The Strokes (1998 – Present)
The ubiquitous presence of the lazy comparison, ‘Strokes-y’, has been the haphazard label for a whole host of guitar bands since the millennium. The headliners of the so-called ‘rock revival’ have innovated a whole range of vibrant and eclectic music – music that should be restored to its rightful place in the pantheon of popular post-punk. The Heroin-addled tunes of The Strokes comprise two half-hour albums that created a legend. Mining a range of influence from the pace and avant-garde lyricism of The Modern Lovers to the aesthetic and spiky punk of Waiting For The Man-era Velvets, The Strokes embody the spirit of the 1970s, reborn.
The National (1999 – Present)
At the opposite end of Manhattan’s megalomania and musical mayhem came the authentically middle-class, Brooklyn-based, blue-blazered quintet, The National. Originally less MoMA and more mom’s bourgeoisie baking class, it took years of material and some ‘Yes We Can’ from Obama, who championed their ‘Fake Empire’ on his 2008 White House campaign, to surge from Indie men to scene-stealers. They now indulge in the artistic excess of playing the same song for six hours at MoMA. 2010’s High Violet and 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me saw the band secure a footing in the Hall of Heroes. ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, the song displaying their ability to rage with the punkiest, showcases two sides of The National; consciously artistic, but able to deliver some serious music.
The Walkmen (2000 – Present)
The holler and howl of a hooligan transformed into the radio-friendly maturity of 2012’s Heaven. The Walkmen have come far; perhaps the most glaring omission in the period’s formative bands, they have slipped behind their headlining co-scenesters into the relative void of anonymity. The Rat, the definitive single of the era, was so resplendent it even secured a slot on TV drama ‘The OC’ to swoop a bunch of drugged and lonely losers into the full focus of fanfare. Undeservedly forgotten, their more bucolic, elegant albums, starting with 2010’s Lisbon, lack the rage but still demand a listen. We toast The Walkmen for their musical accomplishment and great name.
TV on the Radio (2001 – Present)
From great names to overwrought, overthought titles that confuse and are simply paradoxical, TV on the Radio was possibly the most scrambled, bonkers outfit of the era and their sound was never easy on the ears. Starting with their Radiohead-aping EP, OK Calculator, these willful self-stylists molded a niche for themselves as the most challenging band of the times. Musically ambitious with Dave Sitek on production duties and guitar score, they could power punk home like no one else. They were there to be respected, but not necessarily adored. At the weirder end of the Lou Reed spectrum, they were oft-quoted influences but not necessarily romping their way to the mainstream. When everyone left their guitars and took up synths circa 2006 after the LCD Soundsystem effect, TV on the Radio were reborn. In 2013 they returned to singles, from the magnificent ‘Mercy’ to ‘Happy Idiot.’ Touring extensively, they are a live delight and a rare African-American force in rock music.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2000 – Present)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always been one of the most independent indie bands around. Just take one look at lead singer Karen O. – from punk indecency to chieftains, through disco glitter to canary yellow suits, she knows how to rock a look and the stage. The rocking remainder of the three-piece band has barely changed. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the most restless band of New York’s golden millennium period; starting about as garage as anyone, ever, with debut album Fever To Tell, they showed a dichotomy between the binge of decibel and the tender beauty of ‘Maps’. Things got less cute on 2006’s rock and roller Show Your Bones. In 2010, they, like everyone else, discovered synths and their music got noticeably dancier.
Interpol (1997 – Present)
Interpol certainly knows how to rock like the winter of discontent. This happy-clappy three-piece band returned to their darkest roots in 2014, straight back to the claustrophobic doom and gloom of 2002’s seminal work, Turn On The Bright Lights. Their debut album was re-issued in 2012, complete with material such as the brilliant ‘Precipitate’ and ‘Song Seven.’ The tenth year anniversary was a watershed moment for the band either to stumble or force their way into the future. Leaving the classical influences of 2007’s Our Love To Admire and Interpol (2010) aside, they rewound the clock to about 1984. Tradition views them as The Chameleons reborn, but Joy Division with a large dose of Pornography-era Cure is about right.
By Rory McInnes-Gibbons