Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blues. Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth assesses the New Wave Of Classic Rock ahead of the release of this week’s 42-track compilation showcasing a wealth of emerging talent.
What’s in a name? In the case of the New Wave Of Classic Rock (NWOCR) much more than meets the eye. An acronym coined in 2017, it’s a rather misleading umbrella for a rich and varied community of like-minded guitar bands blazing a trail for kick-ass creativity in an era which, according to Gene Simmons, coincides with the death of rock.
Misleading, maybe. But the NWOCR tag is necessary, nevertheless. It’s the glue that bonds together musicians and fans determined to reinvent the wheel, rebuff Simmons’ laughably baseless claims and launch headlong into an exciting new era for riotous, riff-laden excess.
It’s the label that gives a laudable movement its immediate identity. And it’s the instantly recognisable home of future festival headliners, chart-busting heroes and pandemic-piercing crowd pleasers.
But let’s be honest, this new wave extends way beyond classic rock. Way beyond. Dip your toes into the reassuringly diverse two-disc NWOCR compilation that drops tomorrow and you’ll find metal, blues, post-grunge, industrial, goth and more. More a tsunami of no-rules noise than a new wave of classic rock, it doesn’t exactly do what it says on the tin. It does much, much more.
“It’s exciting to be a part of something that captures a snapshot of such a wide and varied group of bands,” insisted NWOCR poster boy Jack J Hutchinson. “Everyone sits under the umbrella of NWOCR but listen to these two CDs — or catch a few of these bands live — and you’ll discover it’s a pretty broad school when it comes to different styles and genres.
“The breadth of skill, songwriting and performance levels is quite amazing really. There are 42 songs on the compilation and I don’t think there are any two bands that are alike.
“You just can’t compare someone like Elles Bailey to Revival Black or what I do to a band like Massive Wagons.”
You can. But it would be an utterly futile and unproductive process.
Bailey, the soulful, sultry, blues-soaked chanteuse destined for greatness, could easily be an outlier in the NWOCR community. That she’s been embraced by its members and emboldened by her welcome, is testimony to the movement’s inclusivity and a collective determination to celebrate a full sphere of emerging talent.
“I never set out to be a blues artist, a rock act or an Americana artist,” explained Bailey. “I’ve just always wanted to be true to myself and to write honest music.
“But goodness, I feel so blooming lucky to have been welcomed by so many different and thriving grassroots scenes and especially by the NWOCR family.
“On the face of it I’m very much on the outskirts of the genre. But it’s a welcoming and vibrant community that supports each other — artist and fan alike.”
Massive Wagons might be seen as scene leaders when it comes to the NWOCR. And on the day that the delayed 2020 Olympics officially launches, the band’s anti-establishment anthem Tokyo is the perfect access point for those new to the new wave…kicking off the 2CD collection in style.
But if classic rock has very little to do with the NWOCR movement then, by the same token, the Wagons are hardly new. Neither are the deliciously retro Daxx & Roxane. SKAM have been around for years. Incendiary Aussie party-starters Massive (no Wagons but still packing a truckload of passion) burst onto the scene almost a decade ago. Germany’s The New Roses have been planting the seeds of their own classic rock revival since 2007!
What’s new about the NWOCR is that sense of unity and the feeling of empowerment that underscores all of the bands involved here.
“Three or four years ago, around the time I was putting out my first solo record, I felt like there was a growing movement at grassroots level and I guess that was the basis for the NWOCR,” added Hutchinson.
“I was playing more and more festivals where there were bands that shared the same passion for music as me. They were coming at music from the standpoint of what happened in the past but developing it into something new.
“Look, nobody wants to hear another AC/DC covers band but it’s about taking those classic rock influences and twisting them in a certain direction. Just look at four of the best known bands on the NWOCR compilation: The Dust Coda, SKAM, Bad Touch and Massive – they all have their own distinctive style and they’ve all left their stamp on the NWOCR scene in their own way.
“One thing that I’ve learnt over the years is that people like labels. It helps certain people to understand the music in front of them. It helps to provide an access point for an audience to get into bands.
“If being part of the NWOCR scene means more people coming to shows to experience what’s new then great. And there are a few bands on the compilation that have achieved phenomenal chart success in the last couple of years and it’s likely that being part of the NWOCR community has helped them to achieve that. It’s a really positive situation.”
Bailey concurs. Hers is one of several stirring female voices featured front and centre on a collection of music that screams positivity at a time when rock and metal fans are clinging to the hope that live music will return bigger and bolder than ever before.
“I think to be a grassroots artist resilience and ambition are essential traits if you’re going to start to make a name for yourself,” she added. “It’s really tough and, at times, exceedingly lonely trying to make yourself noticed in the music scene.
“All of the acts on this compilation are really starting to make some noise now which, collectively, is hugely inspiring.
“I truly hope the live scene in the UK will bounce back after such a difficult 18 months. But honestly, I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride to start off with.
“People will naturally be apprehensive at first and I think there is still a place for streaming as not everyone will feel confident enough to come out to shows just yet.
“Although it’s not quite the real deal, streaming is hugely accessible and I believe it will still be an important part of the live industry as we move into a post lockdown life.”
Having one place where everyone comes together with the same intentions and interests is invaluable. Everyone is different but we all want the same thing: to play music and progress. To have the NWOCR community as a communal space where like-minded musicians and fans can connect and flourish is fantastic. As a new band The Hot Damn! is so fortunate to be in a position where we can have our music and our voices heard within such a supportive environment.Josie O’Toole, The Hot Damn!
Streaming has been synonymous with the agile NWOCR’s momentum shift since early 2020 (its Webfest series proved a huge success) with many of the scene leaders maintaining contact with the genre’s fanbase via regular online events.
Nevertheless Hutchinson, for one, can’t wait to get back to the business of live music and the singer songwriter has everything crossed ahead of his planned UK headline tour this autumn.
“I’ve had to overcome a few hurdles in the last few months but streaming has definitely maintained that link between me and the NWOCR fanbase,” he added. “It’s allowed me to publicise the Kickstarter campaign for my new album and that, in turn, means I have a new record coming out later this year.
“Before then I have the chance to get out there and play some shows which is something all of us have missed since last spring.”
And live is where it’s at for so many of the bands central to the NWOCR’s ongoing success. The majority of the big names gigging under the NWOCR banner have forged their reputation on the back of critically acclaimed shows and pin sharp performances.
“I tell you what,” added Bailey. “It was so unreal to see so many NWOCR artists and fans at Love Rocks festival last month…the first rock festival post lockdown three. It was like soothing rain in a drought!”
Thanks to the NWOCR there’s no drought when it comes to breakthrough bands making a convincing pitch as the next big thing. And Hutchinson revealed the race is on! “Look, there’s plenty of competition within the NWOCR community,” he added. “I love that.
“I don’t mind that mindset of thinking we have to chart higher, sell more tickets, get more reviews than the next band. Competition — just like the NWOCR community itself — is really positive. Bring it on!”
The inaugural NWOCR 2CD compilation is released independently on Friday July 23 and is available via online retailers and directly from www.nwocr.com
Read the full review here