Will Hodgkinson asks where the eighth age of rock might spring from

A new music series traces rock'n'roll's evolution over seven steps. But where might the eighth age of rock spring from, asks Will Hodgkinson

"If you keep your eyes open and leave your prejudices in the hallway," says Geoff Travis, founder of Rough Trade Records, "you will discover great talent from the most unlikely sources. Rock has a capacity to reinvent itself. I am optimistic for its future."

Considering he discovered the Smiths, the Libertines and Arcade Fire, Travis's optimism is not unfounded, but rock music, still a white, male-dominated form in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, is long past its salad days. By its very title the BBC's exhaustive documentary series The Seven Ages Of Rock implies that this musical style could be facing its final curtain. Ignoring the multiracial birth of rock'n'roll when Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley added a dash of country to the blues and sped the whole thing up, the series takes the arrival of Jimi Hendrix as rock's year zero and moves through art-rock, punk, heavy metal, stadium and alternative rock before concluding with indie, which brings us up to Arctic Monkeys. But now that globalisation is a reality and the internet has made the entire history of 20th-century music available to anyone that wants it, where will rock go from here? Optimistically clinging to Geoff Travis's dictum that talent springs from unlikely sources, here are a few places where rock's eighth age could just take root.

Primary School Rock

Considering the best rock music is about rebelling against figures of authority - parents, teachers, lollipop ladies - we should be looking to the very young for the eighth age of rock. Consider Brooklyn, New York's the Tiny Masters Of Today, in which 12-year-old Ivan and his 10-year-old sister Ada play punk-pop songs about cellphones, playground cliques and being told off for riding their bikes in the park. How did they learn to write songs so young? "Everything is recorded on our computer with GarageBand, which is pretty easy to use," says Ivan. And the Tiny Masters are positively ancient next to the Rock Guys (www.myspace.com/rockguys), whose lead singer Mara, six, sounds truly menacing on We Hate School. Tomorrow belongs to the young.

Apocalypse Rock

The end of the world is definitely near so what is going to herald the kettledrums of the apocalypse? A 12-strong troupe of faceless automatons in metallic monks' habits combining white noise with Funkadelic rhythms, of course! Enter Chrome Hoof, whose demonic vision (pentagrams and goat's heads with flashing red eyes are part of the stage set) certainly portents all manner of horrors for the future. "We want to create a dark futuristic disco, possibly on another planet, complete with science-fiction, satanism and a touch of Spinal Tap," claims lead Hoofer Leo Smee. Jarvis Cocker, always one to know which way an ill wind is blowing, has booked them to play at Meltdown at The Queen Elizabeth Hall on June 18 with fellow harbingers of doom Sunn O))).

Rubbish Rock

All of a sudden, rubbish is everywhere. Recycling is a moral barometer, rubbish collections look set to go bi-weekly, and how long before a dustmen's strike fills the streets with stinking black bags, their innards spewing out after being ripped apart by foxes? Who better to reflect this unsavoury age than the Rubbish Men, two bearded Soho tramps who play instruments that are actually made of rubbish? Bertrand and Garcia claim to live in a wheelie bin, will perform for gin, and are, in their own words "always available". When the party is over, there is rubbish to be cleaned up. The rock party is no exception.

Multicoloured Rock

The "disco sucks" movement of 1979 underlined the inherent conservatism of rock music (something also underlined by the fact that there is no place for innovators like Prince or James Brown in any of the seven ages of rock). Threatened by an exciting, vibrant new style that found its voice through gay liberation and black pride, mostly white, male rock fans met at Comiskey Park stadium in Chicago to burn disco records before a White Sox game. In the same year the BNP's Young Nationalist magazine carried an editorial stating "disco and its melting pot pseudo philosophy must be fought or Britain's streets will be full of black-worshipping soul boys". Some 28 years on the most innovative rock bands, from the Noisettes to Bloc Party, are multi-racial and multi-stylistic, as the old musical boundaries mean less and less in an age when young people from Brazil to Africa can have access to the same music. In the multicoloured age of rock a charismatic female artist - CSS's Lovefoxxx and Bat For Lashes anyone?- will emerge to save rock music from its own reactionary tendencies. There is only so much denim the world needs, after all.

Talented People In Rock

If The Seven Ages Of Rock series proves anything, it's that rock music only falls into movements after the event. It is an unusually strong singer or band that makes a genre happen, from Jimi Hendrix (the Woodstock era of hippy rock) to David Bowie (art-rock) to John Lydon (punk) to the Smiths (indie). "I never take any notice of the media when it comes to talking up a new movement," claims Geoff Travis. "Where do you categorise someone like Devendra Banhart?"

Travis has a point. The White Stripes have long transcended the 2001 garage punk revival of their peers (the Hives and the Vines) to establish themselves as one of the great rock bands of the modern age. There is nothing new under the sun, but an original voice with talent and conviction will always find an audience in the end.

The Seven Ages Of Rock

1. The Birth of Rock Hendrix, Beatles, Stones, Dylan et al

2. White Light, White Heat: Art Rock feat the Velvet Underground

3. Blank Generation: Punk Rock Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones, Patti Smith and Buzzcocks

4. Never Say Die: Heavy Metal Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Metallica

5. We Are The Champions: Stadium Rock Run away! Here come Dire Straits and U2

6. Left Of The Dial: American Alternative Rock Before and after Kurt pegged it

7. What The World Is Waiting For: British Indie Rock From fey indie boys to the Britpop glories and current contenders

· The Seven Ages Of Rock, Sat, 9.10pm, BBC2, www.bbc.co.uk/sevenages


Will Hodgkinson

The GuardianTramp

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