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New wave is back — in hot new bands

Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, !!! reflect ’80s influences
/ Source: Billboard

New wave is new all over again.

After years of grunge, rap-rock, nu-metal and garage rock hogging the airwaves, many category-defying, dance-leaning rock bands are breaking through on radio and being heard on dancefloors.

“The fifth-generation Pearl Jam knockoff and the sappy f--kin’ rap-metal stuff is dying, it’s gasping — people are tired of it,” Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears says. “Of course, there has been great music happening the whole time, but people may not have paid attention to it. But now these bands are getting recognized.”

Indeed. Numerous genre-blurring acts — including Scissor Sisters, Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), UNKLE, Interpol, the Prodigy, Le Tigre and the Faint — are garnering major-market radio attention and club play, and some are generating healthy sales.

Other acts — Radio 4, Action Action, Spalding Rockwell, Bloc Party, Beep Beep and Morel — are gaining momentum.

Also figuring into the current mix are Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, two groundbreaking acts from the ’80s that greatly influenced today’s dance-rock bands. Epic is releasing the re-formed Duran Duran’s new album, “Astronaut,” Oct. 12, while Reprise will issue a Depeche Mode remix project, “Remixes 81-04,” Oct. 26.

Renewed interestThe interest in sounds from the ’80s is emerging amid numerous other developments. Among them are Marilyn Manson’s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” The B-52’s are recording a new dance-rock album. And No Doubt scored last year with a cover of Talk Talk’s ’80s new wave hit “It’s My Life.”

Now, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani is gearing up for the Nov. 23 release of her solo debut; the as-yet-untitled Interscope album is preceded by dance-rock single “What You Waiting For.”

Since the mid- to late ’90s, when darker, more aggressive groups like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park began to dominate modern rock, fewer acts crossed over to dancefloors.

While there have been exceptions — including hits from Moby, No Doubt, U2, Depeche Mode and Filter — no act consistently criss-crossed between the two arenas.

“In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, rock music had a strong dance element,” Killers lead singer/keyboardist Brandon Flowers says. “Then, in the ’90s, it got too aggressive and macho for its own good.”

That decade began with grunge music, which begat rap-rock, which begat nu-metal.

‘An exciting time’Universal Records president Monte Lipman isn’t sure if what’s happening is completely new. “It’s the same thing that happened in the ’80s with the British invasion of rock music,” he notes. “And when you think about it, what was referred to as ’modern rock’ or ’alternative radio’ was, in a lot of cases, synonymous with dance music.”

Still, Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes finds this new wave of acts exciting — primarily because “they’re real bands, which we didn’t see much of in the producer-driven ’90s. And while these new bands have clearly been influenced by some of the ’80s music, they’ve each got their own sound.”

Such words are music to the ears of Kathleen Hanna, one-third of Le Tigre, whose third album (and first for Strummer/Universal), “This Island,” goes on sale Oct. 19.

“This is an exciting time for us,” she says. “Our label was telling us that we weren’t rock enough for the rock world and not dance enough for dance. But now we’re amongst other bands doing similar things.”

As Los Angeles-based club DJ/promoter Paul V. notes, “People’s tastes are much broader today. You can dig Beyoncé, Marilyn Manson and the Killers.”