Sometimes radio scares me. I like pop music, from Rihanna to the Beach Boys and every trend between. A good pop song is a beautiful thing. But the radio historically has also been home to the legends of rock: Elvis Presley, James Brown and the Beatles all hold multiple airplay records and awards. Today, the rock and roll attitude is completely absent from radio.
Which begs the question: twenty years from now (hell, ten years from now) who will be regarded as the preeminent rock bands of the 2000s and 2010s? Cold Play, The Frey and Nickleback have been some of the most successful contemporary rock acts in recent years, god help us.
Who then will carry forth the bad ass torch of rock? Who should you tell your kids you listened to back in the day? Wonder no more.
4. Kings of Leon
Best Albums: “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” “Youth and Young Manhood”
Best Tracks: Trani, Kings of the Rodeo, Joe’s Head
How they so cool? “You talkin bout my baby? I could flip you upside down and I could mop this place,” taunts KOL front man Caleb Followill on 2007 Because of the Times track “My Party.” Despite a two album slump and an unavoidable corporate tweak to their image, the Kings came out of the gate strong with a pair of southern garage rock classics, followed by the more ambitious, arena-rock 2007 release. KOL boozes to the point of excess, smokes with the best of them and have set the marriage bar at Super Model. Just when you think this band might not be bad ass, that the sudden fame brought on by the bands 2008 breakthrough “Sex On Fire” may have ruined their rock cred for good, the Followills come up with gems like this: (to a live audience) “For all the people out there that don’t give a shit about us, I want you to know…I understand. But we worked fucking hard to get here so anyone who has anything to say, fuck you. We’re the god damned Kings of Leon.”
3. Jamie T
Best Album: “Panic Prevention,” “Kings and Queens”
Best Tracks: Salvador, If You Got the Money, Spider’s Web
How he so cool? “I’m a completely original artist. No one had ever played an acoustic guitar before I played one. I came up with this whole idea, talking about this thing called love. I put a guitar with it and it just worked.” And there you have it. Wimbledon’s Jamie T is a punk from the 70s, a hip hop artist from the 80s, a folk singer from 1969, and so much more. He is the kind of guy who will put out a record every ten years if that’s what suits him. His headbutt will fracture your jaw in two places if you try to steal his drink at the pub (just ask model Giles Curties). He is as at home in Brixton’s 02 Arena as he is strumming an acoustic bass guitar alone in an elevator or covering Beyonce for BBC Radio 1. In short, Jamie just don’t give a fuck.
Best Album: “Worship & Tribute,” “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence”
Best Tracks: “Siberian Kiss,” “Two Tabs of Mescaline,” “Black Nurse”
How they so cool? Screamo/post-core acts are definitely the polar opposite of Cold Play, but that doesn’t necessarily make them rock gods. Generally it just means they are loud. Glassjaw’s 2000 debut sure was loud, but their follow up two years later saw the band taking huge technical and lyrical leaps. Subsequent albums (which, as they are with all cool bands, drop only after years of mystery and dozens of altered release dates) have featured tender ballads (“The Number No Good Things Can Come Of”), marimba driven jams (“Black Nurse”) and vulnerable admissions of addiction (“Daytona White”). Frontman Daryl Palumbo has one of the most distinct, diverse voices of this generation–and he’s quite capable behind a turn table as well. The band has also had numerous run-ins with record labels, have gotten in trouble for dispensing “riot kits” at their shows, and cover high school breaks up with more passion that Bright Eyes ever could: “You can lead a whore to water and you can bet she’ll drink and follow orders.”
1. Arctic Monkeys
Best Album: All
Best Tracks: Most
How they so cool? Where to begin? Arctic Monkeys are without a doubt the coolest rock and roll band of the decade, and unsurprisingly they are also the best. Straight up. Frontman Alex Turner can croon, cry and caterwaul with the best of them, and not since 70s stones have we seen a singer with such vulnerable, juvenile delinquent sex appeal. The Monkeys also sport the best rhythm section and rock and roll and one of the most intense, tuneful live sets. Unlike KOL, Arctic Monkeys defy the odds and have yet to release a record inferior to its predecessor. With a fifth album in the works, expect this band to take to a stage near you in the near future. And trust me, it’s a show you will want to tell your kids about.
Those are my four. Where are yours?