By Ryan

I got a nice email today about my comparing Wilco and Radiohead to U2 and Springsteen in my Friday column.  What’s more, it was from someone I don’t even know, which is really our key demographic here.  Combine that with the fact that I always need ideas for columns and that I admittedly mailed it in a bit with my Fallon piece, and I realized the task that’s set before me.  I’m going to make a list of legendary rock artists, nominate younger bands whose career arc and/or sound resembles their elder(s), then pompously declare bands to be the new incarnation of older bands.

It’s going to take place over three columns, and it breaks down like this:

Today, March 10 – Find and decide on the legendary acts whose heirs we will be searching for, and begin a preliminary round of nominations.

March 24 – Discuss nominations and narrow it down to two for each legendary artist.

March 31 – Make aforementioned pompous declarations.

Now, first up, some ground rules.  Since I don’t like to make judgment calls on fifty years of rock history in which I am only moderately versed, the legends will be determined by selecting bands that have at least two albums on Rolling Stone’s famous list of the top 500 albums of all time.  Furthermore, bands must have been in existence for at least twenty-five years to qualify; I really don’t care who the next Radiohead is until I know exactly who the current Radiohead is, something that’s still being determined.  Also, no Beatles.  Just not doing it.  They’re too complicated to grasp, and we can all agree that no band will ever strike such a successful path between critical acclaim and popularity.

So here are the artists I am going to do, and bear in mind that having more than two albums on the RS list doesn’t automatically get you in this conversation; who’s the next Marvin Gaye?  Hell if I know.


The legends (in order of their first appearance on the list):


The Beach Boys

You hear The Beach Boys nearly every time you hear a pretty vocal melody.  And they set the bar for that old “top down, summertime” phrase that gets applied to any band who indulges in sugary pop goodness.  Once overlooked, Brian Wilson’s instrumental arrangements have been re-evaluated over the last decade or so, and a number of bands wear his surfy jangle on their short sleeves.

Nominees: Animal Collective, The Besnard Lakes, Caribou, The New Pornographers, The Shins, Spoon



Bob Dylan

How many singers have been dubbed “the next Dylan” only to see their careers fall by the wayside?  Bruce was the first and most notable exception, but there were many more who lacked the chutzpah to live up to the hollowed legend.  While some Dylanologists would have you believe in Bob’s ability to re-invent himself, Dylan’s career arc is perhaps better reviewed as a natural progression in his musical style, directly related to his very interesting and involved life.  Anyone who wants the Dylan title needs talent, longevity, and a cult following.

Nominees: Andre Ethier, Bright Eyes, Destroyer, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens


The Rolling Stones

The Stones are almost like The Beatles in that no one will ever match their historic track record of critical success and top-level fame.  The difference is that none of the Stones ever cared enough about the group’s direction to make a fuss, which served them well for twenty years and then not so well for the last twenty-five or so.  Let’s hope whoever takes the Stone Throne decides to call it quits before their music nosedives and their skin turns to leather.

Nominees: Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Weezer, Wilco



The Clash

The Sex Pistols maybe have a better historical place, but The Clash brought punk to the masses.  They set the stage for Fugazi and Husker Du (and, in turn, Nirvana) as well as The Fall and Green Day.  I don’t really think anyone in music today is such a singular force for a particular genre as The Clash were, but there are certainly bands who’ve slapped the DIY-ethic on their backs and thrashed their guitars in the way of the Brit legends.

Nominees: Art Brut, Handsome Furs, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Thermals


The Velvet Underground

Let’s get one thing straight: no one will ever be as cool as VU.  Ever.  The Strokes came as close to anyone during my lifetime, and they’re also a New York band with guitar feedback and dark hooks.  Julian and friends aren’t alone in the noise rock/art school club, and the Velvets’ influence can be heard nearly everywhere.

Nominees: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Broken Social Scene, Deerhunter, The Strokes


Bruce Springsteen

I’ve always had a weird disconnect between the guy everyone called The Boss who pounded out hits with the E-Streeters and the dude who recorded Nebraska on a four-track.  I think the former sound is the more popular and influential of the two, but the latter shows why he was once adorned “the next Dylan.”  A true Bossman would pull off both with some level of success.

Nominees: Arcade Fire, The Hold Steady, The Killers, Kings of Leon, The National, Okkervil River


Van Morrison

Can you sing?  Can you write a catchy tune?  Can you also jam?  Van can.  More than just “Brown-Eyed Girl,” the Irish legend can dabble in blues, pop, folk, soul, hell, even jazz.  Just being a Starbucks-grade singer-songwriter won’t do; the new Van has to have it all.

Nominees: A.C. Newman, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, Stephen Malkmus


Fleetwood Mac

Though Rumours gets all the love, Fleetwood Mac had several other great records of catchy pop-rock.  Being able to play everything from a dirty stomp to a power ballad to a summer anthem served these jaded lovers well, and their next generation heir had better be damn able to replicate that trick.

Nominees: Eels, The New Pornographers, Rilo Kiley, Spoon, Tegan and Sara



Do I really have to explain this one?

Nominees: Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Radiohead



Led Zeppelin

Zep had killer guitars, howling vocals, and a British-invasion-blues edge.  They were also shrouded in mystery and legend, the likes of which would be near impossible for any modern band to imitate given the level of media coverage given famous musicians.  Still, many ride the Zep rails between rock, metal, and new-school blues with much success.

Nominees: Kings of Leon, My Morning Jacket, Queens of the Stone Age, The White Stripes


David Bowie

Bowie was a master of character, sexuality, and transformation.  He created a persona entirely his own and almost entirely unique.  His glam never got schmaltzy, and his music never got boring.  Many artists have copied his sound and many have copied his style, though few have successfully managed to do both while maintaining his level of creativity.  There will never be another Bowie, but that won’t stop artists from re-appropriating his career into something new.

Nominees: Antony and the Johnsons, Destroyer, Of Montreal, Sunset Rubdown


Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd conjures up heavy production, rock with a groove, mellow jams, and lots of drugs.  Masters of the slow-burner, the Floydsters could rear back for an up-tempo rocker or contain their potential in a teary dirge of sorts.  For me, a modern Floyd would have to absolutely kill on the slow ones and, luckily for us, there are some great bands who are up to the task.

Nominees: The Decemberists, Grizzly Bear, Low, Mars Volta, My Morning Jacket, Yeasayer



His name is Prince, and he is funky.  Much like Bowie, Prince is more than just his music; I mean, the dude was just a symbol for a while there.  His Purpleness did have one trait that stood out above all the others: his sexuality.  Anyone who wants to be the next Prince, whether through R&B balladry or through dance-hall funk, has to have a finely tuned sexual persona.

Nominees: Antony and the Johnsons, Kanye West, Of Montreal, TV on the Radio


Neil Young

Remember how a few years ago every big album was citing Springsteen as an influence?  I think we saw a little of that last year with Young.  For some bands it’s the timeless drawl, while others latch onto his folksy sense of melody and guitar.  The biggest factor for anyone who wants to replicate the woodsy Young has to be the writing.  It has to be top-level to work and to stand out.

Nominees: Band of Horses, Blitzen Trapper, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, The Shins


Talking Heads

A lot of bands sound like Talking Heads, but few have the irreverence and the longevity to match David Byrne and company.  You have to use a lot of different sounds but still have a signature sound, which is a tall task for any band.  I guess none of these nominees are as innovative as Talking Heads, but then again, who among us is?

Nominees: Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Modest Mouse, TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend, Wolf Parade


The Smiths

The Smiths are interesting because they influenced some artists to go emo and others to go post-new wave mod and still others to simply interject Marr and Morrissey’s cadence into their own sounds.  As such, the nominees are quite scattered, but I think it’s a pretty competitive bunch on the whole.

Nominees: Beirut, Bloc Party, Brand New, Interpol, The Killers, Muse, The National, Radiohead

If I missed a rather obvious comparison, please do put it in the comments.  I’ll be back next Tuesday to narrow the nominations for each category down to two.