Remember when the Arctic Monkeys came along and ‘saved’ guitar music back in 2005?
No, me neither. In fact, I don’t recall there being a time, certainly in the early 00s, when it was ever in need of a saviour, especially after it allegedly was ‘saved’ only a few years earlier by The Libertines.
I distinctly recall going to my Nan’s after school twice a week (she had Sky) and watching a seemingly endless conveyor belt of great guitar bands come and go.
Kinesis, Hell Is For Heroes, Nine Black Alps, Brand New, Yourcodenameis:Milo, Serafin, Cave In, Amplifier, Oceansize, The Datsuns, InMe, Grand Volume, Idlewild, Million Dead, Slaves To Gravity, The Music, Death From Above 1979, Pure Reason Revolution, Zico Chain, Secret Machines, Sucioperro, The Vines. To name but a few of my favourites.
Hell, I’ll even chuck bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Interpol, Editors, The Strokes, Kings Of Leon and The Sunshine Underground in the mix too, at the more commercially acceptable end of the spectrum in that ‘alt-indie’ grey area.
These were halcyon times. Two hours of MTV2 followed by Gonzo, before Zane Lowe became an insufferable sycophant, skivving off school of an afternoon to skim through albums I had literally no money for at Martian Records in Taunton (sadly now gone). I saw Million Dead perform an acoustic set there once. Oh what happened to you Frank Turner?
But with the benefit of hindsight, you’d be forgiven for thinking the guitar, at least in mainstream circles, had been outlawed until Doherty, Barât, Turner and co got their mitts on one.
For all the column inches devoted to the Arctic Monkeys, they expertly rode the crest of an extremely popular wave, fuelled by the growth of social media. Their transition from My Space to Twitter and Facebook came at precisely the right time. Suddenly, they commanded an audience unlike any before – one (literally) at their fingertips. It’s hard to overstate the effect social media had on music at that time. It was seismic.
Sadly, for all those acts that came before though, they created a scene that was doomed, not to failure, but to obscurity.
There were flashes. Get Free by The Vines was massive. So was Take The Long Road by The Music and Gloria by Brand New.
I recall reading NME around that time too, blithely waxing and waning as popular opinion shifted. That said, had it not been for NME (even in spite of its endless Libertines cover features), I would never have discovered just about my favourite band of all time – Amplifier. It’s remarkable in retrospect they even got the half column they did in some end of year ‘riff round-up’. The song was The Consultancy if you were wondering. Go listen to it. It sounds like a guitar turning itself inside out.
Nostalgia’s an unhealthy obsession, especially when you’re still only in your mid-20s, but hearing Crushed Like Fruit by InMe will always transport me back to my Nan’s living room.
Actually, guitar music is still going great guns right now. 10 years later, the mantle has been assumed by Arcane Roots, Baroness, Marmozets, Battles, Black Peaks, Brontide, Future Of The Left, Drenge, Wolf Alice, Foals, Royal Blood, Vennart, Pulled Apart By Horses, Tame Impala, Turbowolf. Go. Listen. Devour.
Here are nine great songs from a sadly forgotten era:
Kinesis – This Dead End (2003)
Unmistakably influenced by Matt Bellamy of Muse’s guitar histrionics, This Dead End is over-the-top in every way, from the absolutely filthy distortion on the guitars to the ridiculous solo and enormous chorus.
Idlewild – A Modern Way Of Letting Go (2002)
Two and a half minutes of sheer unrelenting fury, propelled by a riff that could splice through universes. Very much a song to listen to first thing in the morning.
The Music – The Dance (2002)
The Dance sets the tone for The Music’s self-titled debut. Swirling, psychedelic waves of guitar build and build and build into rhythmic motifs thanks to one of the tightest rhythm sections you’ll ever hear. Oh, and the ending is somewhere approaching what I’d expect the end of the world to sound like.
InMe – Underdose (2003)
Another band clearly influenced by Origin-era Muse, Underdose is built around a simple riff that is as jaunty as it is buccaneering, while a then teenage Dave McPherson switches effortlessly from his impossibly deep teenage roar to cut-glass falsetto.
Secret Machines – First Wave Intact (2004)
I saw Secret Machines on a boat in Bristol. They closed with this track. A 10-minute twisted mélange of blues, rock and roll and psychedelia. For a song with just one distinct beat or groove, 10 minutes has never felt so short. We couldn’t stop idly strumming that very beat for weeks.
Cave In – Anchor (2003)
Like the aforementioned A Modern Way Of Letting Go by Idlewild, Anchor is a three-minute relentless assault on the senses. There is no break, no let up, no flab. Just a barely contained wall of noise with a chorus to die for.
Nine Black Alps – Not Everyone (2005)
It had to be this or Ironside. Not Everyone though features Nine Black Alps singer Sam Forrest at his most ferocious. With more than a nod to Nirvana, Not Everyone channels the angst of every 20-something outcast.
Amplifier – The Consultancy (2004)
This is by no means my favourite Amplifier song – but it is the song that perhaps had the greatest impact on my taste in music at the time. I was a huge Muse fan back then (when they were at their peak) but The Consultancy was the first song I heard around that time that gave me the same thrill as when I first heard the riff in New Born. It was just SO big.
Oceansize – Catalyst (2003)
Again, by no means my favourite Oceansize song. However, when those squally wails of guitar give way to that interlocking riff (which pans left to right if you listen to it on headphones) and finally explodes into another cataclysmic riff, Catalyst becomes simply mesmerising.
And another six from right now:
Marmozets – Born Young And Free
Arcane Roots – Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected
Wolf Alice – You’re A Germ
Black Peaks – Set In Stone
Drenge – Running Wild
Brontide – Knives