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

30‘Take Me Out’

Some songs seem custom-built for a 1am slot in indie discos. This is possibly the most surefire winner any DJ can have in his repertoire, because all the boys can pose and finger-point for the first 55 seconds and then the girls take over. It’s what Franz always wanted, and by criminy they succeeded. Effectively split in two – you get the singalong at the beginning and then the foot-stomping hip-shaking clusterfuck of cool for the rest – this was an introduction to a band who’d spend much of the rest of the decade making everyone want to wear desert boots and talk about art, and then say they were into Orange Juice. Which is quite the feat.

29‘Losing My Edge’

It’s testament to the then-razor-sharp nous of James Murphy that ‘Losing My Edge’ is still just as relevant today as ever. Not just lyrically, although the diatribe remains funny as fuck, but the crisp NYC beats, which seem to be hardwired to our hips. In a good way. Murphy and co would go on to bigger and better things later in the decade but this introduction to what would later be discovered as his sound was a secret window into the lives of people who were cool not because they dressed particularly well or had expensive haircuts, but just because they were total unabashed music geeks. And everyone knows geeks rule.

28‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’

In the beginning, there was a song… And it was a really very good one. On the surface, this heads-down rocker seemed like an unspectacular introduction to what would become The Band That Changed Everything Maybe, but its innate exuberance and the sheer joyfulness of knowing just how fun it is to dance like a robot from 1984 elevated ‘…Dancefloor’ well above the sum of its parts. Its cause was helped no end by a charmingly retro video featuring as its centerpiece a wink from Helders to Turner that said more about the canny savvy of the band than a million clever-clever interview quotes.

27‘We Are Your Friends’

French electro bomp and sleaze meets otherwise-unspectacular UK indie, unites two hitherto alien tribes and becomes massive hit in the process. That stuttering vocal which seemed to suggest there was an exclamation mark after every single word or so (“We! Are! Your Friends!”) stapled to rubbery, irresistible synths was basically dancefloor catnip, borne out by the fact it’s still played at almost every single club night in the world. Weirdly, despite being a relic of a particular time and place, both Justice and Simian’s finest hour sounds crisp and fresh every time.


On ‘Back To Black’ Amy Winehouse (aided by Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson) tied the sound of the past (“jukebox” as Winehouse called it) to the present with effortlessness. ‘Rehab’ was all Ronettes sass and Motown horns but at its heart was the memory of a very real conversation about Winehouse’s post-heartbreak addition and how best to deal with it. In life and in the song, her management wanted her to seek help, but the singer would have rather sought the advice of the masters: Ray Charles and Donnie Hathaway. The result was ripped from the mind, body, and gut, but played out like sweetness personified.

25‘Wake Up’

From the smallest of acorns come the most statuesque natural beauties: so ‘Wake Up’ grows from an inelegantly struck guitar chord into something practically religious in its fervour and scale. If you’ve ever been in a crowd of any size, from an intimate congregation to some vast festival mass, when this hymn to life takes flight you’ll know just how good it feels to open your lungs. Yes, we know there are some really quite touching lyrics, but nothing quite so affecting as “Whoa-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh” when bellowed out by about 100,000 lungs.

24‘There Goes The Fear’

The near seven-minute mournful masterpiece remains one of the most cherished UK tracks of the decade, by one of our best bands of the era, being one of those tunes that is both sad and uplifting at the same time. NME writers loved it enough to vote it the song of 2002. Nuff said.

23‘Knights Of Cydonia’

Giddy up! Muse haters tend to portray the band as pompous and humourless, like a modern-day Genesis. This track explodes that idea, for the simple reason that it's so damn fun. How can you not love a track that bolts defiant, us-against-the-world hollering ("No-one's gonna take us alive!") to a fantastical imaginative backdrop of galloping Martian cowboys. To watch this song played live, as the super-heavy riff kicks in at the end, is to experience rock at its most pure and exhilarating.

22‘Last Nite’

'Last Nite' was the internal soundtrack of every early noughties UK student who didn't have a sports sweatshirt with a ridiculous nickname they'd made up for themselves written on the back of it. The most frivolous and fun moment of The Strokes' entire back catalogue to date, never before had a song that sounded as if it was recorded through a plaster wall felt so anthemic. Built on a base of Ramones-like, taut rock, it provided a platform for one of the most air guitar-worthy of Albert Hammond Jr's axe-amblings ever, and was another reminder of how important these four dudes were.

21‘Fell In Love With A Girl’

Jack White's reverential plundering of the rock canon has resulted in some criticism – but 'Fell In Love With A Girl', from his and Meg's breakthrough classic 'White Blood Cells', was a garage-rock classic that could hold its own against any two-and-a-half-minutes of noise featuring at least a guitar and a drumkit. Fast, frenetic and as feral as a wild tiger, it quickly became an indie club staple, the kind you drop pints for, in a bid to hit the dancefloor before the last gravelly roar from Jack's guitar ends. It's a distillation of pure rock that will never date or diminish, no matter how many more The Dead Weather records we have to endure.

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