Instead, we used tables inside tables insides tables inside iframes to structure our navigations. CSS was still some mystic magic that only a few wizards knew how to use effectively. And in many cases, the result was actually less semantic than what we see nowadays.
So the arguments seem a bit odd, although I support the spirit of the message.
It's a fairly common phrase (originating from a Prince song I think) that you can take to mean "like a throwback to a more authentic and possibly prior era." In this case the era is prior the explosion of frameworks and div soup.
Which strangely in this case is not necessarily prior but in parallel, as you said. This is English, it doesn't have to be precise like programming. You can use it for effect.