As the newest addition to the A&E family, I’m excited to share my love of all things culture, from literature to music and beyond. This week, I’ll treat you to a discussion of British rock. Let’s get a bit international, shall we?
First, I’ll confess: I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I adore British television, favor British literature, spent a glorious semester in the U.K. and—most importantly, for your purposes—listen to quite a lot of British music.
For those of you who may think Brit rock begins with the Beatles (brilliant, but barely the tip of the iceberg) and ends with One Direction (rock status: debatable), I’m here to suggest that you explore these groups’s compatriots.
As an English major, I usually favor the lyrical aspect of music. Honestly, that’s what excites me so much about contemporary British rock: the damn good lyrics.
For the past several decades, British artists have been releasing music that shines in this area. If you’re like me and get REALLY excited about cleverly crafted words, these are your people. Here are a few of my personal favorite wordplayers:
Bastille: You’ve surely heard “Pompeii” or one of its many remixes, but there’s more to this group than its admittedly brilliant smash hit. Among the artful synths and pulsing rhythms are some highly introspective and allusive lyrics, making Bastille one of the more intelligent younger contemporary groups. Biblical references? Check. Historical allusions? Check. Mythological elements? Check. Their music was practically made for liberal arts students.
Franz Ferdinand: Some things really do get better with age. These guys from Glasgow have been around for a little over a decade. With their polished sound and precise rhythms, the musical elements of this group’s work are enough to set them apart; add to that their incredibly clever lyrics, and we get nearly flawless creations.
I listened to their most recent album, “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,” for months on end. I mean, on that album alone, we find an extended metaphor on strawberries, an ode to the North Sea and an enticing dance number with religious undertones. What’s not to love?
Muse: Ah, the beginnings of my love affair with British rock. This group has been around since the 1990s, remaining under the radar until after groups like Oasis had burned out. Now, the band is a global sensation—and their music has evolved considerably—but they’re not famous thanks to some faddish hype.
I challenge you to find smarter songwriting. If you crave intelligent music, you’ll find it in Muse’s musical musings; themes range from existentialism to conspiracy theories and political criticism, and they’ve even got some solid love ballads if you need to give your brain a break. Plus, the group’s sound is incredibly sophisticated—you can’t lose with Muse.
Of course, this is only a brief overview; I’ve mentioned only a few great groups, and I urge you to investigate for yourself.
The U.K. has produced a lot more than Radiohead and Coldplay in recent years. To get you started, my other top suggestions would include the Arctic Monkeys, the Fratellis. I’d also reccommend the admittedly weird (but also awesome) group Kasabian. Happy listening!