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Thread: Band of the aughts?

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Band of the aughts?

    Back in 1964, with the release of "A Hard Day's Night", the Beatles became the the first Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band in the World. They weren't a vocal group with an anonymous backup band, they wrote their own songs. It set the template for pretty much every band that followed. It's disputable as to how long the Beatles held that title, I'd argue that the honor moved to the Rolling Stones in December 1969 when they released "Let It Bleed", but these things aren't written in stone.

    Did Led Zeppelin or The Who ever officially wear that mantle? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? The Clash? Talking Heads? The Police?

    U2 pretty clearly held the title during the mid-to-late '80s. But did Nirvana take it from them? Or did R.E.M? Or did Pearl Jam? Or did Radiohead? Or did Public Enemy? Does Public Enemy count?

    It's the stuff of endless barroom banter, but I'm more interested in who the current Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band in the World is. Is there one? Or is the very notion of that title an anachronism?

    Raw stats never were much of a guide in determining the Greatest Band. Def Leppard sold plenty of albums once upon a time. Greatest Band? I don't think so. It's also not how many Enormodomes you can fill. Nor is it that modern measure of how many downloads you get. Otherwise we'd have to pay homage to Coldplay ... and I'll have none of that.

    The Greatest Band in the World is the one that can churn out a string of must-have records, discs that demand repeat listening, that stand out as distinct and inspire waves of bands behind them. Who's making the music that matters?

    It's hard to say these days because so little does matter. The radio penetration of anything new is extremely limited thanks to Balkanized radio formats, which seek to keep playing something that sounds like the last thing rather than embrace the new.

    Yet there are some bands that have been enjoying very good decades. The Hives, The White Stripes and Arcade Fire (not necessarily in that order) leap to mind. Is it one of those we'll point to when we look back on the aughts in another ten years? Do they even get into the argument?

    I'm curious as to what others think on this subject.
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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    The White Stripes seem to have the edge over The Hives and Arcade Fire in terms of radio and TV airplay. I'm not a huge fan, though.

    Since the dissolution of Soul Coughing and the castration of The Get Up Kids, I've been looking for a band I would deem the current Greatest Band in the World. I haven't found them yet.
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Great topic.

    I'll have to think about this...

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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    To me the greatest band in the world is The National but I don't expect many people to come to my defense.

    As far as merely popularity goes in the rock world, you'd have slim pickings between some decent but commercialized bands like Foo Fighters and Green Day. But no one really wants to hand over a title like this to bands whose best records are over 10 years old and have since been sullied by the subsequent releases of their recent marginalized, non-threatening albums. I like to think if you factor in influence, world wide popularity, and discount the need for the choice to be a big "broad", "commercial" band then I go with Radiohead. They're massively huge while still playing a non-commercial type of music. Their career output & its influence on modern rock is also something to consider. I'm sure there is a country band out there who is bigger but hey I'm going with Redszone's favorite electronic-rock-brit-pop band on this one.
    Last edited by The Baumer; 09-30-2008 at 05:14 PM.

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    I was going to say Radiohead too. They cross a lot of boundaries and appeal to a lot of different types of fans; they're massively influential on other musicians. They have staying appeal -- they've been around for 20 years (have been releasing records for 15) and can pretty much do what they want at this point. They sell out huge arenas. Their release of In Rainbows online was a pretty big statement in the music industry and may continue to have major repurcussions. Yes, other bands have done it, but not bands of that stature and not in such a high-profile way for a studio album.

    Radiohead's timing has been good too. OK Computer was released in 1997, but they waited over three years to release the next album. That doesn't sound like a particularly long time now, but at the time the hype was really snowballing and OK Computer just seemed to build and build through those years. So they've released four albums, plus a handful of solo projects, in this decade. During this time they've also gotten pretty involved in international politics -- not to the level of someone like Bono, but enough that it's notable.

    Not everybody likes them, but that's a question of taste and anyone would be hard-pressed to find a major band loved by most (I'm not a U2 fan really, but I don't question their being a SUPERBAND). I think of all bands this decade, this is the one that makes the case for having major musical influence while still being enormously popular. The White Stripes (whom I hate) would have had a case four or five years ago, but they've seriously dropped off and I haven't seen a lasting influence of their style on other musicians; bands tend to be veering more toward the theatrical than the garage. (And I'd argue that the White Stripes are hard to emulate musically -- not many bands can pull off the talented showman/guitarist and the charming-but-pretty-musically-limited rest of band angle.) The Arcade Fire are really good, but I don't think they've proven themselves lasting or prolific yet. Unless I'm missing something major, I can't really think of anybody else who's crossed that many boundaries and stayed there.

    Couple of other artists who spring to mind who have done very well for themselves this decade regardless:
    Dave Matthews -- not my cup of tea, and musically I don't think they really bring enough new to the table to influence a great number of other musicians, but there's no denying their popular appeal and staying power.
    Pearl Jam -- they've continued to release good music this decade (some of their best, really) and are still both enormously popular and influential. Actually, I think Pearl Jam might have a case here if they hadn't had such a successful 1990s.
    Ryan Adams -- definitely a dark horse, and he's not widely known enough to be considered for something like this. But I do give him props for having an insanely prolific, varied, and quality decade of music. Beck falls into this category too.
    Wilco -- they've had a fantastic decade full of quality stuff, they've stretched themselves musically, and they've had a strong influence on the music industry. Musicans love them, but I don't have a handle on whether they're widely known enough to compete for a title like this.

    What about someone like Timbaland? Danger Mouse? Not bands, but pretty influential this decade. Where do they fit into things?

    That's all that comes to mind now. I reserve the right to add more later.
    Last edited by vaticanplum; 09-30-2008 at 05:37 PM.
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    My clutch is broken RichRed's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Arcade Fire was the first band that came to mind when I saw the title of this thread but it's hard to fight the argument for Radiohead.
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Baumer View Post
    To me the greatest band in the world is The National but I don't expect many people to come to my defense.
    I love them, but they're probably a little TOO underground. Can they claim to have any sort of broad influence? One thing I'm hoping is that they allow the musical complexity they exhibit on stage to seep deeper into their next record.

    Quick question about Radiohead, are they now six years past being the Greatest Band in the World? Maybe they've reclaimed the title with "In Rainbows", but does it stack up next to "Kid A", "OK Computer", "The Bends" or even "Pablo Honey" (somewhat derivative, but first class at it)? I haven't heard enough of it to weigh in on that subject. My only point would be that if the new disc doesn't rise to the heights of the band's previous efforts then it's "Some Girls" or "In Through the Out Door", a perfectly good record that doesn't quite get the band back to the top of the mountain.

    Then again, if no one else is at the top of the mountain then does Radiohead hold the position by default? They could make a claim to a decade at the top (since "OK Computer") and you could even argue they served notice the first time everyone heard the guitar tic in "Creep".
    Last edited by M2; 10-01-2008 at 12:26 AM.
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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    Quick question about Radiohead, are they now six years past being the Greatest Band in the World? Maybe they've reclaimed the title with "In Rainbows", but does it stack up next to "Kid A", "OK Computer" or even "Pablo Honey" (somewhat derivative, but first class at it)? I haven't heard enough of it to weigh in on that subject. My only point would be that if the new disc doesn't rise to the heights of the band's previous efforts then it's "Some Girls" or "In Through the Out Door", a perfectly good record that doesn't quite get the band back to the top of the mountain.
    It's a good question. It depends what you're looking for in this "title". In Rainbows really is one of their best albums, I think, and I love Amnesiac too. Hail to the Thief is good (my friend and I call it their "sexy" album), but not that innovative or memorable.

    So musically, you have a point. But it's in this decade that they've really developed as an arena band. They were playing huge arenas in the late 90s after OK Computer, and even to a degree after Creep, but there was a sense that they were being paraded around by a record company and didn't really have control over it. I'd argue that Radiohead -- along with Pearl Jam -- is the one big band that in this decade has grabbed its career by the horns and done whatever they wanted with it. Probably not coincidentally, these are the two major bands who in this decade have made great use of the internet. Rather than fighting it like most record companies and bands did at the beginning, they totally embraced it. Radiohead's website has been meticulously well-kept and often very beautiful. They're an "arty" band to begin with -- they've been working with the same artist their whole career and their music is very associated with their artwork -- but they transposed this to the internet. They kept fans abreast of their work in the studio with a detailed diary. This all sounds kind of pretentious when I write it down, but this is a band that ran into the 21st century rather than being dragged into it kicking and screaming, and that as much as anything is why I think they're so important this decade.

    I have followed them their entire career, and I can tell you that the crowd at a Radiohead show now is very different from a crowd in 2001. They made some of their best music in the mid-to-late 90s, but it wasn't until later that a lot of people began to hear it, and their use of the internet is part of that too (fans rabidly communicated, traded songs, put concerts on the internet, etc., and the band didn't fight it).

    So I think that's a huge part of why they have been so important this decade. I don't feel like they peaked in 2000/2001; quite the contrary, they only seem to have grown. I'd tend to agree with you more if their music had obviously dropped off (Hail to the Thief is fine, but if they had released that again I would have a problem with them), but In Rainbows is just a beautiful album. Personal, original, stylized, and very interesting musically. It sounds like "classic Radiohead" while still sounding like nothing they've ever done. They pull instruments out of their butts that no other band of that level of popularity does. And their lyrics have gotten significantly less opaque, which in this case is a sign of maturity I think.

    I just get the sense that their career this decade has been so much more their own than it was before, and that has already had and will continue to have a lasting effect on the music industry. They were very successful after OK Computer -- but they weren't quite as successful as they, by all rights, needed to be to take that much control of their career. But with all the new technology going on, nobody could tell them otherwise, and they ran with it. The fact that they happened to do it right, probably largely due to luck, is a big factor in their popularity and is going to have a big effect on other bands.

    A good study in contrasts is Blur, I think. Musically, Blur may be a step down from Radiohead, but they've had remarkably similar careers musically. Blur churns out great album after great album, all of them original, and they make a point to veer in different directions and try new things musically. They're great live. They've had successful side projects just like Radiohead. They've been very interested in what artwork, for example, can add to their music. They've both had one enormous hit song worldwide. But Blur hasn't had nearly the career that Radiohead has had despite running neck and neck with them in the 90s, and excepting Song 2, they've barely registered outside of England despite, at times, relentless touring. I just don't think they handled their career in the same way, and it shows. (To a lesser degree, Supergrass -- a band that just keeps getting better and better -- can be a comparator too, although I'd argue that their music doesn't have the sweeping broad appeal that Radiohead's does nor do I think they ever really wanted such global success.)

    I'm a big Radiohead fan, obviously. But I am trying to be fair in terms of popularity, lasting influence, and innovation in addition to just plain good music. They're just an incredibly complete band: great and innovative in the studio, phenomenal live, musically complex, technically competent, intelligent and incredibly emotional.

    Now, if you asked me who has produced my favorite music in this decade, I'd say Ed Harcourt and be done with it. That kid just keeps churning it out and going all out. But he's not a blip of a blip of a blip in the music industry or the general public.
    Last edited by vaticanplum; 09-30-2008 at 08:40 PM.
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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by vaticanplum View Post
    Couple of other artists who spring to mind who have done very well for themselves this decade regardless:
    Dave Matthews -- not my cup of tea, and musically I don't think they really bring enough new to the table to influence a great number of other musicians, but there's no denying their popular appeal and staying power.
    Pearl Jam -- they've continued to release good music this decade (some of their best, really) and are still both enormously popular and influential. Actually, I think Pearl Jam might have a case here if they hadn't had such a successful 1990s.
    Ryan Adams -- definitely a dark horse, and he's not widely known enough to be considered for something like this. But I do give him props for having an insanely prolific, varied, and quality decade of music. Beck falls into this category too.
    Wilco -- they've had a fantastic decade full of quality stuff, they've stretched themselves musically, and they've had a strong influence on the music industry. Musicans love them, but I don't have a handle on whether they're widely known enough to compete for a title like this.

    What about someone like Timbaland? Danger Mouse? Not bands, but pretty influential this decade. Where do they fit into things?

    That's all that comes to mind now. I reserve the right to add more later.
    Wilco's an interesting contender. They've never put out a bad album, but I don't know that they're soared since "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" in 2002.

    I liked what I heard of Pearl Jam's last album, though I'd list it with the Stones' "A Bigger Bang" and U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind" as reminders of why they were a big band in the first place. Pearl Jam always struck me as a bit uneven to be top dog.

    Matthews seems to be more about touring and cutting live records these days. His band has definitely become a perpetual motion machine. It can sell out tours from here to forever, but what's the last great studio record the band cut?

    Danger Mouse can get some consideration for Gnarls Barkley I suppose. I love some of Gnarls singles, but are the entire discs up to snuff?

    I wonder if The Killers or Franz Ferdinand will hit a homerun with their new releases and get themselves into this discussion.
    Last edited by M2; 09-30-2008 at 08:48 PM.
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    This is an interesting topic and I wonder in this world of Hip Hop and cookie cutter pop songs if there is such a thing as the "biggest band in the world"? I am a fan of Radiohead and like in Rainbows but to me their best disc was the Bends and that was released in 95 I think. I think Oasis had the moniker of biggest band in the world for a year of so after Wonderwall hit.

    I like the Killers so hopefull they can step it up and become the biggest band the world but I have my doubts that atleast in the near future a rock band will hold that title. I just hope a band like Nirvana comes out again and spawns rock revival so I can listen to new music again.
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    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Don't we first have to define what Rock n Roll is before we assign a crown? The definition seems to be constantly evolving anymore.

    I remember when the Beatles were called a Pop band because of songs like I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You. But I still love their renditions of You Really Got A Hold On Me, Roll Over Beethoven, and Money.

    I'm currently reading the book "McCartney" by Christopher Sanford. I enjoyed the section where it talks of the Beatle's early relationship (influence) on the Stones, and especially Jagger and Richards who hung on Lennon and McCartney's shirt tails in utter awe of their song writing ability. In 1963 while working on "With The Beatles", John and Paul met up with Andrew Oldham (Stone's manager). They gave him a song "I Wanna Be Your Man", written in under 30 minutes and played for the Stones. The Beatles would later record the song with Ringo singing vocals.
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Radiohead: unlistenable.

    I hate going on stuff like "influence" or "exposure." There's great, good, awful, then everything else. No one's made better music or written better songs over the last 12 years than David Berman. Contenders don't exist. I like other albums, bands, but I simply can't name a truly great band at the height of their powers right now.
    Last edited by Falls City Beer; 09-30-2008 at 09:30 PM.

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    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Very interesting, but I think there are no "great rock bands" anymore. That is not to say there isn't great music out there. On the contrary, I am happily finding more really good bands to listen to now than I ever have before. What's the difference? Well, back in the day, the music industry dictated much more clearly which bands we would listen to, whereas today they have much less control over our choices. It's a good thing, but I think it has ended the era when just a few bands would dominate the rock scene.

    And besides, what is "rock" any more? To me, the word symbolizes more the era than the music. Don't get me wrong, there are some great, rockin' bands today. But I just don't think it's possible for any of them to reach the status of the rock bands from the 60's through the 80's. That money is going into manufacturing the next American Idol star instead.
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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Falls City Beer View Post
    Radiohead: unlistenable.

    I hate going on stuff like "influence" or "exposure."
    But you can't go on taste, not if you hope to have an objective argument. Or you can...but that isn't what the question asked. There's a difference between who is most important and who is the best (usually).
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    A Little to the Left Redsfaithful's Avatar
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    Re: Band of the aughts?

    I'm not even a fan, but I think you're dismissing Coldplay too quickly. I think it's probable that that's the first band most people are going to remember or bring up when they talk about this decade.

    I think Baumer has a good point with Green Day and Foo Fighters as well. U2 has also had a pretty good decade for that matter.

    In the end though, I think the idea that one band could loom over an entire decade (or even half a decade) might be over. Attention is so fragmented now.
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