The very beginning of the noughties often gets ragged on for being a bit shit for good music. In the case of the year 2000, in terms of rock’n’roll, that’s pretty much justified, but by 2001 things were starting to turn around. Two decades ago we got the emergence of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the continued rise of The White Stripes and Gorillaz taking us into the future, among others. Not so bad at all!
Want proof, or need a reminder of what a golden year 2001 was? Step this way…
Gorillaz, ‘Clint Eastwood’
Back in 2001, the idea of a virtual band seemed like lunacy or genius, depending on who you asked. Little did we know that in the next 20 years pop stars would be pretending to be robots (hello, Poppy), creative agencies would be insisting CGI characters were real people-turned-musicians (Lil Miquela) and we’d spend at least a year only being able to interact with music online. “My future is coming on,” sings Damon Albarn on loop on this loping first introduction to his and Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon creation – an earworm mantra then, a prescient line for a digital entity to release now.
Why it still slaps: That dragging groove might make you dance like a zombie, but it still sounds like the perfect thing to shuffle around a sticky dancefloor to.
The Strokes, ‘Last Nite’
How’s this for settling the bar high for yourself – and everyone else around you? ‘Last Nite’ stormed out of the gates in January 2001, blasting away the dreary, beige indie that had clung so mopily to the year before, and giving the world something to be excited about, all within its first 10 seconds. A perennial indie disco favourite, it has the kind of infectious atmosphere that will never age and, in Julian Casablancas’ drawled vocals, a frontman both nonchalant and urgent.
Why it still slaps: How could you ever get tired of that wiry, bouncy guitar line? We’ll see you air-guitaring along to it in 2041.
The White Stripes, ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’
“I must be fine because my heart’s still beating,” yelps Jack White on this one-minute-50-second lightning bolt. A blisteringly fun classic that practically forces you to throw yourself around to it with that first burst of grinding guitar (a feeling only amplified when Meg White’s drums come crashing in seconds later), you’ll know whether your vital organs are working once ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ finishes as abruptly as it started.
Why it still slaps: Thanks to it being a clattering, chaotic whirlwind, anyone can feel like a rock star when they’re shouting along.
The Moldy Peaches, ‘Who’s Got The Crack’
Adam Green and Kimya Dawson’s The Moldy Peaches could hardly be accused of being highbrow, especially on this incredibly lo-fi, incredibly goofy standout from their self-titled album. “It’s hard to be a garbage man when a sailor sold my glove,” they sing at one point. But by the time the chorus hits – a repeated refrain of “Who’s got the crack?” – you’ll be too busy jumping around to try and decipher it.
Why it still slaps: It’s ramshackle indie at its finest – a little twee, very fun, and wraps you up in its silliness. (PSA: crack is still bad.)
Weezer, ‘Island In The Sun’
“Hip hip,” Weezer hiccup. “Hip hip.” That recurring phrase along is enough to keep you coming back to ‘Island In The Sun’, even two decades after its release – a testament to simple and odd songwriting if ever there was one. Add in dreamy verses that ramp up into a fuzzy chorus and you’ve got a surefire indie classic on your hands.
Why it still slaps: Did we mention “hip hip”? Sign us up forever.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Bang’
Before ‘Date With The Night’ was ripping through indie clubs left, right and centre, there was ‘Bang’, one of the highlights of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut EP. It’s both dive bar sexy and puts rubbish men firmly in their place, Karen O giddily yelling: “As a fuck, son, you sucked!” to whoever couldn’t get her off. Iconic.
Why it still slaps: There are still few songs that deploy euphemisms as cheekily or well as ‘Bang’, and Karen sticking it to the man will never not slap.
Super Furry Animals, ‘Juxtaposed With U’
The first track from the classic album ‘Rings Around The World’, ‘Juxtaposed With U’ is Super Furries in gorgeous form. Echoes of funk and elements of David Bowie’s work give it a timeless, vibrant quality that has yet to fade, while Gruff Rhys’ playful “Just suppose I’m juxtaposed with you” is top wordplay.
Why it still slaps: It’s less of a banger and more of a drifter, but there’s a transportive power to its quixotic air.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock’n’Roll (Punk Song)’
At the turn of the millennium, with an alternative landscape dominated by Travis and Coldplay, you would have been forgiven for wondering what had happened to rock’n’roll. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club used that question to make a song that felt like a rocket back to a golden era – all walls of noise and buzzsaw riffs.
Why it still slaps: It grinds, it grooves, it speaks of music as a love interest. In short, it’s indie genius.
“I always hate it when you’ve been at an all-night party and then suddenly the sun starts coming up and you think, ‘Why didn’t I go home an hour ago?’” Jarvis Cocker once said of the idea behind ‘Sunrise’. It’s not a song full of regret, though – instead, it blossoms into a glowing, psych-tinged wig out that’s perfect for soundtracking the end of a big night out.
Why it still slaps: It might take a while to get there, but that climax is still as glorious as the first time you heard it.
New Order, ‘Crystal’
New Order might be more readily associated with synths than guitars, but ‘Crystal’ saw them make good – and heavy – use of six strings. Over nearly seven minutes, they lay out a crunching, distorted blueprint for how to do dance-rock and do it phenomenally.
Why it still slaps: That rush of a chorus hasn’t lost any of its fizz, sounding as effervescent and vital now as it ever did.
Muse, ‘Plug In Baby’
Before they went a bit overboard on all the alien stuff, Muse blessed 2001 with this absolute ripper of a single, all falsetto wails and riffs to match. Underneath its gargantuan anthemics, though, lies a deeper message – one of humanity abandoning its individuality, fear of technology and, um, “genetically engineering bodies that can exist out in space.” Regardless of the meaning, it’s a banger.
Why it still slaps: That riff – it’s been voted one of the greatest of all time on several occasions for a reason, you know.
The Charlatans, ‘You’re So Pretty, We’re So Pretty’
This track from The Charlatans’ 2001 album ‘Wonderland’ is so good they released it twice – on its original release and then again in 2006 with a slightly rejigged version. Both times it presented a nocturnal delight – Tim Burgess purring “Feed me to the lions/ I’ll throw you to the floor for the sweet touch” over eerie, noirish synths.
Why it still slaps: It’s scientifically proven (in a study we just conducted) that no song with this many “ooh-woo-ooh”s will ever stop slapping.
PJ Harvey, ‘This Is Love’
Yes, this PJ Harvey belter originally came out in 2000 as part of her seminal ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ album, but a single release in 2001 meant it also dominated that year too. How could it not? It takes the feeling of romance and injects it into crunchy, weighty guitars, flipping expectations of women writing love songs firmly on their head.
Why it still slaps: Harvey’s invitation to “come and help me forget” colliding with a final push to the song’s end is pure indie euphoria.
Ash, ‘Burn Baby Burn’
The second single from ‘Free All Angels’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ takes all the good bits of pop-punk – the pop hooks, the punk power – subtracts the whining, and moulds them into a very British juggernaut. It might tell the story of “destructive love”, but it wraps it up in such a heady mix that it begins to sound almost idyllic.
Why it still slaps: It’s an instant serotonin burst of power-pop propelled by that needling, iconic guitar riff.
Garbage, ‘Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)’
When it was first released as part of the album ‘Beautifulgarbage’ in October 2001, ‘Cherry Lips’ was pretty unexpected. Far more sugary than Garbage’s usual sound, it was as bright as the rainbows the song’s main character is said to bring wherever they went. Frontwoman Shirley Manson has called it the band’s “most celebratory song” and she’s not wrong.
Why it still slaps: That bridge that sounds like it belongs to a ‘60s girl group rather than one of the ‘90s most formidable bands.
The Strokes, ‘Someday’
The year 2001 really didn’t belong to anyone else but The Strokes. Only eight months after the release of their debut EP ‘The Modern Age’ followed the perfect debut album in ‘Is This It’. Even on a record full of gems, ’Someday’ just about outshone the rest – a jangling, sunny piece of indie, topped off by Casablancas’ wounded ramble.
Why it still slaps: Try bellowing along to the line “Alone we stand together, we fall apart” and tell us it doesn’t.
Manic Street Preachers, ‘Found That Soul’
“But I’m still stranded here with all the scum,” James Dean Bradfield spits on this ‘Know Your Enemy’ track over ominous riffs and a nagging, repeated piano note. It’s aggressive and shrouded in darkness, but ultimately sees the band finding victory in resilience and in air-punching form.
Why it still slaps: A classic Manics chanted chorus never loses its rousing abilities.
The Streets, ‘Has It Come To This?’
OK, so it’s not strictly indie but if there was one man who could make garage appealing to the indie kids in the early noughties it was Mike Skinner. Back then, the Brummie’s kitchen-sink observations had far more in common with the guitar bands of the day than those in his own scene and, 20 years later, you’ll still hear this booming out of the speakers at indie nights.
Why it still slaps: The rush you still feel when you hear Skinner instruct “Lock down your aerials” tells you all you need to know.
Le Tigre, ‘Mediocrity Rules’
Like a sister song to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Bang’, ‘Mediocrity Rules’ finds Le Tigre taking aim at the average who walk among us. It’s already great, but wait until you hit the final seconds for a tongue-in-cheek, eye-rolling refrain of “Yabba dabba doo, man / Yabba dabba dude.”
Why it still slaps: The scuzzy guitars hide a pop sensibility, bringing edge to a supremely danceable melody.
The White Stripes, ‘Hotel Yorba’
The music video for ‘Hotel Yorba’ showed Jack and Meg in a hotel room and the recording of the song itself was so rudimentary, it might as well have been laid down in one too. But there was charm in this incredibly lo-fi cut that still shines through today and makes this track one of the duo’s simplest and sweetest efforts.
Why it still slaps: Who can resist a “one, two, three, four” chorus and its wholesome, down-to-earth lyrics?