After a tumultuous period in the late '60s, when the American record industry had to chase trends that emerged organically from artistically and politically engaged music scenes, the major labels finally consolidated their grip over their rock product again. Having isolated their ideal audience -- unreflective teenagers with nothing better to spend their money on than records -- the labels began to churn out corporate rock that embodied the beer-commercial values best suited to catering to that audience's half-baked hedonism while orienting that pleasure-seeking towards the treadmill of endless consumption. Musically, rock was standardized into the most streamlined and accessible version of earlier, more progressive blues-rock -- a washed-out derivation of the Allman Brothers without any of that irritating improvisation or structural innovation. Anything that might make you scratch your head in thought rather than nod it in rhythmic approval was systematically strained out in favor of competent reprises of proven formulas. This bong-friendly music was combined with the kind of lyrics that are specific to rock music: celebrations of drinking, touring, casual sex, and of course, rock itself, which becomes a short-hand method of evoking all of these. Grand Funk's "We're an American Band" the apotheosis of the genre, providing the timeless formulation of the corporate rock band's mission statement: "We come into your town / We help you party down".
While nowhere near as polished as the corporate rock war-horses of old, North Carolina's All Night seeks to resurrect that same carefree spirit with their debut album, which is so faithful to the '70s rock ethos it could be mistaken for a Foghat demo. The guitar tone can be a little raw, and the harmonies a tad ragged, but that they are attempting harmonies at all tells you something. It's safe to say All Night would sound most appropriate on an 8-track blaring from a Z24. All Night works the same boogie-rock vein as more heralded label-mates Bad Wizard, but are perhaps more successful in tapping it, working it with an earnest enthusiasm that deflects accusations of posturing. A glance down their album's track listing testifies to their whole-hearted embrace of the genre's lyrical concerns: "Come on Baby", "Help Me Out", "Guitars and Wine". The words have a tossed-off-in-the-tour-van directness ("You've got a little car / It's got a lot of speed", "I think you're crazy / I think you must be crazy, too") that makes them essentially meaningless, providing a pretense for some obligatory singing, and nothing more. They certainly won't embarrass you into thinking about anything beyond stomping your foot and boozing.
Those who grew up listening to FM radio can busy themselves tracing the songs' musical antecedents. "What You Say" owes a lot to Grand Funk's "The Railroad", and "Do a Little Better" draws ample inspiration from Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' with Disaster". An obligatory ballad, "Say You're Scared", sounds like a cross between "The Rain Song" and "Tuesday's Gone", with a churning Humble Pie bridge tossed in for good measure. But it's beside the point to demonstrate the derivativeness of this kind of music as such seamless borrowing is the genre's stylistic hallmark. It would be unfair to apply originality, an overrated and often irrelevant quality, as a criterion to All Night. The more stringently All Night fulfills the anticipated formulas, the more successful they are in carrying listeners to that uncomplicated place where pleasures are predictable and responsibilities utterly negligible. There's really no room for analysis.
But it is interesting to consider why bands are beginning to become nostalgic for the bland establishment music of a past era. Perhaps the complete lack of pretentiousness, the total facelessness of this music makes it refreshing to those who want to escape from today's pigeonholing marketing strategies by celebrating those of yesteryear. Corporate rock, too, presents a very comfortable ideology of youth as an endless party, which makes it a welcome contrast from the self-flagellating teenager-hood suggested by rap-metal and emo. In a way, the experience of listening to All Night can be likened to an idealized experience of growing up: You don't remember too many specifics, but you seemed to have had a good time.