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The Rebirth of Uncool

Indie rockers are giving Hall & Oates, America, and other '70s softies their dewy due.

They’ve been mocked in the pages of The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time. Your mom may have rolled joints on their album covers. So why are hip musicians suddenly pledging allegiance to America, the ’70s soft-rock titans behind “Horse With No Name”? On June 1 at B.B. King Blues Club in New York, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, and Ryan Adams joined the group’s founders, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, onstage for an all-star rendition of America’s biggest hit. In October that lineup appears, along with members of My Morning Jacket and Nada Surf, on America’s new album, Here and Now, a double-disc collection of live songs and new material produced by Iha and Schlesinger.

Iha insists that he didn’t sign on for the kitsch value. “Enough time has passed that music that was not cool is now considered really cool because it’s sincere,” he says. He may be right: Suddenly, everyone seems to be paying their respects to the ’70s sensitivos who provided the soundtrack for key parties and sports-car commercials. On last year’s Friends and Lovers: Songs of Bread, indie rockers like Josh Rouse and Erlend Oye tackled songs by the band behind “Make It With You” and “Baby I’m a Want You.” Canadian singer/songwriter Feist frequently covers the Bee Gees’ “Love You Inside Out” in concert (it’s also on her 2004 album, Let It Die).

Reverb-heavy Seattle rockers Band of Horses play Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” live and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard calls the duo’s “One on One” “so fucking good I can’t stand it.” Even the Killers’ Brandon Flowers recently said, “Everything you need to know about writing a hit song, it’s in ‘Rich Girl.'”

Why are the indie elite getting drunk on this aural chardonnay? Maybe it’s the iPodization of culture: Listeners can rock themselves gently in the privacy of their own heads. Or maybe it’s simply the emergence of a generation born too late to remember the gentle summer breezes of Seals & Crofts. Newer bands like Midlake and Ambulance Ltd. have recorded tracks that sound like Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan, respectively. SEAN HOWE

To read the rest of the story on how soft rockers are back with a vengeance, pick up the Sept. 2006 issue of Spin, on newsstands now!

SOFT ROCK REDUX
Yesterday’s music, brought to you by tomorrow’s bands

If you like Fleetwood Mac, you’ll love Midlake (read more) (Download “Roscoe”)

If you like Bread, you’ll love Maplewood (Download “Indian Summer”)

If you like Supertramp, you’ll love the Feeling (Stream at MySpace.com)

Talk: What other new bands are carrying the soft-rock banner? COMMENT

On the Web:
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Tags: Spotlight