How Classic Rock Reinvented Itself

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Classic rock possesses all the stubborn resilience of a cockroach . It’s the 21st century, and the technological singularity is upon us: Humans are banging in VR, autonomous cars are causing fender benders up and down the West Coast, 3-D printers are capable of creating hideous yet entirely livable homes, and indie folkie Bon Iver has gone full-blown weepy cyborg. But despite wave upon wave of civilization-disrupting futurism, young musicians totally worship the musty vinyl albums on which their grandparents rolled joints back in the ‘60s and ’70s. The Temperance Movement’s bluesy chops earned them an opening slot for The Rolling Stones in 2014; Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats have zipped up the charts thanks to the kind of high-octane rhythm ‘n’ blues that made the J. Geils Band a workhouse live act in the mid-’70s; and Deap Vally, the take-no-shit female duo from Los Angeles, lay down grooves as big and growling as anything from Cactus.

Clearly inspired by The White Stripes and The Black Keys—who basically are the patron saints of what we’ll call nü classic rock—a good number of these young guns temper their nostalgia with modern touches and twists inspired by alt-rock. On Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes dress up their Southern-fried garage rock with a gauzy, shoegaze-like drift and hulking bass drops. Royal Blood, who’ve memorized the stripped down, pulverizing caterwaul of Led Zeppelin I and II, have in Ben Thatcher a drummer whose beats frequently slip into the battering-ram stutter of robotic hip-hop funk.

But not every artist on this playlist is a descendent of the Jack White/Dan Auerbach lineage. Both Crobot and Sweden’s Blues Pills follow the lead of retro-everything forerunners Wolfmother and The Sword, bashing out hybridizations of bell-bottomed riff rock and vintage metal heavily informed by Deep Purple, early Rush, The Jeff Beck Group, and other eardrum-drubbing longhairs from the FM rock days. If you think Western civilization peaked with James Gang’s “Funk #49,” then this definitely is the playlist for you. Best of all, no VR goggles needed.