As I begin this last post about my favorite alternative songs throughout history, a large part of me feels nothing but relief. Relief that this demon has be exorcised, so to speak. Some days it is so very easy to write this thing, and others it feels as though I literally have run out of things to say. And, to be honest, writing is beginning to take the place that sports held for me in my life. In my pre-Failed Back Surgery Syndrome days, I went to play basketball to compete, not just exercise. And when I ran, I was competing with myself. I loved competition because it made me feel alive and at one with the world.
But, now, my body fails me. So, I have been on a search for a replacement. Now, does writing have a feeling like competition? No. Not at all. But, there is something about it that helps me keep the darkness from swallowing me whole. Thus, I am beginning to switch from competition to this thing called writing. And, I prefer not to write much about this chronic pain thing I have. I prefer to turn to music, something that helped me through some terrible times over the years to find the good in the world.
And, I feel that all good art does that: converts the pain of the artist into the collective release of pain to his/her audience. At least, that’s what rock music has done for me. So, I celebrate this release by listening to it (even though I think the volume is catching up to me in my left ear – thanks Brian May and Anne Wilson for your concerts!). So, let’s celebrate these relatively new artists and their outstanding songs from the latest complete decade that we have lived through.
As the prophet Casey Kasem once would say, “The numbers get smaller, but the hits get larger. Now, back to the countdown!” Here’s my Top 20 Favorite Alternative Songs of the 2000s.
1. Daft Punk – “One More Time” (2001). That’s right! Here’s a surprise for you! I still love disco, especially when it’s done well, like Daft Punk did here. I thought for a moment that I was back in the late Seventies when I first heard this song.
2. My Morning Jacket – “I’m Amazed” (2008). I long thought MMJ would become the 21st century version of The Band. But, after this great song and the album from which it comes, Evil Urges, they are something more. Something like a modern Grateful Dead/Prince/Talking Heads/Phish amalgamation. In other words, something I totally dig.
3. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes” (2007). Seriously, who bases a smash hit song on The Clash’s funk-punk freak-out from Combat Rock “Straight to Hell”? Well, M.I.A. did, along with the innovative use of cash register and gun shot sound effects as hooks. I heard this song blaring from students’ cars in the school parking lot for the better part of a year. That says something.
4. Modest Mouse – “Float On” (2004). I always love it when a long-time underground band has a hit song, because that song usually lives on forever, much like this song does. And, no, it has NOTHING to do with that soul hit from 1977 by The Floaters.
5. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle” (2001). This song, along with Fountains of Wayne’s “Stacey’s Mom” are the power pop anthems of the decade. Need I say more?
6. U2 – “Beautiful Day” (2000). As the new millennium rolled around, U2 rediscovered their youthful enthusiasm and came up with another timeless anthem.
7. Johnny Cash – “Hurt” (2002). What Seventy-something take a Nine Inch Nails song and make it own, and an alternative standard as well? If that person is Johnny Cash, nothing is impossible. This is Cash’s last testament to his talent and genius. Every musician should go out this way.
8. The Strokes – “Last Nite” (2001). For a brief time at the beginning of the Aughts, the NYC music scene was alive again, like it was 1977 again. And, The Strokes were leading the way. Then, the whole thing was over quicker than the lights came back on during the NYC blackout in the Seventies.
9. MGMT – “Kids” (2007). No band sounded like they were having fun as much as MGMT did on their debut album, from which “Kids”, their best song, comes. Their recipe was a little alternative music here, some punk there, throw in a little disco, and some synth-pop and new wave. Cook for three to four minutes. And, presto! MGMT gave us “Kids”.
10. Cheap Trick – “Sick Man of Europe” (2009). C’mon Keller! Who are you kidding?!?! Cheap Trick? That’s right! The band rediscovered their inner-garage band/punk rock band to create one of their greatest songs. If you don’t believe ask Little Steven Van Zandt.
11. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up” (2004). I think this band may never live up to the potential of this anthem, but who cares? Dan Patrick uses it every Friday coming out of his last break to pump up everyone for the weekend.
12. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire” (2008). For a moment in time, KOL seemed like the saviors of rock music. I was wrong, but this song reminds of that though every time I hear it.
13. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside” (2004). I miss The Cars. But, The Killers helped on that count a couple of times, such as this song.
14. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy” (2006). THE song of 2006, it was nearly everywhere. I heard it on all radio formats except for Country and Classic Rock, though it does belong in the latter now.
15. Bob Dylan – “Mississippi” (2001). What’s with all the older artists on this countdown? Well, it proves that old-timers were the talented ones who were timeless. Will we be able to say that about the others on this list. Probably not!
16. Ryan Adams – “To Be Young” (2000). I still hold on to the hope that Adams will become this generation’s Neil Young, like he seemed destined to become when this song was released.
17. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out” (2004). Franz Ferdinand woke up the sleeping giant of Duran Duran with this song. D-squared has since recorded three of their better albums since “Take Me Out” was released to remind everyone that we need teen idols who rock. Too bad FF weren’t those idols.
18. Pearl Jam – “Just Breathe” (2009). The Nineties alternative gods return to top form on this song, and there’s nothing better than Pearl Jam when they are focused.
19. Crazy Town – “Butterfly” (2001). These one-hit-wonders took an obscure Red Hot Chili Peppers’ riff and created a whole new haunting funk-rock song in the process. The song still gives me chills to this very day.
20. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army” (2003). This song contains THE guitar riff of the Aughts. The song is everywhere now. You can hear it at sporting arenas. College and high school bands are playing it at football and basketball games. Hell, even the crowds will chant the riff in an attempt to rally their team. It is timeless, but I knocked it down a few notches because it is so ubiquitous.
And there you have it, friends! That wraps up my favorite alternative rock songs throughout the decades. From the garage bands playing proto-punk in the Sixties to today’s indie rock bands, alternative music will live on, evolving into a viable music.