The 10 Suckiest Bands of the '00s

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Okay, guys. Enough with the nostalgia shows already.

We know you've noticed it, the sudden influx of '90s nostalgia bands that have made their way back on tour. Up until this point, it was fine to dig up a few musical memories while listening to an aging band play their radio hits, because the '90s were an awesome time for music, especially alternative rock, and therefore these nostalgia shows are relatively harmless. Cheesy, yes, but harmless nonetheless.

However, at some point during all of this '90s hysteria, no one noticed that there was a change a-comin', and that change is one we'd all be better off without: the '00s. That's right, the '00s. You know, that little decade of time from 2000 to 2010 that basically killed everything that was decent and listenable about mainstream alt-rock? Yeah, that one.

Thanks to the success of these '90s nostalgia tours, '00s alt-rock bands are jumping on that bandwagon and booking tours together as bad-music collectives, and they're resurrecting all that was awful about that period of music in the first place. I don't think I need to remind everyone about how terrible frosted tips on whine-singing dudes were, right?


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The 10 Best Rock Bands of the '80s

Categories: Retro Active

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Photo by Daniel Kramer
Chrissie Hynde (center) and the Pretenders at House of Blues Houston in 2009
Whether you lived through them or not, we can all admit that the '80s were a long time ago. Even a kid born on New Year's Eve 1989 could be most of his or her way through medical school by now. And although that decade refuses to go away in all sorts of ways, one concept that does feel like has been lost is the idea of the no-bullshit, straight-ahead rock and roll band. Guys who wore cuban-heeled boots or sneakers onstage, smoked cigarettes and idolized Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, Lennon & McCartney. There was a lot we didn't know back then.

So strictly because one of our personal '80s-rock favorites, Living Colour, is in town Sunday night, not long ago we thought it would be fun to ask a few of our writers to give us a couple of their favorite rock bands of the Reagan/Bush years. And that's it: rock bands. No metal (including G'N'R), no punk, no alternative, nothing too synthy or New Wave. Just pure rock and roll -- a couple of guitars, bass and drums, maybe a piano or saxophone, and an unflagging desire to conquer the stage every single night.

It wasn't easy. Yes, we see you, Springsteen. You'll live. And forgive us, Huey Lewis and the News. Your name did at least come up.


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Six Artists Practically Unrecognizable On Their First Records

Categories: Retro Active

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The things you did when you were young are often extremely embarrassing as you get older. The old joke used to be about people's high school yearbook photos, and a cursory search on the Internet will show you the embarrassing evidence of these when it comes to famous celebrities. Nowadays, you can find evidence of every period of a person's development thanks to social media.

We'll also be seeing the embarrassing, earliest recordings of bands floating around becoming a more frequent occurrence, as our new rock stars will be able to put out everything they do on Bandcamp from their beginning to their masterpiece. Back in the day, you had to search for long out-of-print first albums to hear those sorts of things.

They did exist, though, whenever bands or musicians managed to get a recording contract long before they were ready for prime time. Those records are the stuff of legend now, but thanks to the Internet and intrepid fans, we're able to look back and have a laugh.


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Five Joy Division Covers That Don't Suck

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Today would have marked the 57th birthday of Ian Curtis, who was born on July 15, 1956. Though the Joy Division front man tragically took his own life 33 years ago, it's telling of the legacy he left behind that even now we hear bands hopelessly indebted to his unique craft and that we still look back on his music after all this time.

In honor of Curtis and the inestimable impact he's had on modern music -- despite only releasing two full-length records in his lifetime -- I decided to look at some of the best cover versions of his songs over the years. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; even better if it doesn't suck, so these performances have quite a bit going for them.


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10 Bands That Were Almost Named Something Really Stupid

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Photo via www.ledzeppelin.com
Take it from me, it's tough naming a band. During the one time I had my own band, it was called "Post-Hardcore Boy Band." Really great name, right? I think we can all agree that a lot of bands who have become famous have really horrible names too. Like Hoobastank, for instance.

But even some bands whose names are revered and iconic started off with some horrible ideas. Even though those names are now forgotten to all but the biggest music-trivia nerds, we'll never forget the names which could have come to define our favorite bands, even while shuddering at the thought of having to explain to someone that they're actually really good despite those names.


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10 Essential Jay-Z Songs Before Magna Carta Holy Grail

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Photo by Marco Torres
Ah, Independence Day. A day for celebration of pride and patriotism, and to go out back and fire up the grill with a couple of cold ones. Unfortunately, I'll have to get a raincheck on that one, because I have bigger plans this July 4th. This year I'll be settling in and spending the day with the brand new album from legendary rapper Jay-Z. You may have heard of him.

If you've heard of him, but haven't actually heard him, you've been living under a rock for the past 17 years. You've also been missing out on some of the greatest hip-hop ever made. So if this is your first experience with Hova and you want to visit the back catalogue first, here's ten to grab on iTunes before you get into Magna Carta Holy Grail.


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Midnight Oil Reopens the Blue Sky Mines On Essential Oils

Categories: Retro Active

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Photos courtesy of Columbia/Legacy Records
In the U.S., Midnight Oil are probably best known for their single "Beds are Burning." The video helped define late-'80s MTV by showing the group (most notably tall, gangly, bald singer Peter Garrett) dancing amid native tribespeople in the desert, while the lyric forcefully argued that their ancestral lands should be given back to them.

The rockers scored more hits with tracks like "The Dead Heart," "Blue Sky Mine," "Forgotten Years," and "King of the Mountain," and remained dedicated to producing material that dealt with political, socioeconomic, human-rights, and environmental issues, often related to their Australian country of origin and its indigenious peoples. If any band could be said to continue the legacy of the Clash, the Oils would be a quite right candidate.


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Get the "Led" Out: Five Other Famous Zeppelins

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Dread Zeppelin's Un-Led-Ed, endorsed by Robert Plant himself.
Led Zeppelin: one of the most famous and influential rock and roll bands of all time. The key word in there is influential. How many rock bands in 2013 do you suppose cite Zeppelin as a major influence on their sound? I'd say just about all of them, either directly or indirectly through their influences' being influenced by Zeppelin themselves.

But just as iconic as Zeppelin's sound is its brand. The band's legacy is all tangled up in its fantastical lyricism, its obscure album art and its mysterious symbols. Even the name is so iconic that it has inspired a legion of imitators, from similarly named tribute bands to active recording entities unto themselves who just like the way a certain pun on the name "Led Zeppelin" sounded.

Here are five of these other Zeppelins you may or may not have heard of before.


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Old Gold: The Explosion of Vintage Jewelry in Hip-Hop

Categories: Retro Active

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tiffany day via Flickr
In the past year, the hip-hop scene has traded in a great deal of its diamond-encrusted Jesus pieces and record-label logo necklaces for items with a bit more "vintage designer" style.

From coast to coast, we are now seeing entertainers and tastemakers flash their vintage Chanel and antique Versace pieces, while designers such as Cartier, Gucci, Christian Lacroix, Celine, Christian Dior and Anne Klein have graced the necks and arms of the rap elite.

Hip-hop is of course no stranger to fine jewelry, but names such as Jacob the Jeweler and Johnny Dang (an associate of Houston's own Paul Wall) are no longer the most sought-after outfitters. Many hip-hop artists nowadays would rather sport a vintage Givenchy chain or Tiffany & Co bracelet than wear items of a more traditional hip-hop provenance.


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KC, of the Sunshine Band: "We're the Party Band"

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Photo by Chris Weeks
If there were some kind of Ghostbusters-style aura-meter that could measure the feelings certain songs evoke in people, KC & the Sunshine Band's readings would be greener than the fields of Ireland. The Miami-based group dominated the charts in the mid- and late '70s with a string of singles -- "Boogie Shoes," "Get Down Tonight," "I'm Your Boogieman," "Shake Shake Shake (Shake Your Booty)" -- that seemed almost genetically engineered to get people smiling and dancing.

They almost were. Harry Wayne Casey (or "KC") and recording engineer Richard Finch co-founded the Sunshine Band in 1973, and wrote and produced most of the material coming out of TK Studios - not just their own songs, but others like George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby." "The sound of Sunshine," as it was known, made TK Records almost as big a player in the disco world as Neil Bogart's Casablanca, home to the likes of Donna Summer.


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