America’s Most Revolutionary Rock Bands

4 July 2022, 08:00

Generation-defining American independent artists: The White Stripes, REM, The Strokes and Nirvana.

Photo: KMazur/WireImage/Chris Carroll/Corbis/Gie Knaeps/Gutchie Kojima/Shinko Music/Getty Images

It’s Independence Day, so let’s celebrate the best American music! Here are some of the most influential and groundbreaking acts to come out of the United States.

  1. The White Stripes

    Always elusive, often enigmatic, the White Stripes modernized the sound of American rock by bringing their own twist to the blues. Along with his “sister” Meg, Jack White was an unlikely guitar hero…but the quirky image worked.

  2. Pixies

    Formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986, Pixies are one of the most influential bands of the past 30 years, influencing everyone from Nirvana to Blur. Plus, Black Francis’ minimal stage presence on frenetic cat/guitar is nothing short of excellent.

  3. Nirvana

    Quite simply, Nirvana changed music as we know it. They were the ultimate grunge band to break out of the indie scene and hit the mainstream – hard. And all this in the space of three studio albums: Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991) and In Utero (1993). Rock would never be the same again.

  4. stone age queens

    Josh Homme spent time in highly acclaimed classic rock revivalists Kyuss, then put together another hit beast in QOTSA. He is friends with Dave Grohl and Alex Turner. He used to play impromptu shows in the desert. The man exudes attitude.

  5. Flaming Lips

    Zorbing. During concerts. The fact that Mr. Coyne would continue to collaborate with Miley Cyrus is irrelevant by comparison. Cool will always win out, and the Flaming Lips’ 30-year career is testament to their individuality. Their influence can be seen in live shows all but Arcade Fire’s Kitchen Sink.

  6. LCD audio system

    Injecting disco and electro into eccentric Bowie-esque tunes, James Murphy’s collective poked fun at the vapid mainstream world, while simultaneously writing club tunes that will live forever.

  7. REM

    REM were one of the coolest American bands to make music in the early 1980s. At that time, no one knew what Michael Stipe was singing (he mumbled quite a bit) and everyone had to make up their own mind about it enigmatic songs. And they made guitar music cool in an era of sticky synth pop. When they hit the big time in 1991 with the release of Out Of Time, they had definitely paid their dues.

  8. Shots

    The guitar music boom of the 2000s wouldn’t have existed without The Strokes. Effortless, sleek, and full of cocky attitude, they put New York back on top as a place to find new guitar bands.

  9. Yeah yeah yeah

    With the singer of a generation in Karen O and a series of scorching tracks, the New York trio made a huge impact when they started releasing music ten years ago.

  10. lively youth

    Some bands are cool. Other bands have the cool that others can only aspire to. For over 30 years, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon have represented New York’s finest examples of finding your own way, with a series of anarchic, confrontational and hugely inspiring albums. Governors.

  11. Weezer

    Post-grunge band Weezer have been making music for Gen X slackers and their self-titled debut album “Blue” is an absolute gem. Their confident self-parody means frontman Rivers Cuomo can write hugely addictive hits like Pork And Beans… when he’s actually attacking his own record company.

  12. Curb

    Led by Stephen Malkmus, Pavement quickly rose to cult status in the 90s by initially avoiding the press and building a loyal following via their superb live shows. Their lo-fi approach to rock lore influenced Graham Coxon, who paid homage to the band on Blur’s 1997 self-titled album.

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