There must have been something in the water in Great Britain in the mid-2000s—it’s the only explanation I have for the spate of cheeky, poppy, and very good alternative rock songs that came out between about 2004 and 2008.
“Generator” is one of my favorites from this period. Musically, it checks all the boxes: hyperactive guitar, shout-along lyrics, and insouciant delivery. The unexpected spice in the dish, though, is that main riff at 0:20. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from any of the normal places; neither rock nor blues. In fact, it’s always sounded African to me—equal parts Paul Simon circa Graceland and Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” Maybe it’s because of this African influence that this song sounds best in the car with the sun out and the windows down.
For me, the lyrics are pretty inconsequential in this type of song, but these are nice anyway, I suppose. Perhaps inevitably, the lyrics are about the uplifting power of music: “When I was a young boy I got a stereo/taped all the songs straight off the radio/ the sounds that the bands made and the melodies/was all I needed to make me feel free.” Music saves your mortal soul, etc. We’ve heard it before.
But you know what? I can’t even pretend to be immune to it. Between the lyrics and the African-tinged guitar part, this song always puts me in a good mood. Give it a spin and see if you don’t agree.