Way back circa the early 2000s, I did a Now Wave list on the greatest bands of the ‘90s. Of course it was probably way too soon to construct such a list – which was half the fun of it! Back then the 2000s seemed so fresh and new…I can barely believe we’re now into the 2010s already! At some point I’ll take a second shot at listing the greatest bands of the ‘90s – my perspective enriched by the passing of another ten years. But first, I want to tackle the 2000s. I’m going to stick to “my” musical realm - punk rock and power pop. And I’m trying to pick bands that were around for a few years at least. I’ve excluded one-off projects (like Tina and the Total Babes), bands that were in decline by the 2000s (like The Registrators), and older bands that weren’t consistently recording throughout the decade (like The Dictators). I’m sure that none of these selections will be surprising to anyone who knows me. Oh, and just because a top ten seemed insufficient, I’m doing a top eleven. You get a bonus band! Why? Because I like you.
11. The Hives
So everybody and his brother had a raging boner for The Hives in the year 2000. But once the band had major label muscle distributing its records, it was suddenly convenient to dismiss The Hives as an emblem of corporate
’s “manufactured” garage rock revival. Fuck the hipsters. Veni Vidi Vicious is one of the greatest garage-punk albums ever made, and underrated follow-up Tyrannosaurus Hives was darn near as good. America
10. Marked Men
I suppose the only argument anyone would give me here is that this band should be ranked higher! Fair enough. Ex-Reds Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan burst onto the scene in 2003 with their debut album on Rip Off and have been going strong ever since. Their Texas-flavored take on the Buzzcocks/Ramones ’77 pop/punk style practically created a new sub-genre of music that spawned other great bands like Something Fierce.
9. The Kidnappers
The twin brothers from late ‘90s German garage-punk sensations the High School Rockers resurfaced in 2002 as two-thirds of The Kidnappers, a Teengenerate style garage-punk outfit with a surprisingly poppy sound. Debut album Ransom Notes and Telephone Calls was an absolute classic. Having modified their style with an influx of power pop, the ‘nappers struck again with the brilliant single “Spanish Girls” and the Rip Off Records issued Neon Signs (2006). Their new album Will Protect You is great, too!
8. Dimestore Haloes
While the late ‘90s may have been the Haloes’ “classic” period, truthfully the band made its best music in the early 2000s. Listen to swan song LP Ghosts of Saturday Night, and you hear the greatness to which the Haloes had always aspired but never quite attained. If Hanoi Rocks, the Heartbreakers, The Replacements, and the ‘70s Rolling Stones had been one band, they probably would have made a record like Ghosts of Saturday Night.
7. The Briefs
Just as the ’77 punk revival of the mid-to-late ‘90s was starting to die down, The Briefs gave it a kick in the pants with their classic debut LP Hit After Hit. Equal parts Weirdos and Adverts, with a provocatively absurdist sense of humor a la The Dickies, The Briefs were flat-out fun. “Poor and Weird” has got to be one of the classic punk songs of all-time. And just when the world needed a song about killing Bob Seger, The Briefs came through. Oddly enough, it seemed a lot of folks turned on The Briefs even as they continued to crank out terrific albums throughout the decade. This may have been partially due to an ill-fated alliance with Interscope Records but was more likely an indication of how fickle “punk” fans can be. Mad respect to this band for sticking to its pogo-punk ways and not caving to the shifting trends of the mid-to-late 2000s underground.
Having already produced the greatest album of all-time, Apocalypse Dudes, Turbonegro had its work cut out going into the 2000s. Scandinavian Leather and Party Animals were only disappointing if you were expecting another Apocalypse Dudes. There could never be another Apocalypse Dudes! Apocalypse Dudes was a once in every 75 years phenomenon, like Halley’s Comet. Nonetheless, Turbonegro did nothing in the 2000s to diminish its status as the greatest rock n’ roll band on Earth.
5. The Ergs
If you think The Ergs were “just” a pop-punk band, then you’re “just” an idiot. Meshing a contemporary pop-punk sound with elements of just about every classic SST Records band of the ‘80s, The Ergs were dynamite live and amazingly prolific in the studio. I believe they put over 500 7-inches. Mike Yannich is up there with the best songwriters of the decade.
4. The Figgs
You might think of The Figgs as a ‘90s band, but they may have been even better in the 2000s! Sucking In Stereo (2000) is probably their most immediately satisfying power pop/rock n’ roll record, while the ambitious double-disc Palais (2004) may be their finest album overall. The Figgs in the 2000s released four albums, gigged relentlessly, and showed every night why a lot of people consider them to be the best live rock n’ roll band in the world. And having released the well-received The Man Who Fights Himself last year, The Figgs may very well appear on my “Greatest Bands of the 2010s” list a decade from now!
I still don’t think the Bobbyteens have ever officially disbanded. It’s just that they haven’t made a record in seven years. The two they made in the 2000s were both classics. Not So Sweet (2000) , in its ‘60s girl group meets power pop mold, was a hint at what was to come with Tina and the Total Babes. The sadly overlooked Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’ (2004) took the B-teens back to the garage and was nothing but trashy throwback rock n’ roll fun.
2. The Reigning Sound
Greg “Oblivian” Cartwright is arguably the greatest songwriter of his generation. Rooted in pre rock n roll rhythm & blues and country, the music of Cartwright’s Reigning Sound gradually took on a high-powered garage rock feel a la The Sonics. If you count the band’s 2007 LP backing Shangri-Las singer Mary Weiss, the Reigning Sound put out a total of five great albums in the 2000s. If you like songs, get Time Bomb High School. If you like to rock, get Too Much Guitar. If you like good music, buy both plus all the rest.
1. The Exploding Hearts
Although the Hearts managed to put out only one album before their existence was tragically cut short, that one album in my mind ranks up there with the all-time great ’77 punk LPs. Guitar Romantic is genuinely a perfect album, and there’s no point in playing the game of speculating about what this band “could have” become. They were a great band, period. Their “(Making) Teenage Faces” 7” on Vinyl Warning is also one of the best punk singles ever. Will I still be listening to this band in another ten years? Bet the house on it!
So there ya go. Pretty good decade, eh? Now tell me who I forgot!