Last year in these very pages, The Deep Dark Woods’ Winter Hours was panned — much to my chagrin. And while records get negative reviews all the time, what gave me pause was that, in lambasting the record, the derisive epithet, “Dad Rock” was used.
Having recently become a dad — and one who quite liked Winter Hours — I was a bit stung by the use of a term Urbandictionary.com describes as “the genre of music that is listened to uniquely by fathers,” adding, “Dad rockers have no desire to listen to recent music and are stuck in the past.”
Me, stuck in the past?
While I do have an insatiable desire to listen to recent music, there are certainly some records from the past that are both a cherished part of my collection and would find themselves in rotation on DAD-FM (no relation to BOB . . . ) so for this week’s playlist, I bring you some classic Dad Rock that if you give it a listen will convince you “dad” does not equal “bad.” (Oh, and like a few grey hairs in the beard, I’ve peppered the playlist with a few recent, dad-approved tunes).
Tom Petty — “You Don’t Know How It Feels” [from Wildflowers]
The title to this one could be the rally cry of dad-rockers everywhere. One minute, you’re a young dude staying up late and going to shows, the next you’re getting up early and watching Pre School Musical on Sesame Street. You don’t feel as if you’ve aged, but you’ve instantly gotten five years older.
ZZ Top — “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers” [from Tres Hombres]
This is a bittersweet number for dad-rockers. The beer they’re drinking now is light or calorie-reduced and the hell being raised is by the toddler in the house.
Wilco — “Impossible Germany” [from Sky Blue Sky]
The term was leveled at Wilco on several occasions prior to 2007, but on Sky Blue Sky, the Dad Rock tag finally stuck. This may be the first band that I listened to in my young adulthood that my son discovers by listening to a classic rock station. Unless Oasis is already on 92 CITI-FM . . .
Led Zeppelin — “Immigrant Song” [from Led Zeppelin III]
One of the most common complaints about Dad Rock is that it’s safe and unchallenging. The Zep may be big with the dads, but this song, with its throbbing beat and screeching vocal, is neither safe nor unchallenging. I remember discovering my father’s 45 of this as a youngster and being shit-scared of this banshee cry of a rock song. I suspect that same reaction is what the Minnesota Vikings are looking to provoke when they take to the field to this tune.
The Deep Dark Woods — “The Birds on the Bridge” [from Winter Hours]
Yeah, I did it. Not only did I include a selection from Winter Hours, I chose the song that sounds most like Neil Young could have written it. Does that give me double-dad points?
Creedence Clearwater Revival — “Ramble Tamble” [from Cosmo’s Factory]
If there were a Dad Rock Olympics, CCR would take the place of Pierre Leuders in all those “I Believe” ads I’ve been sick of since 2008. This pop/rockabilly quartet has had serious longevity in the Dad Rock pantheon and their green-and-gold Greatest Hits is ubiquitous. “Ramble Tamble” is the lead-off track to Cosmo’s Factory, the mid-period record. Incidentally, the band only recorded for four years — perfect Olympic symmetry.
Radiohead — “Karma Police” [from OK Computer]
What’s that you say? Radiohead isn’t Dad Rock? Au contraire, mes amis . . . give it a few years and it will definitely be. Just as the music dads of yesteryear listened to was fresh and envelope-pushing at one point — and over time became fodder for classic rock stations — so too will the music younger generations hold dear. Dad Rock is losing its fixity as new generations become dads and the genre will adjust its borders and playlists. Karma (police) is a bitch.
Fleetwood Mac — “What Makes You Think You’re The One” [from Tusk]
Rather than choosing something from Rumors (which is more Mom Rock to be honest), here’s a little something from the underappreciated Tusk. If you haven’t heard this album, the re-mastered double-disc is well worth checking out.
The National — “Fake Empire” [from Boxer]
While my wife nominated Broken Social Scene as the next Dad Rock band, I think The National stand a better chance of entering the canon. With their dark tales of the everyman, they’re a bit like a blend of Joy Division and Bruce Springsteen. Speaking of the Boss . . .
Bruce Springsteen — “Born To Run” [from Born To Run]
Bruce could be considered second generation Dad Rock (along with U2, The Police and R.E.M.), having connected first with the generation between my own father and me. But “last chance power drives” speak to us all.
Steely Dan — “Peg” [from Aja]
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen may well have invented Dad Rock, considering how steeped in it Steely Dan are. Melding jazz, pop, blues and rock into one AM-friendly synthesis, the duo were the soundtrack to many a wood-grain paneled rec room back in the day. Quadruple bonus points to the pair for the fact that this song was sampled by De La Soul on their seminal 3 Feet High & Rising.