4 of the Best American Rock Bands from the 2000s

Apple released the iPod in 2001. No longer was there any logical reason to cart sleeves of CDs around with Steve Jobs’ digital music player readily available.

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The new decade also featured plenty of revivalist bands to offset the future-is-now Myspace era. Meanwhile, American music needed a jolt, and like with the 1970s punk movement, New York City provided the spark.

However, a California band entering its third decade wasn’t finished making funk rock masterpieces. Glimpsing back to the 2000s for premium American rock bands, the list below is full of then-upstarts and one eccentric, goofy veteran band of funky monks.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O, Nick Zinner, and Brian Chase emerged from a vibrant New York music scene to counteract rock radio’s stale playlists. Led by Seoul-born Karen Lee Orzolek, Yeah Yeah Yeahs sounded like a revved-up version of Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The early live shows were sweaty affairs, with Karen O thrashing about the stage wearing costumes that looked like a truckload of Crayola boxes had exploded backstage. Meanwhile, Zinner wore his Fender Stratocaster real low and his jet-black hair was vampire chic like Nick Cave’s. Zinner looped his guitar riffs into layers of fuzz, merging New York’s art and indie rock scenes.

They released Fever to Tell in 2003 and the album became a critical and commercial success thanks to the heartbreaking single “Maps.” Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ defining song also created the framework for future pop hits by Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé.

While many bands from the era failed to sustain the creative peaks of their early releases, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have recorded five albums without a dud.

LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy released “Losing My Edge” in 2002. His partner at DFA, the independent record label Murphy co-founded, warned him that releasing the song “was a mistake.” He was wrong. “Losing My Edge” is an eight-minute dissertation on “cool” and it became an underground club hit.

Disparate rock scenes existed in New York City at the time. While some bands revived the garage sounds of Television or the post-punk of Joy Division, Murphy found inspiration spinning DJ sets. LCD Soundsystem completely lacks nostalgia and while other Manhattan and Brooklyn bands looked to the past, Murphy pushed American rock forward with LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut in 2005.

“Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” is deep, wild funk and Murphy’s bass groove is one of the decade’s fiercest. Whatever information Murphy gleaned from the dance clubs, he installed in his band. LCD Soundsystem made it sound like the future had arrived.

In 2012, LCD Soundsystem released the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, chronicling the band’s farewell gig at Madison Square Garden. Their explosive live power is displayed in a beautifully captured film. It’s interesting to watch Murphy calmly and methodically end his band. LCD Soundsystem did return for a fourth album, American Dream in 2017.

The Strokes

Is This It is concise and brilliant. The Strokes borrowed from other New York bands—Television, Ramones, and The Velvet Underground—and helped save American rock from its angsty doldrums. Julian Casablancas was not only the 2000s’ second-coolest band leader (behind Karen O) but also a prolific songwriter. When the video for “Last Nite” appeared on MTV, it created a culture shift in rock ’n’ roll.

The Strokes’ second album Room on Fire is equally brilliant, and First Impressions of Earth (though too long) features indie bangers like “Juicebox” and “Heart in a Cage.” Moreover, Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. weave intricate and angular guitar parts with a kind of precision to offset Casablancas’ couldn’t-care-less demeanor.

Also, there’s yet to be another band with better names: Julian Casablancas, Nick Valensi, Albert Hammond Jr., Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti.

In 2001, New York’s finest rock band absorbed much criticism about their pampered upbringing, influence-pilfering, and general hype (invented or otherwise). But the showstopping sound of The Strokes’ first two albums is hard to argue with.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers might appear on a list like this from another decade. But the Los Angeles band is an American institution and they’ve recorded alt-funk masterpieces in multiple decades.

Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith closed the 1990s with the colossal Californication. Frusciante had returned from near-death addiction, apparently reborn with musical superpowers. The Chili Peppers kicked off the next decade with By the Way—an album as ubiquitous as Californication. Though they operate as a fire-all-cylinder group, Frusciante drove the title track, as well as “Can’t Stop” and “The Zephyr Song” like Hendrix had joined The Smiths, but with Brian Wilson on vocals.

If you’ve seen the Chili Peppers’ 2003 live footage from Slane Castle, you’ll experience the world’s best live rock band. But they weren’t finished. Next came a double album called Stadium Arcadium and it sounded like a group at the height of its musical powers.

Frusciante quit the band (for the second time) after the Stadium Arcadium Tour concluded. But he’s back and the Red Hot Chili Peppers continue to sell out stadiums while Flea remains a national treasure.

Use two sticks to make it in the nature.

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Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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