The 00s were an exciting time for British guitar bands. They were! Seriously, ignore anyone who bangs on about “landfill indie” – in fact, memorise this whole paragraph to wheel out if anyone ever says it – because whilst the decade was like every other decade ever and contained some rubbish bands, there were also lots of groups who were inventive and imaginative.
Some of them have now been around for so long that you forget how dynamic and exhilarating they sounded at the time. Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, for example, took wiry post-punk and gave it a pop sheen. The Libertines were an exciting, chaotic antidote to what had been a tepid start to the new millennium. Foals took the militant precision of math-rock and transplanted it onto danceable indie songs. Then, when guitar music ran out of ideas, Klaxons came along and invented nu-rave, day-glo carnage fusing house euphoria with barbed rock grooves.
Some of these bands stayed together, some disappeared, some disappeared and came back, but away from the big hitters there were some thrilling groups who deserve not to be forgotten. Here’s 10 indie bands from the ‘00s who should’ve been massive.
Hope Of The States
Hope Of The States probably shouldn’t have been on a major label. Maybe they shouldn’t have been on any label. Apart from the fact they were signed to Sony, the Chichester six-piece felt like a proper DIY project, keeping everything from artwork to videos in their inner circle and making music that didn’t kowtow to any of the indie schmindieness (not a dig, I like indie schmindieness!) going on at the time. Instead, Hope Of The States took their love of rock experimentalists supreme Radiohead and post-rock dons Godspeed You! Black Emperor and fused it with the pop melodicism of late 80s indie. Their slow-building epic Black Dollar Bills remains one of the great debuts of the decade. It’s a travesty that they split up after two records because they were the sort of band who would’ve just got going after six. But those two records – 2004’s The Lost Riots and the more streamlined 2006 follow-up Left – are great. They really could’ve been something special.
This four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent were an absolute riot: feisty, fighty teens who blended searing riffs and ferocious grooves and sounded a bit like the Stooges playing early Oasis B-sides. Their live shows were wild and thrilling, frontman Nic Andrews swinging from the rafters and clambering on to whatever there was to clamber on to, but they had songs too, indelible hooks holding rampaging tracks such as Sex, Drugs And Rocks Through Your Window and Something Else together. After a run of electrifying singles, though, there was a delay in getting their debut out and by the time the record, titled A Stolen Honda Vision, was released in 2006, their moment had gone. Sex Drugs And Rocks Through Your Window still absolutely rocks though.
Another feral live force, Dead Kids were led by shamanic frontman Mike Title. Mixing post-punk propulsion, electro-rock and 70s melodies, the London mob had a handful of brilliant songs but it just never seemed to happen for them. But the fact that they seemed like a best-kept secret made the whole thing even more exciting. Maybe it’s no wonder that they couldn’t keep it together – Dead Kids were built on the whole thing sounding like it was about to implode. It was a joy while it lasted.
Bookish South Londoners Good Shoes made taut guitar-pop and sounded like The Strokes if The Strokes weren’t from Manhattan and impossibly cool and good looking but were awkward indie types from Morden, a place people only ever go to if they’ve fallen into a deep sleep on the Northern Line. For a time, their tales of suburban boredom, wrapped in spidery guitar lines and tightly-wound grooves, really connected but they’d lost their way by the time a second record came out at the end of the decade.
Another band excellently out of touch with what was going on around them, Liverpool-based quintet The Open made chiming, atmospheric indie-rock that took inspiration from chiming, atmospheric maestros Talk Talk and The Blue Nile. But there was more at work here as well, with their best songs evoking The Verve’s sweeping anthems and a sense of jittery momentum underpinning everything, a rattling rhythm or clang of guitar entering the fray anytime something started to sound too settled. In frontman Steve Bayley, they had a singer who could swing from vulnerable to antagonistic, or sometimes just be vulnerably antagonistic. Their 2004 debut The Silent Hours captured them best, but admirably weird and jazz-tinged follow-up Statues has its moments too.
Nine Black Alps
Everyone expected Manchester four-piece Nine Black Alps to be massive and listening to their debut album you wonder why they weren’t. Everything Is, released in 2006, was full of explosive riffs and sharp hooks. Going against the grain – that’s becoming quite a running theme here, isn’t it? – they took their cues from early 90s US alt-rockers rather than being like everyone else at the time and pretending to like Television and The Fall. In frontman Sam Forrest, they had a singer who replaced the existential angst of Kurt Cobain & co. with a Mancunian surliness. Their early gigs were an A&R frenzy, with legendary label boss Seymour Stein turning up at one of their shows in a limo, but this seemingly surefire bet never paid off. Life’s weird like that, there are no certainties. But there are facts, and here’s one: Not Everyone still sounds like a very enjoyable punch in the face.
An awkward band with an awkward name and awkward time signatures squeezed around awkward chords, Newcastle-based five-piece Yourcodenameis:milo concocted a dazzling mix of post-hardcore, spiky indie-rock and labyrinthine, restless rhythmics. This was music that took a left turn before you could say left turn, and they applied the same approach to their output, making a collaborative mixtape titled Print Is Dead Vol 1 where their second album should’ve been. It would have been interesting to see how their sound might have evolved but instead they went on hiatus, which is a bit out of order. But they did return this summer so it’s fine.
Late Of The Pier
This quartet from Nottingham made psychedelic synth-pop that sounded a bit like it was on drugs most likely because they made it when they were on drugs. It was music flooded with brilliant ideas and eccentric diversions but the songs were so strong that it somehow worked. From their only album, 2008’s Fantasy Black Channel, Space In The Woods sounds like Gary Numan on a bouncy castle and is a grade A banger whilst The Enemy Are The Future is early Pink Floyd being rewired by James Murphy.
Pull Tiger Tail
Everything seemed to be coming up Pull Tiger Tail in 2006 and with good reason – the trio’s debut single Animator, released on pivotal '00s indie label Young And Lost Club, was an irresistible three and a half minutes of driving power-pop that suggested they were going to be huge. But instead they got stuck in a complicated legal battle with their label and former management and their debut sat on a shelf for two years. By the time it was released, the opportunity had passed. But we’ll always have Animator.
It was hard to take Test Icicles entirely seriously mainly because Test Icicles didn’t take themselves entirely seriously. For one, they were called Test Icicles. Their music was dive-bar grimy, a meld of oozy electronic industrial-punk and frazzled indie but their way with a melody spruced everything up, best summed up on the intense urgency of Circle. Square. Triangle. Plus they looked like they were having loads of fun, which was a nice gear change in po-faced indieland. The band’s Dev Hynes went on to become a collaborator and producer for the stars, working with Solange Knowles, Mariah Carey and more.