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It’s true. Dad Rock pretty much became its own marketable genre in the 90s. So much so, that I imagine some lowly, desperate marketing “consultant” for a record label hungrily took the job of sourcing and promoting what Dad Rock is rather than having to give fellatio to the Chief Exec in exchange for a career in the IN-DUZ-TREE.

But while these blow jobs have been sacrificed, and real commerical studies went into justifying why Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’ fits into the category – as much as Rainbow’s ‘Since You Been Gone’ – Mum Rock has been quietly, cleverly,  taking the reins of the juggernaut that is mainstream radio.


For too many years to count, Dad rock has inevitably been the genre that everyone groans at for its, generally (as confirmed by said marketing consultant, actually, yeah actually. Actually is a favourite word of theirs;) over-emotional lyrics, potential for too-slow-fist-pumping, power chords… and the minor-chord progression that most pop authors rely on. But there’s nothing shameful about dad or mum rock. It only sucks if you’re a aged between 13-25 and you actually don’t know any better.

I mean, bless Jeff fromWilco. He’s almost bang on the money:

“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock. There are a lot of things today that don’t have anything to do with rock music, so when people hear something that makes them think, ‘This is derived from some sort of continuation of the rock ethos,’ it gets labeled dad rock. And, to me, those people are misguided. I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?”

No lovely, no – because you get bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Wilco who carry on that rock ethos. The Killers too. But then again Sam’s Town was SO VERY Dad Rock. Maaaaan, Jeff, you’re so paranoid! We’re not calling *you* Dad Rock. Dad Rock is generally ascribed to an attitude of apathy to new music. Urban Dictionary describes it thus:

“Dad rockers have no desire to listen to recent music and are stuck in the past.”

See, you’re not like that Jeff. But what does make you a little bit Dad Rock is the distinct lack of rock and well, it’s just that Wilco are proper jingle-jangle without the novelty of being funny. The Barenaked Ladies: 90s, and ageless. Wilco – 90s, but Radiohead-wannabes, and each album distinct to its era. Kind of like where Vampire Weekend are gonna be in 10 years time, only the’ll be accountable to the year 2008 only and no-one will still like them.

Now that we know what Dad Rock is, what the hell is Mum Rock? As opposed to disco and glam-rock music that’s stuck in the arse-crevice of the 70s, mum rock is a much subtler market that record company execs love advertising to. There’s at least twice as many radio stations worth of plugging rights worldwide for starters. But mostly, Mum Rock is the vehicle on which the once-cool bands retire too when the band decides enough is enough: they need enough to have a tax-free, property-portfolio slush fund, and there’s only one way they can do this. Momma boppin’ money.

Less cynically, mum rock has the same good intentions of dad rock: that of wanting to be cool, unique and relevant – but it’s just a crying shame when it all boils down to the same hash we’re fed on daytime TV and background music to this year’s Wife Swap. That, and the over-emotional lyrics, potential for too-slow-fist-pumping, power chords and the minor-chord progression that a lot of pop authors rely on.



1. U2

Pfffft, obviously.

2. Coldplay

Guilty as charged. However, their new stuff is encased in graffiti-aesthetic artwork, and the sound might be a bit too ravey for the Daily Mail mum: alas, traditional mum-rockers: Coldplay went in for the kill and appeal to the Daily Mirror mum too.

3. Gnarls Barclay

He’s a bit cool though. He’s on the list just to remind y’all of the difference between universal appeal and sticking true to what your momma gave you, i.e. a tonne of soul, as opposed to:


WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHYYYYYYY is the wail of so many 22-29 year-olds who remember the early days. My boyfriend and I have discussed this at length. It is, in this year of 2012AD, 1433AH and the 2,948,775 Mayan Year (probably): it is now acutely embarrassing to call Muse your favourite band.

But then, doesn’t this make us guilty of Dad Rock? A CONUNDRUM! UNTIL YOU REMEMBER THAT AN ULTIMATE MUM ROCK BAND IS

4. The Fray

Are they still going? Their poorlychildsploitation videos on that older people’s music channel were always bound to do the trick. Like moths to flames, like mums to Calpol.

5. Toploader


But you have to remember: it is perfectly fine to like Mum and Dad Rock. They have much to teach us about the music world: what one must listen to in a mid-life crisis, what sounds good after popping kids out, what sounds good in a garage, a kitchen, and for daytime TV. Mum and Dad Rock, whether you like or not, actually rules supreme.

It sets the baseline for new music to subvert.

Oh wait, I forgot one.

6. Wilco

Sorry Jeff.

*Trolls, please note that I don’t hate Wilco. I like them, take note of what I actually said. How To Fight Loneliness is one of my favourite songs. The Whole Love is definitely their best album in my opinion, because they’ve stopped trying to be the US Radiohead. I am not a mum. (Yet?)

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  1. Elliot

    It’s quite unfair to describe Wilco as Radiohead wannabes. With their Uncle Tupelo roots, they’re stalwarts of alternative country, and their experimental albums come across less as attempts to “do a Kid A” and more as genuine, you know, experiments – with form, texture, structure, genre. They didn’t hastily find a “dance element” to their sound. Rather, they worked with Jim O’Rourke and allowed the dense arrangements of Summerteeth to evolve into the wonderful freewheeling amorphous masterpiece that is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – a very natural progression when you listen closely – and all that’s come since has proved that any song can sound like a Wilco song so long as it’s played by Wilco. Also, apart from anything else, Radiohead’s experiments seemed to attempt to capture a feeling of paranoia and cold, clinical alienation. Wilco, though, have never exuded anything but a very human warmth. Why must any band who tinkers with their sound be described as Radiohead copyists? Why aren’t Radiohead, in turn, described as Beatles copyists?

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