With the rise of American rock bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam back in the 1990s and the continuing success of bands such as The Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers today, many people assume that modern rock music is a distinctly American creation. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. British contemporary rock is an early 21st century musical movement that has been ascendant throughout Europe for almost two decades now. It fuses traditional British rock with genres such as blues, country, and bluegrass to create a sound that is at once familiar to listeners but unique enough not to feel dated. Some of the most successful artists to take up this mantle are The Black Keys, The War on Drugs, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Kaiser Chiefs, and The Vaccines. This article will explore everything you need to know about British contemporary rock music, its roots, its bands, its innovations on previous styles of music, and its future.
What is British Contemporary Rock?
British contemporary rock is the fusion of multiple musical genres that are distinctly British in origin. It is a modern style of music that has been in ascendency for almost two decades now. Many rock bands fall into this category, including The Black Keys, The War on Drugs, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Kaiser Chiefs, and The Vaccines.
Arctic Monkeys: Early 2000s British Rockers
The Arctic Monkeys are one of the best-known contemporary rock bands. They hail from Sheffield, England, and have been composing music since 2002. They are characterized by a bluesy, rock sound and the use of a four-piece electric guitar set-up. Their most popular albums are probably Humbug (2009) and AM (2013), but their first two albums, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) and Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), are also excellent. The Arctic Monkeys are a great example of how British contemporary rock has roots in earlier British music. Their sound is very bluesy and reminiscent of classic rock, but it’s distinctly modern and not reminiscent of any one band or era.
The Stone Roses: 1980s Roots of British Contemporary Rock
The next band we’ll cover is the Stone Roses, a group that came to prominence in the late 1980s. They’re known for their psychedelic and garage rock sound, coupled with an almost danceable rhythm section. The Stone Roses are one of the best examples of how British contemporary rock has its roots in a mid-20th century style of music known as ska. Ska music is a fusion of Caribbean music and British music forms such as folk and jazz. While ska music is not as popular in Britain as it was in the early-mid 20th century, its influence on rock is still felt today. Bands like the Stone Roses are excellent examples of this. The Stone Roses were so influential that they inspired other bands to fuse ska with rock as well.
Editors: Britpop Revivalists
Editors are one of the best examples of a band that was formed in the early 2000s, right as the Britpop revival was taking off. They are a quintessential band of the revivalist period, and they were heavily inspired by British rock bands like Blur, Oasis, and the Stone Roses. Editors are also an excellent example of how British contemporary rock is a fusion of genres that are distinctly British. While the band’s music is definitely rock, it is also very much influenced by British pop music. You can hear this in the vocals, but you can also hear it in the frequent use of synthesizers or sampling of British pop songs from the ‘80s or ‘90s.
Razorlight and Audience: Early 2000-era Bands
Another band that came to prominence in the early 2000s was Razorlight. The band was known for their pop-rock sound that was heavily influenced by British pop music, as well as their use of the drop-D guitar tuning. This tuning is almost exclusively used by contemporary British rock and blues bands. Razorlight is also an excellent example of how British contemporary rock is a fusion of both British rock and pop music. While the band’s influences were British rock groups like the Stone Roses, they were also heavily influenced by British pop music, especially Britpop.
The Strokes, Oasis, and Blur: Bringing It Together
The Strokes are one of the most well-known bands in the history of British contemporary rock. They were formed in the early 2000s and played a style of music that was heavily influenced by British rock and roll music, particularly bands like The Rolling Stones, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols. The Strokes were an excellent example of how British contemporary rock is a fusion of multiple genres, especially British rock and pop music. Their sound was heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones, but it was also a product of the British pop music of the ‘80s and ‘90s.