The turn of the century may have begun with a glut of Toploader and Travis-shaped banality, but by 2002 a new wave of talent had changed everything. First came The Strokes and The White Stripes; The Libertines soon followed dragging a whole heap of Arcadian fantasists with them while, through the rest of the decade, more brilliant bands than you can shake a skinny jean-clad leg at followed suit. Whether you're Team Foals, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs or other - here are the decade's finest offerings.

Words: Tim Chester, Ash Dosanjh, Priya Elan, Jamie Fullerton, Tom Goodwyn, Matthew Horton, Luke Lewis, Hamish MacBain, James McMahon, Emily Mackay, David Moynihan, Krissi Murison, Ben Patashnik, Martin Robinson, Rebecca Schiller, Alan Woodhouse, Matt Wilkinson


Bobby Gillespie has long been vocal about his belief in “high energy rock’n’roll” of the type popularised by the likes of The Stooges or MC5. On this – the final single to be released by Creation Records, fact fans – he out-noised even the most abrasive moments of his idols, thanks largely to some face-meltingly intense mixing courtesy of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields (a man who knows a thing or two about noise). “Here we come, we’re coming fast/Out the upside into the past”, Bobby sneered at one point, over an orchestra of overdriven guitars. Which was more than fair comment.

69‘Slow Life’

Super Furry Animals' greatest song amalgamated all their biggest strengths (slow but anthemic melodies, fist-punch choruses and techno bleep-outs) into a seven-minute wonder vastly more magic than the sum of its parts. Cian Ciaran, the dance expert in the band, built a pupil-dilating intro that built until – when played live – the band would cut in with the instruments, anthemic harmonica heralding a career peak for one of the UK's most special, genre-shoving bands. The song ended their 'Phantom Power' album and was only released as a download EP track, making it an under-appreciated gem – if still the hands-round-yer-mates'-shoulders moment of any SFA set.

68‘Red Morning Light’

As introductions go, Kings Of Leon's paean to the plights of prostitution told you everything you needed to know about the band. Four hickey rabblerousers fresh from ma's farm in the deep south and with a penchant for three minute guttural blues pop; it's as close to the Southern Strokes as they ever managed. Deftly produced, Caleb Followill's scream at roughly one minute 25 remains one of the great moments in modern American rock, while the guitar solo that follows it is pure Chuck Berry - if he were playing Albert Hammond Jnr's equipment, that is.

67‘Highly Evolved’

The debut single proper from The Vines propelled Craig Nicholls and co to instant stardom in 2002. Clocking in at just one minute 34 seconds, it remains as instantly infectious now as it did upon its release. But while Nicholls' sneering vocal shows him at his nonchalant best, it's Rob Schnapf's clean-as-a-whistle production that's really clever. The man responsible for Beck's 'Loser' turns 'Highly Evolved' from a messy three-chord grunge racket (see the band's early demos of it) into something so pristine sounding that it's closer to 'More Than A Feeling' than 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. Amazingly though, it still manages to come across as raw, ever so slightly scary and clever as fuck. Mr Cobain would've been proud.


Before their obsessions with carnival rhythms and cowbells really took off, Friendly Fires had this 2007 single to propel them skywards. What's it about? Well, basically, moving to Paris and going clubbing forever. It's that simple. But more than anything, it proved that guitar bands in the noughties could 'do dance' credibly (or should that be the other way round?). The song's second half is bolstered by an ethereal, almost overpowering keyboard sample from 'Sun And Ice' by Swedish techno god The Field (which itself was taken nearly wholesale from prog behemoths The Alan Parsons Project's 1977 track 'Nucleus'), while extra vocals are provided by Au Revoir Simone.

65‘For Lovers’

It seems strange to think of it now, but when Pete Doherty released 'For Lovers' in 2003 it seemed genuinely different and exciting. Up until then, he was best known for being a podgy Julian Casablancas wannabe with a penchant for talking rubbish in interviews. But 'For Lovers' changed everything. Most of all, it made people outside The Libertines' fanbase take notice for the first time. Ironically, it wasn't even written by him - though he did add the "jailer" verse to Peter 'Wolfman' Wolfe's original. In any case, Doherty makes the song completely his own by turning in the most perfect vocal of his career, sung to the backing of the sweetest music he's ever worked with.


As genial and comforting as a friend’s arm round your shoulder on the night bus home as you weep into your chips, ‘Sheila’ is the male counterpart to Lily Allen’s 'LDN' – smart, warm magpie pop that could only have been made in the capital. The gentle old-school beats and the romanticism of Jamie Treays’ melody make it more than token ‘urban grittiness’, populated as it is by an array of minor city tragedies – drownings, dealers, domestic violence. And just in case you were thinking he was no more than a cheeky Cockney-pop scamp, there’s a sample of John Betjeman's 'The Cockney Amorist' in the background. Culture, in your face.

63‘Fuck Forever’

"What became of forever?" Pete Doherty asked at the tail end of The Libertines career. Here, he gave the world (and Carl Barat) his answer. How deliciously potent a message it must have been for Doherty, who by the song's release in 2005 was revelling – like a true Libertine – in the ludicrousness of his own self-propagated soap opera. Or, of course, it could just be about being a really good shag. Either way, 'Fuck Forever' would be nothing without Patrick Walden's mesmerising riff, which sees him bullishly demand his space on the guitar hero podium right between Keith Levene (circa 1979) and Thurston Moore. The final, demonic payoff from Doherty of "They'll never play this on the radio" was sung in sadness rather than defiance, thus proving that like all of his classics, 'Fuck Forever' was already drowning in its own impending doom.

62‘Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)’

Built around Carol Williams’ 1977 Salsoul stormer ‘Love Is You’, Cristiano Spiller’s disco reanimation realised its hit potential when Sophie Ellis-Bextor – then more famous for being Janet Ellis’s daughter than her stint as singer with indie also-rans theaudience – was brought in to add some well-to-do Twickenham sang-froid. Her prim delivery rubbing up against the Chic-like chukka-chukka guitar was a true celebration of Studio 54’s high-class sheen.

61‘Back To Black’

'Rehab' had the one-liner bellylaugh, but it was the title track to Amy Winehouse’s second album that really proved its depth and worth. Hard faced and broken-souled, its knowing wallowing spoke to anyone who’d ever had a bunnyboiler moment. It smoothly chronicled the lowest of lows (drawing on Winehouse’s first break-up with Blake Fielder-Civil) with unflinching, fierce frankness, couched by Mark Ronson’s most luscious of retro-soul deliciousness, all Dusty Springfield high drama and tear-streaked eyeliner. When Amy sings ”I died a hundred times” you know she isn’t talking about having a bit of a sniffle and an extra biscuit.

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