here, detailing how the 5 years or so after 9/11 looked in some key ways like a rising-crime culture, a la the 1960s through the '80s, rather than the falling-crime culture that had prevailed since the '90s. That post discusses the "postpunk revival," as these genres were called back then, as evidence.

It was not rising violent crime rates from opportunistic individual criminals, but something similar -- a perceived rise in the risk of violence due to organized terrorism. Rising uncertainty about the safety of the near-term future makes us discount the future and want to live more in the moment. That really has an effect when the cause is a decades-long rise in violent crime rates, but 9/11 was such a spectacle that you couldn't help but be affected by it, at least for 5 years or so, until we didn't get any more spectacles and wrote off those risks.

And while there has been no widespread phenomenon or social scene around garage rock and dance rock this time around, there are still isolated songs that have taken a stab at it. They just can't find a broader resonance, since there's been no 9/11-like event to put people in a mood of "the end of the world is coming, might as well party while we still can".

Here's one that sounds like the Strokes reincarnated as a girl band, and another that could be a lost track from Franz Ferdinand's first album (maybe alluded to by "this fire" appearing in the lyrics).

"I Dare You" by the Regrettes (2019):

"Lash Out" by Alice Merton (2018):


  1. To re-cap the model of the 15-year excitement cycle and its three 5-year phases, here are the original posts on each one. Click the category tag "excitement cycle" at the end of this post, or in the sidebar, to see all posts on this topic.




    The basic analogy is an excitable system like a heartbeat, neuron activation, sexual arousal, intense exercise, and the like. There's a neutral stage where activation could take place but has not yet, followed by an excitation stage where the activity flies off the charts, finished with a refractory stage where activity is no longer possible. That stage ends with a return to the neutral stage again.

    Neutral stages: 2005-09, 1990-94, 1975-79, 1960-64, etc.

    Manic stages: 2010-14, 1995-99, 1980-84, 1965-69, etc.

    Crash stages: 2015-19, 2000-04, 1985-89, 1970-74, etc.

  2. Does that have any link with the rising crime cycle and Peter Turchin's cycle?

  3. No, the excitement cycle is its own dynamic system. The length is 15 years, vs. around 60 years for the crime cycle, and 50 years if you're talking about Turchin's collective violence cycle.

    My crime-and-cocooning cycle has to do with outgoing social behavior, vs. withdrawn and guard-up behavior. When people are more out in public spaces, and letting their guard down, they are more easily preyed on by criminals. When they're more confined to private spaces, and keeping their guard up, they are not as vulnerable to crime.

    The excitement cycle is distinct -- more about people's energy levels, especially as they are plugged into an entire social or cultural mood. Excited, refractory, neutral / warming up.

    You could have excited energy levels, and yet still be cocooning -- that was my read on the dance club and coffee house atmosphere of the early 2010s. Young people were turbo-charged with excitement, but still not really letting their guard down in public spaces (staring at phones / laptops, hanging out only with known friends rather than striking up conversations with strangers, etc.).

    And in the other direction, you could be in an outgoing social mood but in a refractory state of energy levels -- the moody, gloomy early '70s, and the soft-rock late '80s were both when people were still hanging out in public all day long, interacting with strangers, kids going places without parental supervision, and so on.

  4. A.B. Prosper7/3/19, 7:22 PM

    The hot topic music at least on XM Satellite alternative seems to be soft emo type music with soothing and mild lyrics.

    THis makes sense to me as the domestic conditions, the pre civil war vibe and the election of President Trump has created tremendous level of social stress. People just want to chill out

    Also if understand your theory demographic and social shifts will create longer cocooning cycles . people aren't going to be very outgoing when they afraid some slip of the tongue will get them fired or worse by some race grievance hustler or a social justice mob

    everyone has cameras now and that is going to put people under a fishbowl and cause them to keep their heads down.

    There will eventually be pushback but it won't be pleasant either and may well result in a tribalism culture where you have a public mixed culture and a tribal among friends culture a sort of Omerta for everyone

    This would I assume create very significant changes

  5. Since being introduced to the excitement cycle concept by this blog, I enjoy guessing when a song comes on which phase it is from. Usually it lines up pretty well and obviously just based on the year. Sometimes there are surprises, and other times after looking up the year I can reverse engineer and discover how my first guess was wrong.

    A song that recently struck me as being right on the mark is "I Don't Have the Heart" by James Ingram. Listen to the original version from the album It's Real, not the version that was re-recorded in another year. The song is from 1989, right at the end of the refractory phase. It captures this phase, with a closing transition that sets the stage for the next phase of the early 90s.

    Most of the song is an ordinary late 80s ballad. He's a man with a dilemma because he genuinely has affinity - an affectionate love - for his woman. But she doesn't rev his engine enough, so he can't love her the way she wants him to. He knows what he has to do, and it anguishes him. This more arid type of relationship formed during the refractory phase. As the phase ends, the relationship reaches its breaking point.

    The last minute of the song is a catharsis. The instrumentation changes. His falsetto howl is both relieved and energized. It represents the split, his moving on from not only the woman but the entire refractory phase.


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