The reign of glam rock may only have lasted half a decade from the early 70s, but its influence has been long lasting. Marc Bolan’s appearance on Top Of The Pops in 1971 was arguably glam’s starting point, but David Bowie – particularly his extraterrestrial alter ego Ziggy Stardust – was just as important, along with bands such as Sweet, Mud, Slade, Roxy Music and Mott The Hoople.
Not only was the genre heaps of fun, it allowed the youth to rebel against conservative thought and reject commonplace gender norms. This rebellion frequently came dressed in an exuberant, often feminised wardrobe of platform boots, skin-tight garments, makeup and glitter.
Although glam rock in its original form might now be just a distant echo, these are the bands bringing back the noise and breathing new life into a short-lived and often overlooked moment in musical history.
Arriving onto the scene in 2014 in a cloud of glitter and hairspray, Atlanta’s Starbenders are the highly-flammable answer to glam rock’s dwindling flame. Although their peacockish attire might be the most obvious indicator of their glam rock tendencies, their ties to the genre runs much deeper than stilt-high platform boots and 70s style shag hair-dos.
Fronted by Kimi Shelter, who could easily pass as being the lovechild of Siouxsie Sioux and David Bowie, Starbenders have conjured a cosmic blend of defiant punk (such as on their 2016 debut Heavy Petting), melodic pop and glittering neo-glam. Their second album, 2020’s Love Potions, sees their ability to sonically shapeshift reach new heights, while showcasing plenty of earworming sing-a-long hooks and fuzzy riffs throughout.
New York-based psych-rockers Uni have yet to release an album, but their trail of beguiling singles and mind-altering videos are more than enough evidence of their glam rock sensibilities.
Self-described as being formed from a concoction of cigarette butts, used condoms, melted vinyl and numerous other unsavoury ingredients, Uni are a trio of true eccentrics who embody the alien mystique of Ziggy Stardust with a darker, dystopian twist. Comprised of mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Kemp, Jack James and David Strange, Uni are a sizzling melting pot of sparkling acid-laced psychedelia, glam rock and futuristic electro pop.
Freddie Mercury isn't a name you bandy around willy-nilly, but Struts frontman Luke Spiller comes closer than most to staking a claim to the throne. He has the voice, charisma springs from every pore, and he's an effervescent force of nature onstage. Just what you'd expect from the glam hotbed that's modern Derbyshire.
The Struts have already worked with Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Robbie Williams, Kesha, Paris Jackson, Albert Hammond Jr and Tom Morello, demonstrating a clear nous for showbiz and an ability to hook up with those who'll keep their credibility intact (for those who care about such things) as well as those likely to provide a swift path to crossover success.
Flagged as being part of the psych rock revival, Temples are a group of mop-haired Marc Bolan reincarnates who've charmed listeners with their fusion of hazy psychedelia and laid-back pop-rock.
Their 2014 debut LP Sun Structures offers a nod to 1960s flower-power with slinky guitar hooks while 2017’s critically-acclaimed Volcano is a beatific, dandy dreamland of shiny leather jackets and paisley shirts. Although the glam essence isn’t at the forefront of what Temples are about, 2019’s Hot Motion continued to cement their footing as one of today’s most infectiously flamboyant rock acts.
The Lemon Twigs
Receiving the seal of approval from the king of kitsch himself, Elton John, with their debut album Do Hollywood in 2016, The Lemon Twigs, made up of Long Island brothers Brian and Michael D'Addario, are no strangers when it comes to pomp.
Their outlandish combination of baroque rock, power pop and glam calls to mind the theatrical eccentricity of Queen, most notably on 2018’s Go To School, a concept album about a musical chimpanzee called Shane who’s raised as a human boy. 2020’s Songs For The General Public plays with vintage swirling synths, campy melodies and operatic harmonies that salute the peculiar jauntiness of Supertramp and Alice Cooper.
Propelled by fuzz-soaked baritone guitar riffs and frontwoman Demi Demitro’s snarling howls, Colorado’s Velveteers are a time-warped mix of The Runaways, Deap Vally and T.Rex. Their garage-rock-punk sound is fierce, but softened with a sprinkling of glitter and the dusty warmth of vintage amplifiers, and they've already supported Guns N' Roses.
Although this trio of youthful platform-booted glam-punks have only a handful of singles and one full LP (2021’s Nightmare Daydream) to their name, their sound feels simultaneously well-trodden and entirely unique. Produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, their debut outing is peppered with moments of shiny glam, including the twinkling synth on the title-track and the Adam & The Ants-style drum wallops on Devil’s Radio.
Where most modern glam-rockers sample just a few of the genre’s original traits, Italy’s Giuda have stomped their way straight to glam rock’s dismal grave and given its festering corpse a good shake. The epitome of junkshop glam and bovver rock, Giuda are today’s boogieing, guitar-thrusting Mud - choreographed moves included.
As if jumping off the back of a rusty time machine onto the set of Top Of The Pops as Sweet take to the stage, Giuda are there in the crowd taking notes. Yobbish chanting, marching drum stomps and fiendish guitar riffs, Giuda are an undeniably fun pastiche of a corner of glam rock long-forgotten, and Joe Elliott loves them. "They crack me up,” he says. “They’re making this totally unfashionable music fashionable again.”
Known for coming out on stage wearing a straightjacket before harassing audience members with capsules of fake blood, frontwoman Arrow de Wilde has made Starcrawler notorious for their manic live shows. Wilde is what you get when you combine the theatrical shock rock of Alice Cooper with the writhing, corset-sporting fiery grit of The Runaways’ Cherri Currie.
The LA quartet’s scuzzy lipstick-smudged rock’n’roll is both the glamour and grime of Hollywood Boulevard, anchored by attitude-laden vocals and thumping riffs, as featured on their 2019 track Bet My Brains and 2021’s Goodtime Girl.
If we were to pile up the artists that wouldn’t exist if not for David Bowie, this colourful glam/indie rocker would probably be one of them. Performing under the alias of his alter ego Diane Coffee, touring Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming makes gentle psychedelia and vibrant oddball pop.
Following an early career in children’s voice acting and theatre, performing in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2018, a taste for theatrics is naturally consistent within Coffee’s writing. Paired with his androgynous, otherworldly appeal, he’d most likely make a serious contender to star in a reboot of The Man Who Fell To Earth. If there ever was one.
Over the years, psych rock heavyweight Ty Segall has covered a myriad of sounds across dozens of projects, both as a solo artist and as a member of multiple bands including Fuzz and Sic Alps. A spearhead of the psych/garage rock scene, Segall embraces a wild and abrasive sound that’s rooted in kooky acid-glam.
Outwardly influenced by David Bowie and Marc Bolan - in 2015 he even released a covers album of his favourite Tyrannosaurus Rex and T. Rex songs titled Ty Rex - Segall partners soft and wirey vocals against fuzzy, whimsical noise. Essentially, it’s glam rock on steroids.
Since their 2021 Eurovision win, this quartet of Italian glam revivalists have strutted their way to top chart positions globally, even making it to the number one spot as the most streamed artist in the world on Spotify with their single Beggin’ (a cover originally made popular by The Four Seasons in 1967).
Their recent singles, Mammamia, I Wanna Be Your Slave – which they rereleased with Iggy Pop as a collab – Zitti E Buoni and the aforementioned Beggin’ are mostly formed from repetitive riffy hooks, sultry vocals, and big choruses. Granted, their visual aesthetic is their most obvious tie to the genre, but it’s about time rock brought back a little glamour. Måneskin’s vivacious wardrobe has even made them the new darlings of fashion empire Gucci.