Rock music in Britain may not be the predominant genre anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t produced its fair share of great bands in recent years. Whether its indie rock, hard rock, or experimental rock – there’s been plenty going on in the place that spawned the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.
Either from a consistency standpoint or a revolutionary standpoint – the ten artists on this list showcase how effective British rock groups can be, even at a time when pop and hip-hop are the leading styles. Who knows if any young pups will put the genre on the map again in the UK, but regardless, we’ve still got these bands making waves for now.
The 21st century saw the indie-rock revival movement take hold in the UK, with other styles briefly poking their heads through too. Want to see the best that it’s had to offer? Check out our list of the 10 best British rock bands of the 21st century (so far).
10. Young Knives
Infectious angular riffs and whimsical lyrical content comes naturally to quirky four-piece Young Knives, but they’ve evolved past that in all sorts of wonderful ways since their terrific debut album in 2006. Earlier tracks like “She’s Attracted To,” and “Here Comes the Rumour Mill” highlight their punk and indie influences with real pinpoint precision, but what’s even more intriguing is the stylistic changes found on their last LP Sick Octave. Avant-garde, experimental rock, krautrock, and outsider music genres all permeate the peculiar release, with a serious case to be made for it being one of the most underrated rock records of the past five years. Four brilliant albums deep for this eccentric outfit, and we can only hope for four more.
Key Tracks: The Decision, Terra Firma, Human Again, Something Awful
There’s much more to Scottish instrumental outfit Mogwai than just silly song titles. Because while songs like “The Sun Smells Too Loud,” or “1000 Foot Face” might sound wacky on the outset, their musical layers point to something much more seriously deliberate. Although they began their sky-bound journey in the late ‘90s, it wasn’t until this century that they really came into their own with stunning soundscape LP’s like Rock Action, The Hawk is Howling, and Rave Tapes. And with an album by the name of Every Country’s Sun released just this month to critical acclaim, it seems there’s no stopping this experimental four-piece.
Key Tracks: 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, Auto Rock, Batcat, The Lord is Out of Control
8. The Futureheads
Rock albums don’t get much better than Sunderland outfit The Futureheads’ self-titled debut album. From start to finish, it’s a tour de force in how to retain the listener’s interest. However, they didn’t stop with just one fine record, but five. Yes, since 2004, The Futureheads have been cranking out gem after gem with a style that merges post-punk with new wave to stunning effect. Sadly, they announced in 2015 that they have ceased making music, which is a sad loss for British rock music in the 21st century. Regardless, their work to date ensures that they won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Key Tracks: Decent Days and Nights, Cope, Think Tonight, Struck Dumb
7. Bloc Party
Gloomy indie rockers Bloc Party were clearly made out of different stuff than the rest of their perky and quirky indie-rock counterparts. Leaning more towards The Cure than say Talking Heads, this four-piece cut listeners down to the bone with their probing and emotive qualities – the perfect blend of rocking sounds mixed with emotionally connective lyricism. Their first two records are modern classics, but their three following LP’s were also extremely interesting for different reasons. Even though they incorporated a more electronic palette in recent years, Bloc Party’s songwriting knack still shines through like a beacon.
Key Tracks: Helicopter, Song for Clay (Disappear Here), Mercury, Octopus
6. The Libertines
No British rock group have had as crazy of a trajectory in the 21st century as dysfunctional indie icons The Libertines. After shooting to fame in the early ‘00s with two phenomenal albums in Up the Bracket and their self-titled sophomore record, The Libertines capitulated under a wave of inner-band turmoil, constant press intrusion, and drug problems. However, in 2014, the ‘likely lads’ put their differences aside to record their first LP in over 11 years: the surprisingly fantastic Anthems for Doomed Youth. And just like that, this much-publicized band of brothers roared back with a vengeance.
Key Tracks: Up the Bracket, Can’t Stand Me Now, Music When the Lights Go Out, Gunga Din
Although initially thought of as just a ‘lad’ rock band, Kasabian have since proved that there’s much more to them than simply anthemic singalongs and FIFA video game fodder. Even as early as their debut album, these hard-hitters from Leicester proved that they were capable of mixing things up like on the moody banger “Processed Beats” or the experimental flourishes on “Club Foot.” But it was really their mind-melting 2009 release West Pauper Ryder Lunatic Asylum that really showcased just what they could do when they let their music go beyond the outer edges of music’s conventional sphere. From that point on, they haven’t looked back, dabbling in electronica, pop, rock, minimalism, and even krautrock. So much for them just being one dimensional, eh?
Key Tracks: Club Foot, Fire, Switchblade Smiles, Eez-eh
4. Art Brut
Humor in music is a difficult thing to pull off, but just try telling that to the masters of the art, the wonderful Art Brut. This playful indie-rock five piece have been finding the comedic value in the most mundane aspects of life since 2005, when they released their faultless debut album Bang Bang Rock & Roll. Whether it’s the joys of taking public transportation, or the act of simply forming a band – these quirky musicians address it all in their uniquely British style. Music needs a group to poke fun at the world around us, and believe me when I say that none do it better than Art Brut.
Key Tracks: Modern Art, Direct Hit, Slap Dash for No Cash, Axl Rose
From Oxford, England this complex group hail from, and they’ve been tearing up the rule book for the better part of a decade now. Yes, Foals are one of the best groups to sprout out of the UK in the 21st century so far, thanks to their willingness to change and adapt. While they could’ve simply continued on with their angular riffs and somewhat pretentious posturing, they admirably took a left turn in recent years, becoming more arena rock orientated. It worked spectacularly too. The hard-hitting single to their latest LP – “What Went Down” – is case in point, proving that this initially unassuming outfit have a hard edge to them as well.
Key Tracks: Balloons, Spanish Sahara, Inhaler, What Went Down
Speaking of arena rock, they don’t come much more suited to the environment than hard rock bruisers Muse. Seven LP’s in and this ballsy three-piece are still yet to show any signs of weakness. Whether it’s the freaky dance/rock hybrid “Supermassive Black Hole,” or the blues-drenched banger “Psycho” – Muse never fail to deliver the goods. However, what’s most impressive about the band is the devotion to their unique sound, setting them apart from the indie-rock fare that dominated the British rock scene for much of the ‘00s. Muse are their very own beast, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Key Tracks: Plug In Baby, Hysteria, Knights of Cydonia, Psycho
1. Arctic Monkeys
Who did you think would take the top spot? Of course it’s these cheeky chaps from Sheffield, England. They’ve changed and evolved over the past ten years in ways that not many acts can do without looking foolish. Freewheeling indie numbers, touching ballads, sleazy rockers – Arctic Monkeys have a way of adapting their sound effortlessly, only to create something better each and every time. Whether it’s their iconic debut album, or their latest stonking LP – this lot have great works in their discography already, and we can only hope that continues on further into the 21st century.
Key Tracks: When the Sun Goes Down, Florescent Adolescent, Brick by Brick, Do I Wanna Know?