Skip to main content

The Greatest American Rock & Roll Band?

After three decades of making music together, the rock band R.E.M. have announced that they are calling it quits (as a group, anyway). Unfortunately, R.E.M. reached their zenith a number of years ago, so they're going out with a whimper, and not a bang. Still, it's been a good run. Someone on an internet forum I frequent (because that's what I do in my spare time -- visit internet forums) posited the following:

I think you could make a strong case that they were the greatest American rock and roll band of the past thirty years.

Now, I got to thinking about this. My initial reaction was a knee-jerk nodding of the head, but then further contemplation brought forth some doubt. There are other rock & roll bands that could vie for the title of 'greatest' from past thirty years, surely? Perhaps R.E.M. comes to the fore because of its longevity? But does quantity stand tall over quality? Seems doubtful. Let's look at some other rock bands from the past three decades.

When thinking of prominent rock bands of the modern era, of course R.E.M. holds a place of importance. So does Nirvana. Granted, they weren't around too terribly long (for obvious reasons), but their star burned bright before burning out. What of The Flaming Lips? They're often underrated, but have produced some really great rock music in the last couple of decades. Greenday is also an awesome American rock band, and has rightfully seen a lot of praise over its increasingly long career. They have remained relevant by producing credible rock song after credible rock song -- not an easy task.

I've gotta give a shout-out (mad props, or whatever the kids are saying these days) to homegrown rock band HUM. They've had some good, quality, well-accepted albums over the years, including 1995's classic You'd Prefer an Astronaut. And what of the (relatively) short-lived band Jellyfish, from the early 1990s? I was introduced to their two studio albums by Ashley, and I have to admit that they're both great  examples of pop/rock music. Speaking of two-album-bands, we can't overlook Vampire Weekend who, in my humble opinion, are the best rock group performing today.

Our list could go on and on. We've got: Fleet Foxes, Dave Matthews Band, OneRepublic, Lady Antebellum, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bon Iver, Talking Heads, Phish, Soul Asylum, The Lemonheads, Styx, etc. etc., to name but a few.

So, yes, a strong case could be made that R.E.M. was the greatest American rock & roll band of the past thirty years, but it is certainly not a conclusive case. All of the aforementioned rock bands (as well as countless others not mentioned) could have strong, plausible arguments made in their favor. True, some of them weren't around for 30 years like R.E.M., but then I'd argue that the term "greatest" means quality of music, not necessarily quantity of years. But then I'm sure you have your own criteria by which to judge this sort of thing.


  1. 30 years is a long time period that could include a huge array of bands. I'm on the record as not being a fan of REM, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize their contribution and influence as a band. That said, here are some possible contenders as the most influential (i.e., not necessarily the greatest). Big caveat: I do not like many of these bands, either.

    Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, The Pixies, Beck, Steve Earle, Wilco (Sun Volt, Uncle Tupelo), Elliot Smith, Patti Smith, Johnny Cash, DMB, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, Guided by Voices, Coldplay, Oasis, White Stripes, U2, Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar), Bob Dylan, Liz Phair, Lucinda Williams, Flaming Lips, NIN, PJ Harvey, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Bjork, Belle & Sebastian, Portishead, The National, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Guns N' Roses, My Morning Jacket, The Police, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Neko Case, Built to Spill, Ryan Adams, Spoon, Kings of Leon, Death Cab, The Decemberists, Animal Collective, Yo La Tengo, TSOOL, BRMC.

    My totally subjective votes would be for Gn'R, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The National, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens.

  2. Hmmm, interesting.

    What is it about the groups (aside fro Sufjan Stevens) that you mention in the last sentence that you think has been influential?

    You have a nice, comprehensive list (even if they're not all bands, as some are just solo acts, and they're also not all American. But I don't want to be pedantic). ;-)

  3. Yeah, I guess I kind of glossed over the "American" part of the question. Interesting, since I would probably tag U2 as the "greatest" band of the past 30 years.

    Gn'R: Came out of nowhere and destroyed hair metal, which paved the way for grunge to go mainstream. Set the stage for the most important rock movement (grunge) of our generation.

    Nirvana: Gold standard of the grunge era.

    Pearl Jam: Here for sentimental reasons. One notch below Nirvana, but have stuck with it for 20 years and are making some of their best music right now.

    The last four are simply my favorites from the past decade - don't really have a good argument to back it up. ;)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....

1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night

It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

The Best Superhero Movies of All-Time, Revisited

We are just a few days away from the North American release of Avengers:Infinity War. While I am dutifully going to see it opening night, it's not a film I'm looking forward to. It is (spoiler) part one of two, which means we can expect plenty of plot threads left dangling when the credits roll. In other words, part two will probably be better, and provide some actual resolution. Also, Thanos looks like a CGI yawn-fest. Hopefully, I'll be proved wrong.
Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity to rank (again) the major superhero movies (Marvel and otherwise) that we've had so far. As you know, I love making a list, and this one is going to be a definitive one! If you don't see a film on here, it's because I haven't seen it (the first two Thors, Iron Man 2, some of the X-Men features, etc.).   Alright, here we go.

Walk and Chew Gum

Yesterday marked a touchstone moment in the U.S., as students across the country participated in "walkouts." This was an occasion for students to express an array of thoughts and emotions, ranging from a desire for stricter gun control, to simply sorrow over the loss of so many of their peers to school shootings. They were peaceful protests, but protests nonetheless. Where you're at on the spectrum of agreeing or disagreeing with what they did may vary, though not wanting to get shot in your school seems pretty reasonable to me.
Some folks have taken to sharing a meme on social media platforms this week -- in direct anticipation and response to the walkouts -- that encourages students to "walk up, not out." Following are suggestions provided for the walk ups:

Walk UP to the kid who sits ALONE and ask him to join your groupWalk UP to the kid who never has a voluntary partner and offer to be hersWalk UP to your teachers and thank them!Walk UP to someone and JUST …