In these troubled times America is home to a wide array of pop stars using laptops and synthesizers. Meanwhile, in the UK (the country that practically invented electro-pop), there is a new awareness of British guitar-rock bands plugging into guitars and turning on amps. And they brought hooks and riffs to spare.
Here are some of the most impressive British guitar-rock bands, featuring six strings and treble amps. Some of these leads will give you earworms. Others may have you attach an air guitar. And there may be a few that completely harm your hearing. (Which is always a great feeling, actually.) Love them or hate them, one thing is for sure: a guitar always looks cooler on stage than a laptop.
Read more: A biopic of Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister is in the works
Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – “Double Denim Hop”
Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard is what singer / guitarist Tom Rees put together to satisfy the rock ‘n’ roll demon within him. B3 offers everything from glam 70s-style riffs to contemporary take on psychedelia, which makes them as much a time machine as a rock band. Their American beginnings, the Nonstop EP, releases July 10. With so many promises, we can’t imagine what their third LP will look like. You have to be on the ground floor, my friends.
Girls of the Sea – “Ready for more”
The Sea Girls of London are that band that you’ll want to keep to yourself forever, but their musical outlook is infectious. The ironic lyrics are both whimsical and fair: frontman Henry Camamile is equally sophisticated and clumsy. Guitarist Rory Young channels Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes (and maybe a bit of the Smiths), but with more energy. Their first EP in the United States, Under the exit lights, is a great place to hear a British success story in the making. The Sea Girls have the ability to turn diary entries into hymns.
Girls In Synthesis – “The pictures agree”
The most extreme group on this list, hands down. London trio Girls In Synthesis have no synths and a girl (drummer Nicole Pinto) but a lot of smoldering rage. Screaming voices about the state of the world are paired with relentless, stripped-down punk and (uncontrolled) feedback. At concerts, you might think that SIGs leave drops of sweat on their guitars. On closer inspection, it could be the material on their axes bubbling with intense heat. Get all the strength with Pre / Post, a compilation of their collectible singles.
Sports team – “Camel Crew”
If Girls In Synthesis is the raging blood that runs in the hearts of English rebels, Sports Team pokes fun at the British middle class. Alex Rice voices his country’s frustration in third person. Guitarist Rob Knaggs has an infallible sense of the appropriateness, creating an indie rock and ’90s britpop DNA. (Flooring covering Blur’s Parklife?) Their first album, Inside of me happy, is both seductive in its chaos and absurdity (see: a song about Ashton Kutcher called “Kutcher”).
Future fires – “Halfway”
The Birmingham Future Fires Quartet is a vector of possibilities. Their bio says they are influenced by groups as disparate as Joy Division and Editors. But in practice, they create a brand of British guitar-rock anthem. It’s not moody or unusually textured. What they offer is a lot more visceral (OK, let’s say it, “emotional”) than the typical summer festival fare. Their music does not belong to the radio executives or to “the stage”. But you can hear why these two worlds would come to their table. You’ll have to wait until December for their EP, but “Halfway Down” is a good place to start.
LIFE – “Start-up”
Hailing from Hull, LIFE pushes the post-punk attitude and obscurity into the mainstream. Guitarist Mick Green brings twisted riffs and textured atmospheres to the band’s eerie tracks. “Switching On” recently received a bloated remix from IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen. That’s good, but the original version, which follows their 2019 release, A picture of good health, is positively stellar. If you think the 1975 “People” is the pinnacle of British guitar-rock action, you might need to get yourself a LIFE.
Austerity – “imperialism”
Against me! wrote a song called “Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious …”. Their debut in 2019, Anarcho Punk Dance Party, tells you that they are in the stereotype. But while their political rhetoric soars high, the sharp guitars make it seem more like a party than a political science class. All aspiring rock’n’roll revolutionaries should take note.
Starsha Lee – “Mother Mess”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFwdyni8ZBY Starsha Lee’s hub is dynamic singer / polymath Sofia Martins and post-punk / glam guitarist Crispin Gray. His guitar prowess (which falls somewhere between Killing Joke and T. Rex) is the perfect launching pad for Martins to launch himself in a number of directions, most of which are quite frightening. Their latest mini-LP, Love is superficial, reinjects a much needed danger into rock music. It’s rock ‘n’ roll both as an artistic statement and as a catalyst for fear.
The mysteries – “I win every time”
The Liverpool Mysterines are the vehicle for singer / guitarist Lia Metcalfe, who exudes the charisma of how other bands garner applause on golf. The Mysterines evoke the classic by PJ Harvey Get rid of me era and the noisier days of downtime. But Metcalfe has the acting and songwriting skills to etch his initials into the surface of the rock’n’roll legend’s bar. Take the one from last year Take control EP for a ride and let her drive. The Mysterines really need to make their contribution to the colonies once Mother Nature stops hating us.
Dream State – “Are you ready to live?” “
Much like Future Fires, Welsh band Dream State fills that gap between rock radio and the people who miss the Warped Tour compilation CDs. Led by vocalist CJ Gilpin and powered by guitarists Aled Evans and Rhys Wilcox and drummer Jamie Lee, Dream State brings the riffs and determination to move audiences. Imagine a slightly less wild Marmozets and you are close. Dream State apparently has a lot more vision than it suggests. To the sound of their debut Primrose path, we’re glad they’re there.