Five Awesome UK Rock Bands That Never Made it in the US

Categories: Commentary

While the UK-US flow of music has become more than the steady one-way stream of US rock of the last two decades (presumably thanks to the internet), I've noticed you enjoy importing our wimpiest bands, like the dull drone of Mumford and Sons or the operatic cock-rock of Muse. Here are some UK bands, mainly from A Time Before The Internet, that you may not have heard of, might put some hairs on your chest, and might enjoy discovering.

5. The Wildhearts
Fronted by a ginger-dreadlocked Northerner (predictably just called Ginger), the Wildhearts have been plugging away for years, always threatening to breakthrough but never really managing it. They did release a genuine classic album of its time, 1993's Earth vs. The Wildhearts, and later (ironically) radio-friendly single Vanilla Radio got some airplay too, but thanks to band member problems and a constant split up/reform cycle, they perhaps never fulfilled their potential. Great back catalogue, though.

Sounds a bit like: Twenty years' worth of straightforward, unpretentious loud rock. "We just rip off our favorite bands from Cheap Trick to Metallica. It's all good big guitar riffs and choruses and nice melodies" says Ginger.

You should try: 29x The Pain, Caffeine Bomb, Greetings From Shitsville

4. Orange Goblin

A UK rock festival fixture for a long while now, I like to think of Orange Goblin as the UK's answer to Kyuss, only without the lawsuits. You can actually catch them in Dallas in March supporting Clutch at the Palladium, which is surely your only chance to ever catch them in Dallas, and it'll be well worth it. The riffs, oh the riffs. They're so large.

Sounds a bit like: All the British great metal bands of the 60s and 70s (Deep Purple, Sabbath, Zeppelin) combined to form a stoner metal band and kick things.

You should try: One Room, One Axe, One Outcome (which is, to be honest, one of the best song titles ever), Scorpionica, Lazy Mary

3. British Sea Power
I must admit to personal bias here, but nevertheless BSP are one of the finest rock bands to come out of the UK in a very long time. I went to see them in Dallas last year and ended up on stage singing the encore with them, I think simply because they were excited to see a Brit (and there were only about 40 people there). Their debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, is a genuinely exciting record from start to finish. Probably the band on this list with the most US success.

Sounds a bit like: David Bowie became obsessed with British wildlife and bird-watching, and took over vocals for the Pixies, who had decided to adapt their sound for anthemic rock.

You should try: Carrion, Remember Me, Waving Flags

2. The Jam
You might know them solely as the purveyors of big hits like That's Entertainment, but in fact The Jam's back catalogue was absolutely superb, defining the "mod" era in the 1970s that so many books, films, and shows have tried to recapture ever since. Their one concept album, Setting Sons, is an absolute gem, discussing similar themes to Floyd's The Wall but in a far more accessible way, and songs like "Down In a Tube Station at Midnight" and "Eton Rifles" were (according to my Dad, anyway) perfect depictions of what it was like to live in London at that time.

Sounds a bit like: I guess London Punk along the lines of The Clash, but with an added bit of the R&B influences of the time, and Paul Weller's inimitable Cockney drawl.

You should try: Start!, Down In a Tube Station at Midnight, Going Underground

1. Manic Street Preachers
A complex band that splits opinion in the UK, "The Manics" have many, many obsessive fans and have been putting out singles, EPs and albums for the best part of 25 years. Hailing from deepest, darkest Wales, the Manics brought with them a punk attitude, anti-royalist and pro-socialist sloganeering, and the sort of shock tactics that could have got them written off as a gimmick if the music weren't also so good. Their first two albums are pretty good, but they didn't hit their stride until 1994's The Holy Bible. It's a constantly compelling yet intensely dark and disturbing collection of songs covering topics like anorexia, serial killers, drugs, abortion, and prostitution, but written so intelligently (both musically and lyrically) that it never feels like the exploitative record it could so easily have been. Soon after its release, the guitarist and lyricist went missing, and his body was never found. The next release featured a shift to mournful anthemic rock and produced some of the biggest UK rock hits of the last couple of decades.

Sounds a bit like: At first, a sort of Welsh Guns N' Roses, but as they developed their sound and moved away from theatrics they went somewhere stranger and more original.

You should try: Die In The Summertime, A Design For Life, Motorcycle Emptines, From Despair to Where?. It's also worth checking out their excellent cover of the M*A*S*H* theme, Suicide is Painless.

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21 comments
xuco1
xuco1

Anna Calvi is good, P.J. Harvey like.

Sally113
Sally113

I really like The Rifles and Milburn

TracyTBS36
TracyTBS36

Absolutely The Beautiful South.  Agree w the posts r/e Suede as well.  Also Mogwai, Super Furry Animals, The Fratellis, The Wedding Present.

xuco1
xuco1

How about 90's thrash metal Lawnmower Deth. 

Missing Sibling
Missing Sibling

maybe i misunderstand the premise of the article but how is joy division not number one? the death of ian curtis and lack of joy division making it to the states is one of the more pivotal turn of events in music over the last 35 years. that void was a catalyst. lack of joy division allowed hair metal.

Sean Sutherlin
Sean Sutherlin

Kasabian. The Beautiful South. The Housemartins. M People. Style Council (although you did mention The Jam). The Soft Boys.

Kelly Tomlinson
Kelly Tomlinson

Fuck this European CRAP! Mumford and Sons are record label trash, designed to enable the A&R guy to be able to just buy more coke. Want some REAL US blues bad-assery? try The O's, OIL BOOM or RTB2.

Krystal Nacole Garcia
Krystal Nacole Garcia

I'd add newer bands like The Chapman Family and exit calm to the list. Although, Exit Calm are still together and still have time left.....

Israel Perez
Israel Perez

Big ass fan of Suede, cause i'm European, I introduced this band to my American wife and some American friends and they tripped out... By the way, screw Mumford and sons and Adele...worst shit ever

Amy MacDonald
Amy MacDonald

A first I thought "why isn't Jack In Water" on this list. then I realized....there's still time to make it. Rachel Johnson and Oli Chapman

Danial Jafri
Danial Jafri

Should have also mentioned Feeder as well. Anyone remember that song High?

Brian Martin
Brian Martin

Did my bloody bloody bastard comment get my comment removed..The Levellers are missing..By the way, have you tried the jalepeno sausage at Mac's on Main St.? Shits delish..and they make these fries with actual HANDS!!!

brian.martin
brian.martin

You left The Levellers off!! Sad face..you bloody bloody bastard!!

Jason Harris
Jason Harris

The Jam! Some bands I'd add to the list are The Undertones (Irish not UK), The Chameleons, The Kidda Band (great powerpop that never made it anywhere), and Lowlife (Scottish post-punk band with the original bassist from the Cocteau Twins)

David Ellefsen
David Ellefsen

It's really unbelievable that the Jam never made in the States.....same for Squeeze, Madness....evan Suede and Blur should have been bigger.

ramonestevie
ramonestevie

The Wildhearts are great, but I would also recommend Ginger's solo material. His new album 555% was my favorite album of last year and was funded solely by fans. Solo material is not so much hard rock as a mishmosh of all sorts of styles, often in the same song.

KEVINK8
KEVINK8

Can't argue with top three choices - The Jam get more airplay in States now than thirty years ago, and that's usually aforementioned "That's Entertainment" and the Motown laced "Town Called Malice". I'd shove aside one of your bottom tier choices for a much older Brit band that you ought to ask your Dad about - The Move - an explosive tight outfit in concert that made exquisite pop singles and trippy rock'n'roll albums. Worth checking out - get their four disc Anthology collection, it's an excellent overview .

ChrisYu
ChrisYu topcommenter

awesome post. but i remember the Jam did have a following here in the states. just not as popular as they were at home maybe. also remember first hearing them on George Gimarc's late great program.

JustSaying
JustSaying

When I first heard Orange Goblin back in the day I was pretty surprised that they were british. They shouldnt feel too bad about not making it in the states. Kyuss didnt really make it either. I bet most Kyuss fans came along years after the band broke up.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

@KEVINK8 Strangely enough I do remember him mentioning them. I recently helped him move all his old vinyl over to mp3, he's got some amazing stuff in there, Deep Purple first editions etc.

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