By Scott Yager
Following up on Part I, I now offer up the concluding portion of my look at the top rock albums of the 00’s.
5) Elephant – The White Stripes
Jack White and his sister are not only the most awkward looking duo in the history of rock music, they also seemed to be the hardest working musicians of the decade, putting out album after album the same way factory workers churn out packaged goods. They have a few albums that could be on this list, as do The Raconteurs, White’s other band that managed to create a new sound perfect for the time period. Because I chose to represent each band by only one album, the way I decided which album belonged on here out of the band’s work from the decade was to choose the one with the best song. That is not to say that if one album was far better than the others that it wouldn’t belong on here regardless, but in cases like this, where White Blood Cells, Get Behind Me Satan and even Icky Thump could all be argued for, Elephant gets the nod because it has Seven Nation Army on it, which is another nominee for Best Song of The Decade. White might be the musician of the decade, and there is no doubt that the sound that came out of this camp of bands is one of the defining sounds of the decade. The White Stripes might have almost worked against themselves getting a higher spot on this list because since they have so many albums and so much of their great work is so spread out, it is hard to put any of them that high on the list, but to not have one of them on here would be a travesty. They represent the 00’s better than any other band other than possibly the next one on this list.
Also could have been on here for: White Blood Cells (2001), Get Behind Me Satan (2005), Icky Thump (2007)
4) Hot Fuss – The Killers (2004)
The Killers had four albums come out this decade, one so soon after another that it is hard to remember what songs are on what album. Except for this one. The Killers are probably THE BAND of the 00’s if you think about it, exemplifying one of the key sounds that we became known for over the past ten years and doing it so brilliantly and so consistently. The two sounds that exemplified the decade were the sound best represented by The White Stripes and the sound best represented by The Killers. Is it indie rock? Is it electronic dance rock? Whether or not it has a name, when you mention The Killers, people know what kind of music you are talking about. These guys seemed to never quit at all in the 00’s and remained a constant on bicoastal rock radio for the entire time. I chose Hot Fuss to represent them on this list because not only was it their first album and the one that really turned them into superstars, but it also has their best song on it, Mr. Brightside, which is definitely a clear-cut nominee for Best Song of The Decade as well. When you hear that song it makes you feel a certain way and like a lot of The Killers’ songs, when you hear it, you remember what decade you were in when you…were younnnnggg…
Also could have been on here for: Sam’s Town (2006)
3) Black Holes and Revelations – Muse (2006)
Muse is another nominee for Band of The Decade. It is hard to define their sound, but one finds it easy to pick out characteristics they share with many of the bands on this list. Sometimes the brilliant guitar transitions are reminiscent of System of a Down (below) and their international vibe that comes from Matt Bellamy’s British pipes feeds into the decade-wide trend of opening our eyes and ears to music from other parts of the world. Their luminous use of electronic sounds and background noises is something you can point out in other artists of the decade like The Killers. What’s great about Muse is that although you can find little things about their sound that remind you of other great acts you still cannot deny that Muse is one of, if not the most original band of the decade. Never altering their approach to find an easier path to prominence, the band has finally taken their proper place among the elite rock acts in the US with their latest release, The Resistance. Absolution, the album that first put them on the map in the US with hits like Hysteria and Our Time Is Running Out, is another fantastic album that could have been on this list. Muse has three albums that would have all been on here had I not decided to limit each band to one. To have three of the top albums of the decade is something very few bands can say and that is why Muse needs to be considered one of THE BANDS of the decade, along with as I said earlier, The White Stripes and The Killers. The reason Black Holes and Revelations, a one of a kind album, is on here instead of the other two is because it contains what I believe to be their best song, and another nominee for Best Song of the Decade: Knights of Cydonia. Along with Starlight and Supermassive Black Hole, Cydonia forced people everywhere around the country to take note of this groundbreaking band from the UK by taking over the radio waves, music television, and even video games (Knights of Cydonia being one of the most popular Guitar Hero tracks). With its Bohemian Rhapsody-like progression, ear-opening sound effects and head-banging finale, Knights of Cydonia is the type of perfect rock anthem that bands dream of one day writing and sharing with the world.
Also could have been on here for: Absolution (2003), The Resistance (2009)
2) Toxicity – System of a Down (2001)
No band epitomizes post-9/11 rock music quite like these Armenian psychopaths. With Toxicity being released right around 9/11/01 and the 3-4 singles off the album gradually making their debut on the radio over the next year or so, Toxicity was one of the first new fresh batches of music the rock world had after being thrust into this new world of anti-terrorism and hyper-nationalism. The beautiful thing about SOAD is that if you wanted to describe them to someone who had never heard them you would either do a terrible job or they would probably ask you why the hell in their right mind they would want to listen to a band like that. Well, there are some equations that just don’t add up and some phenomena that don’t make sense, but there is no doubt that the voice of Serj Tankian and his crazy shrieks and vocal melodies were exactly what we needed in 2001. The 00’s had already been defined, like it or not, by 9/11 and the new post-terrorism world we lived in which contained, among other things, fear, and more specifically a fear of the non-American. Hearing a band from the Middle East, who sounded like they were from the Middle East, but rocked out like no American band we had ever heard before and spoke of peace, social togetherness, and about the sickening and disgusting aspects of war and genocide was a rock concoction unlike anything we had ever experienced. With Chop Suey, one of the catchiest songs of the decade for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, Toxicity, Aerials, ATWA, Forrest and tons of other songs that made you feel passionately about whatever it is you wanted to think about, Toxicity was the first real defining album of the 00’s and System of a Down became the first post-9/11 rock band. These guys shot up the charts and began to sell-out arenas all across the country, something that might not have ever happened if it wasn’t for that fateful Tuesday morning on September 11th. Music’s place in history is cemented not only by the music itself, but the events that surround it. No one will ever know if SOAD would have ever had the same effect on us had we not been in such a weird place as a country. Ten years ago it would be hard to believe that any singer could get away with “Lalalalala-ing” in the middle of a metal song like Serj managed to do over and over again. But that’s what makes them one of a kind. Toxicity is a classic, an album that reminds you what decade you were in, what country you were in, and why we as a people turn to music in times of fear and confusion. Little did any of us know that it would be this Armenian foursome that would best be able to capture the emotions that we as Americans were feeling in a time of uncertainty. An all time classic five star album will never be forgotten. “You! How do you own the world!? How do you own disorder!?” Well it took pure disorder for this gang of misfits to own the world of rock music but for a huge chunk of the last decade, System of a Down did just that.
Also could have been on here for: Hypnotize/Mesmerize (2005)
1) American Idiot – Green Day (2004)
One upon a time there was a little punk band called Green Day who took a genre of music that was based on youth and mediocrity and turned it into the most popular music in the country. The biggest punk band of all time, Green Day seemed to be destined to be known for that and only that, always hanging onto those great tunes from the 90’s like Basket Case and Brain Stew that turned punk into pop. No No No said Billy, Tre and Mike. We will be known for more than that. We will become the biggest band in the world. In 2004, Green Day did just that, by releasing American Idiot, which was not only the most successful concept album in years (it has since been turned into a musical in California) but they also managed to cross the bridge from being that little punk band that could to being a ROCK band, and not just that, the BIGGEST ROCK BAND IN THE WORLD (Idiot sold over 14 million copies). In 2005, a year after Idiot came out, Green Day sold out Giant’s Stadium, something no other band from this decade can claim to have done (other than Bruce, U2 and Jovi, duh, but they don’t count since they’ve been doing that for twenty years). The Green Day of the 90’s could never have done this, even though they were extremely popular and at the forefront of rock ‘n’ roll relevance. It took this brilliant album from 2004 to put them over the top, to remind people of what they really were, artists. Some people know that it takes the work of brilliant artists to be able to make punk music as well and as influentially as Green Day did in the 90’s, but not everyone. With American Idiot people around the world were forced to look at Green Day in a new light, in the same light that people had begun to look at all the music of the decade. Music had to be more than just catchy and fun. In a post 9/11 world we wanted more, we wanted to know that the band knew what world they were living in and that they knew who was listening. American Idiot in its title alone seems to sum up the last decade. The 00’s was a decade of anti-governmental pop culture like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Saturday Night Live skits, a decade in which the country’s biggest villain might have also been its leader. It was clear America thought the government was treating them like idiots, and idiots we were not. Billie Joe spoke for all of us when he said, “I don’t want to be an American Idiot” in the first line of the first track of this truly historical masterpiece of rock music. American Idiot really is a rock opera, more than just a series of songs put together to make an album. With songs like Holliday and Jesus of Suburbia, Green Day took us on a journey of ups and downs, highs and lows, through the world that we had learned to live in and reminded us that this did not have to be the case. Boulevard of Broken Dreams, the album’s true ballad, was proof that not only could Green Day go outside the box and create a special song for all music lovers but that their high level of artistry had simply not been realized until then. American Idiot has four songs on KROQ’s TOP TWENTY SONGS OF 2005 LIST, (Jesus of Suburbia, Holliday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends) the most by any band on any KROQ Top Twenty Songs of the Year list of the decade. Green Day has not drastically altered their sound or approach at all and that is what makes their ascent to superstardom all the more exciting for long-time Green Day fans. When you listen to Dookie or Insomniac you still hear the same band. You hear a younger band who cared about different issues and were growing up rather than living as adults, but the same band is there, with the unbelievably catchy guitar riffs, brilliant transitions, nasally vocals, well timed bass solos and flawlessly frantic drumming. With American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown however we have the Green Day of the new decade, the 00’s, who used their iconic sound and unmatched songwriting abilities to mirror the times and make their music about what we as a nation are going through. Green Day, always having been loved for their sound and charisma had finally channeled all of that one-of-a-kind skill and directed it towards what was in the minds and hearts of Americans of all ages. If you disagree with this being the best rock album of the decade, then you my friend are a fucking Idiot!
Also could be on here for: 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
To ignite additional arguments:
BEST ROCK SONGS OF THE DECADE:
(Nominees, take your pick…but it’s unfair for me to choose one)
White Stripes: Seven Nation Army
The Killers: Mr. Brightside
Muse: Knights of Cydonia
Kings of Leon: Use Somebody
Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Green Day
Toxicity: System of a Down
ROCK BAND OF THE DECADE:
The Foo Fighters
The White Stripes
System of a Down