10 Acts That Will Save Rock in 2011

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A couple of days back, The Guardian ran a piece declaring that rock ’n roll was dead, on the premise that only three rock songs had made the list of the 100 highest-selling songs in the UK in 2010. Plenty of articles have been written rebutting this idea – most notably at the excellent UK site The Quietus. But really, The Guardian article states a truism within the context of the premises it sets out: if rock ’n roll isn’t selling, it’s dying commercially, end of story. The more interesting question is what sort of state rock is in creatively: obviously, whether or not a genre is selling any records or not has never been a measure of its artistic worth or general utility.

Setting aside for a moment the issue of how much relevance the concept of genre even has in 2011, and looking beyond the FM radio bilge of Nickelback, Kings of Leon et. al., you’ll find that rock isn’t dead at all. In fact, it’s in fairly good health. Here we give you ten guitar-wielding bands – a mixture of respected veterans and up-and-coming types – who prove that whether or not rock music is past its apogee as a commercial force, it’s still home to plenty of creative impetus.

PJ Harvey

On the strength of what we’ve heard so far – the track she uploaded to SoundCloud a few weeks back, plus the short film released on YouTube that we’ve embedded above – Let England Shake is going to make for fascinating listening when it comes out, February 14th. Nearly two decades after Dry, Polly Jean is still pushing the creative envelope.

Zond

Australia has produced plenty of excellent guitar bands of late (see also: Tame Impala, Beaches, St Helens, My Disco), but if you want pure tube amp-melting goodness, then look no further than this Melbourne band, whose self-titled debut album came out in their native land last year and has recently got a US release. Get a hold of it, and turn it up loud.

Wire

There have been plenty of shitty rock ’n roll reunions over recent years, but there have also been some killers. Swans’ return to action last year was hugely welcome (albeit inexplicably overlooked in general), and this week another chapter was written in the continued renaissance of Wire with the release of a new studio album, Red Barked Tree. With post-punk sounds having been popular over the last few years (cf. Interpol, Franz Ferdinand), it’s excellent to see one of the genre’s great originators still going strong.

The Kills

Sure, The Dead Weather were all well and good, but we’re glad to see Alison Mosshart back where she belongs – snarling across the stage at Jamie Hince. When The Kills emerged, the knife-edge, love/hate intensity between Hince and Mosshart was the one of the most compelling sights in rock, and it’s evoked nicely in the above video (for “Last Day of Magic,” from their last studio album Midnight Boom). Even if the duo have mellowed in recent years, they still make rock ’n roll that’s full of tension and visceral energy, and we’re very much looking forward to their new album Blood Pressures, which is out in April.

Monotonix

One of the things we want from our rock bands is a suitably mental live show. Monotonix don’t so much check this box as they do set fire to the whole questionnaire and then hurl the ashes into a baying mosh pit. Their new album Not Yet is out at the end of the month, but honestly, if you get a chance to see them live, then do it – they were responsible for our first crowd surf for years at a festival a few months back, with predictably hilarious results.

The Horrors

For a group who started as a kind of ersatz Misfits pastiche, The Horrors have developed into a pretty fantastic band. Their last album Primary Colours was a massively welcome creative left turn, dropping the horror movie schtick for a heavy Krautrock fixation, and they’re back in the studio this month. If what they emerge with is half as good as Primary Colours, it’ll be well worth looking out for.

Hunx and His Punx released a single a while back called “You Don’t Like Rock ‘n Roll,” a suitably catty kiss-off to fans of bands like U2 and Coldplay. Hunx, however, likes rock ’n roll a great deal – specifically, the girl group pop of the ‘50s, a sound that also provided plenty of inspiration to the Ramones. His debut album (produced by Ivan Julian, incidentally) is out March 29th via Hardly Art.

Grails

It’s a measure of the uselessness of genre boundaries that a band like Grails are even labelled “rock,” given that they have precisely nothing to do with the 12-bar blues or anything else that characterized what was originally called rock ‘n roll. But for our purposes, rock they are, and they’re just as great as they’ve ever been, deploying a formidable arsenal of guitars and effects to create epic, evocative textures and a sound the size of a mountainside. Rock, post-rock, whatever… There’s still plenty of space for guitar music like this in our record collection. Which is good, as the latest installment of their excellent Black Tar Prophecies series comes out this year.

Paris Suit Yourself

The first guitar band signed to Big Dada – a hip hop-centric offshoot of Coldcut’s famous Ninja Tune imprint – Paris Suit Yourself are as sonically interesting as that fact might suggest, with a sound that’s kinda like a Francophone version of TV on the Radio. They supported The Fall in the UK last year, which must have been an experience, and their debut album – amusingly entitled My Main Shitstain – is out in February.

Former mclusky main man Andy Falkous has fronted several incarnations of this band over the years without ever getting the audience he deserves. If rock ’n roll should be provocative and literate and fierce and intelligent, then Falkous should be a superstar. As it is, he’s a cult figure, and it’s a cult well worth joining. The band’s last studio album – the excellent Travels With Myself and Another – came out in 2009, but they’re back in the studio as we speak, with a couple of new members, and will hopefully be releasing the resultant recordings at some point this year.