The Ten Best Garage Rock Bands of the 2000's

Published: February 17, 2015

Garage rock is a style of music that was developed in the mid-1960's in the United States and Canada. It is typically characterized by guitars distorted with fuzzboxes, aggressive lyrics, and a raw and amateurish sound. The style was popularized by bands such as The Kinks, The Kingsmen, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the Troggs, but by the end of the 1960's the genre had all but disappeared from the airwaves, replaced by such acts as The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and a rising genre known as punk. Then, around the turn of the century, the genre came back with an updated sound and a vengeance. Garage rock began to dominate the airwaves and top the charts, a feat which it had never accomplished before. These are the bands that led the charge in that revival. They are ranked here based on the degree to which they impacted the genres revival as well as their overall success. 

Although garage rock did have some level of success throughout the late 80's and early 90's, this list focuses solely on those that were involved in the revival of the early 2000's and those that followed.

 

  1. The Strokes

     

    Formed in New York City in 1998, The Strokes earn their place as the greatest garage rock band of the 2000's simply for being the band that reignited a genre, cementing its place as one of the most popular of the decade.

    The Strokes exploded onto the scene in 2001 with their debut album Is This It, meeting with wide critical acclaim and garnering the #2 spot on the UK Albums Chart and the #33 spot on the US Billboard 200. Defined by catchy melodies, guitar-driven rhythms, and an infectious charisma, Is This It paved the way for the bands that were to follow and redefined and reinvigorated a lost genre. The album, which contains such hits as "Last Nite," "Someday," and "Barely Legal," is consistently ranked among the best albums of the 2000's and even of all time.

    The Strokes have gone on to achieve a wildly successful career, selling over 5 million albums worldwide and performing as headliners for a wide variety of festivals, including the Isle of Wight Festival, Lollapalooza, and the Governors Ball Music Festival. They have since released 4 more albums, including Room on Fire and, most recently, Comedown Machine. The band is still going strong, having just finished a round of festival tours in 2014.

  2. The White Stripes

     

    Following closely behind The Strokes is the popular and wildly successful garage rock duo The White Stripes.  Formed in Detroit in 1997 by divorced couple Jack and Meg White, The White Stripes dominated the garage rock scene there, releasing two albums and developing a reputation for an intense sound and energetic live performances. Following the garage rock revival sparked by The Strokes and the release of their third album White Blood Cells, The White Stripes found themselves thrust into the limelight, garnering wide critical acclaim and attention.

    Equal parts blues, punk, and garage rock, their albums are characterized by a uniquely raw and aggressive sound that explodes from the speakers. Their fourth album, Elephant, saw the release of the song "Seven Nation Army," which has since become a staple at stadiums and sporting events around the world.

    The band released a total of six albums, sold millions worldwide, won three grammy awards, and released a documentary and concert film before breaking up in 2011. While the band no longer performs, Jack White's rough-around-the-edges guitar style and Meg's simple and reserved drumming have left their mark on music history. Jack White has since gone on too have a successful solo career and their albums continue to hold popularity around the world.   

  3. Arctic Monkeys

     

    The Arctic Monkeys are a band that have set themselves apart from the rest, both in style and in their manner of success. The band formed in 2002 in Sheffield, Engand, a year after the genre-defining albums released by The Strokes and The White Stripes, and their first album wasn't released until 2006. However, they were one of the first bands to achieve success almost entirely through the internet. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (containing the popular songs "Dancing Shoes" and "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"), became the fastest-selling debut album in British history, and it consistently ranks as one of the greatest albums of all-time.

    With lead singer Alex Turners fast-paced delivery in a sometimes difficult-to-understand Sheffield accent and their catchy and instantly recognizable guitar riffs, the band quickly rose to prominence and gained an enormous following. They have gone on to become one of the most popular bands in the world, consistently headlining festivals and playing sold out shows. The band has so far been nominated for three grammy awards and have been awarded seven Brit awards.  They continue to play and tour widely, with their latest tour, for their grammy-nominated album AM, coming to a close in 2014.  

  4. The Black Keys

     

    Much like the Arctic Monkeys, the Black Keys formed in 2001, missing out on the first wave of the garage rock revival. Their first album, The Big Come Up, was released in 2002, but as they were a new and independent act and the scene was already dominated by a host of other bands, they didn't gain much attention until later in the decade. Their third album, Rubber Factory (released in 2004), garnered critical acclaim and an intense underground following, but it wasn't until the release of their fifth album in 2008, entitled Attack and Release, that the band began to gain a lot of popular attention.  

    The second two-man band to be featured on this list, the Black Keys' blues-steeped roots with a garage rock twist have become a staple of the genre. Much like Meg White, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney provides a simple, albeit less reserved rhythm; however, unlike Jack White, Dan Auerbach's smoother voice and more polished guitar riffs lend to a sound that's a lot more blues and a lot less punk.

    Following the break-up and hiatuses of the garage rock bands of the early 2000's, the Black Keys led the charge in providing the movement with a second wind. In the latter years of the decade the band began performins at arenas instead of bars and clubs, and they have since gone on to win three grammy awards as well as top spots on various music charts. Their eighth album, Turn Blue, was released in 2014 and was the number one record in both the US and Australia. 

  5. The Hives

    With the inclusion of The Hives, our list once again returns to the early days of the garage rock revival. The only non-english band on the list (the group hails from Sweden) and certainly the oldest, having formed in 1989, The Hives have achieved a large amount of mainstream success. They are widely known and critically acclaimed for their live performances, considered by many to be one of the best live bands currently on the scene. 

    Although they were founded in 1989, the bands first studio album, Barely Legal, was not released until 1997. It wasn't until the release of their second album, Veni Vidi Vicious in 2000, however, that the band started to achieve a measure of mainstream success. The album yielded such hits as "Hate to Say I Told You So" and "Main Offender", songs that have since become synonymous with the phrase garage rock revival.

    The bands music is defined by its lo-fi and unrelenting punk sound, led by the unique high-range voice of "Howlin'" Pelle Almqvist, whose Swedish accent puts an unmistakeable stamp on the bands music. Following the explosion of the garage rock revival, The Hives popularity exploded and they have continued to put out successful albums and put on unforgettabel performances.

  6. The Killers

     

    Coming in on the list at sixth place is the Las Vegas based band The Killers. Formed in 2001, The Killers quickly rose to prominence with the release of their first album, Hot Fuss, whose first three singles, "Mr. Brightside," "Somebody Told Me," and "All These Things That I've Done," went on to garner five grammy nominations. The band has a much more refined sound than most of the bands on the list but they are perhaps the most successfull of the group. The band has sold over 22 million records worldwide and all four of their albums have gone on to reach the number one spot in the United Kingdom and Ireland. They are well-known for their live performances and are regarded as one of the best bands to have come out of the revival. They continue to tour today and are in fact working on their fifth studio album.

  7. Franz Ferdinand

     

    Named for the Archduke whose death sent the world spiraling into World War I, Franz Ferdinand formed in 2002 and burst onto the garage rock scene in 2004 with their self-titled debut album, releasing the hit song "Take Me Out." The band, whose sound is characterized by a mix of funk, punk, and garage rock, have released four albums, sold millions of records, and have been nominated for numerous Grammy and Brit awards. With the release of their first album, the bands music was praised for its fresh sound and the band received near universal critical acclaim. The bands popularity has continued to grow with the release of each new album, and they continue to tour extensively.

  8. The Vines

     

     

    The last of the four bands credited with sparking the garage rock revival is the band from Sydney, Australia, known as The Vines. Formed in 1994 and releasing their first album in 2002, The Vines have achieved extraordinary success in Australia. Their debut album, Highly Evolved, went platinum in Australia the year after its release and was nominated for five ARIA awards, one of which they won. The band has achieved success throughout the world, but nowhere moreso than in their home country. They are well-known for their mix of garage rock and grunge influences and their influence in Australia helped to popularize the garage rock style in the region. The band has so far released six studio albums, most recently in 2014, and they continue to tour around the world and maintain a large following in their home country of Australia.

  9. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

     

    Taking their name from Marlon Brando's infamous biker gang in the movie The Wild One, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club broke onto the garage rock scene with their 2001 debut album, B.R.M.C., having formed in 1998. The band gained some measure of success with their first two albums, but it wasn't until the release of Howl in 2005 that people began to take notice. The bands popularity began to soar following the release 2010 album, Beat the Devil's Tattoo, and they have since garnered a large following, with their music appearing in various movies, commercials, and video  games. Their music is noted for its darker tone and their use of the blues in achieving the sound, particularly on the album Howl. 

  10. Jet

     

    Jet, the final band on our list, formed in 2001 and is perhaps best known for the garage rock anthem "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" from their debut album Get Born. The album, released in 2003, didn't garner much critical acclaim but it achieved some mainstream popularity for its mixture of garage rock and classic rock elements. The band would go on to release two more albums and sell 6.5 million records before disbanding in 2012. Although not as critically successfull as some of the other bands on the list, Jet left their mark on the garage rock scene with an old school sound that continues to get stadium crowds chanting and singing along.

With that, this list comes to an end. The Strokes are, in my mind, the clear choice for the top spot on this list, but its definitely a close race. All the bands mentioned have achieved at least some degree of success and had a hand in repopularizing a genre that was thought to be forgotten. 

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