However, for those of you purists out there, great rock n’ roll music is still out there for those of us who are willing to seek it out. In fact, in my humble opinion, there are several contemporary bands that are churning out some of the best rock music ever produced. The improvements in technology over the last few decades has led to lots of watered-down, autotuned nonsense, but it has also improved the sound of rock music. Without further ado, here are five bands that can still rock out with their
cocks socks out (that doesn’t make sense, though…).
#1 – The Gaslight Anthem
Okay, so Anthony already covered these dudes in his underrated bands article, and before he even showed me his choices, I suggested Gaslight as a worthy choice; we’re both very impressed by these old-school rockers from Jersey. While modern music tends toward cheap, tacky, and downright idiotic ideals and lyrics (see: I’m in the club high on Purp wit some shades on), Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon (who also heads up fantastic side-project The Horrible Crowes) writes some of the most poignant, heartfelt lyrics around, without sounding whiny or cloying. Indeed, through Fallon’s expert songwriting, and the rest of the gang’s flawless musicianship, listening to the Gaslight Anthem is an immersive experience – you’ll often find yourself hearkening back to the heyday of REAL America, picturing yourself sitting in a New Jersey diner and reminiscing about lost love and old friends who slipped away.
But while much of the Gaslight Anthem’s catalogue evokes all sorts of nostalgia, they can also rock HARD. And at the end of the day, that’s the mark of a true rock outfit; the Gaslight Anthem can mix sad, poetic lyrics with guitar riffs and pounding drums that defy you to stand still. These dudes are still a pretty young band, and through just four albums, they might just be the most-promising rock outfit in DECADES. Do yourself a favor and take a listen.
#2 – The Hold Steady
Okay, let me start by saying the Hold Steady is not, by any means, an easily-accessible band. No, they’re out of the Springsteen and Nirvana vein…meaning that their lead singer’s voice is far from sugary-sweet. No, Hold Steady vocalist Craig Finn usually sounds more like he’s talking than singing, and this can drive a lot of listeners away from the outset. To be honest, the first time I listened to the Hold Steady (The song was “Stuck Between Stations,” now one of my favorites) I couldn’t stand them. But the Hold Steady is a band that deserves a second listen if you don’t like them initially. Why? Because once you get used to Craig Finn’s vocal delivery, you realize that not only does the band exemplify PERFECT rock musicianship, but you realize that Craig Finn is the single best songwriter of this millennium, and it’s not even close. I said it: THE SINGLE BEST.
The Hold Steady is exactly what rock music should be; they come off more like a band you would watch at a bar at 2:00am on a thursday night when you’ve had one too many to drink than they do a polished, finely-produced, commercially viable band. And that’s why they’re perfect. They’re not sexy, they’re not smooth; they’re rough, they’re raw, and boy do they fucking ROCK. Pair Craig Finn’s songspeak delivery with soaring guitars, rolling bass, pounding drums, and even a tastefully-incorporated piano, organ, or pedal-steel section, and The Hold Steady delivers everything that Rock n’ Roll should be. Listen to them as many times as it takes to get used to their sound, and then explore Finn’s utterly BRILLIANT lyricism, and the band’s unmatched musicianship. If they’re not one of your favorite bands in a few months, you’re doing it wrong.
#3 – Lucero
In the tradition of American Rock n’ Roll, the South has played a critical role. Ever heard of the Who? How about Creedence Clearwater Revival? Elvis? Robert Johnson? The list goes on and on and on. Dixieland has been instrumental (no pun intended) in the growth of Rock n’ Roll. And one band from Memphis, Tennessee is keeping the Southern Rock tradition alive and well in a major way today. Meet Lucero.
Now, I’m not even remotely a fan of country music. I can’t stand Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean is garbage, and Florida-Georgia Line makes my ears hurt. However, Lucero has an undeniable country twang…and I just can’t get enough. Ben Nichols (the older brother of Mud director Jeff Nichols) sings in his trademark Southern accent, yearning for lost love and nights lost to whiskey and cigarettes, while the band incorporates plenty of pedal-steel and somber guitar notes. However, Lucero’s twang only adds to their unmatched sound, which incorporates all of the good aspects from country, rock, and punk music to create a kickass breed of Southern rock. Lucero is another band that could easily headline a dive bar on a hot summer night; their tunes will make you feel like throwing down a few bourbons and causing some trouble…in the best way possible. Take a listen for yourself.
#4 – Against Me!
Alright, so we’ve already covered Against Me! a few times on Writtalin. I don’t care, they deserve every bit of the hype. While Laura Jane Grace & Co. started out as a pretty inaccessible, hardcore punk band, defined by visceral screams and wailing guitars, over the years the band has migrated towards a more straightforward Rock N’ Roll sound. Don’t get me wrong, Against Me! is still very punk rock at its core, and Grace’s lyrics are a far cry from the generic mainstream, but the band has truly become not just one of the best punk acts of the millennium, but one of the best rock outfits in general.
Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, who recently came out as transgender, can belt it out like nobody else around, and her bandmates put down some of the most aggressive, rockin’ tracks in the industry. Even as Grace has transitioned in her personal life, the band’s music has remained as strong and ass-kicking as ever. Take a listen to the titular track off the band’s latest release, Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
#5 – Japandroids
And finally, we have Japandroids. These Canadian rockers embody the rawness and energy of garage-rock predecessors like the White Stripes and Black Keys, while getting only a fraction of the attention those acts have garnered. And that’s simply not fair – plain and simple, Japandroids do nothing but ROCK hard. While their most-recent album Celebration Rock did chart in Canada, the band remains greatly under-appreciated.
While this two-man outfit can’t produce the same sound that many of their rock contemporaries can, they embody rock ethics in their straightforward, kickass approach to their music. The frenetic energy and enthusiasm that Brian King and David Prowse bring to their craft makes for some uptempo, party-ready tunes that will make you feel like rocking your balls off. Guaranteed.
Tags : Against Me!, Ben Nichols, Brian Fallon, Craig Finn, Creedence Clearwater Revival, featured, Gaslight Anthem, Hold Steady, Horrible Crowes, Japandroids, Jeff Nichols, Laura Jane Grace, Lucero, music, Music Musings, New Jersey, Rock, Rock Music, Rock n' Roll