10 Best Alternative Rock Bands Of The 2000s
Updated: Jan 20
The early part of the century was a crazy time, wasn't it? Sure, there was some bad stuff happening, but there were also some pretty cool things. The United States saw its first black president elected. Sarah Palin was off making comedy gold. Some negative Nancy's will say that wasn't the point but I respectfully disagree. Plus, I graduated high school, and believe me - if you knew anyone in my family, that wasn't always a given.
But let's save all that, and reminisce about something that actually matters. Or, tl;dr: The best alternative rock bands from the 2000s. We've picked out a brilliant master list that covers the best of the best of the early 21st century. Alternative rock is a broad category, so I tried to include something for everyone. It doesn't matter if you prefer indie rock, post punk, punk rock, garage rock, or pop rock bands (and man, those were everywhere then, weren't they?).
I've left off the obvious ones that no one has forgotten, like the still-releasing-music mainstream bands Green Day or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Instead, I aimed more for "oh yeah, remember when that was a thing?" From Paramore to Arctic Monkeys, from debut albums to groups firmly entrenched in the decade. You can thank me when you're done rocking out.
I realize for some, this is a controversial choice. Roughly half the world hates Gorillaz if Reddit is to be believed. Most of the rest just realizes that the sound that seemed revolutionary back in 2001 didn't evolve with the times particularly well. Their first album, Gorillaz sold more than 1 million copies, while their fifth, Humanz only did about a tenth of that.
But we'd be remiss to leave them off the list altogether. Dig deep down in your cold stone hearts. Remember how it felt the first time you ever got sucked into that crazy, fictional universe that Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett painstakingly created.
4 animated characters called 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel were given elaborate backstories, full of just-like-a-real-band drama, infighting, and shake-ups. Murdoc, for example, could not participate in The Now Now the band's 6th album. Why? Well, according to his entirely fictional life story - he was in jail.
As for the real-life people behind the band, this was something of a music experiment, Hewlett was an artist, too intrigued by the novel idea of illustrating a band. Albarn wanted the freedom to try some unusual music that deviated from his earlier work in Blur. As an established musician, not having his face immediately attached to the project likely gave him a bit more flexibility and distance from critics who would have always tried to associate Gorillaz with his previous work.
It was revolutionary, at the time. It wasn't quite like anything we were used to hearing. The bizarre characters were fascinating and surprisingly complex. It was "00s alternative" of the highest order.
High album sales prove it. They had one of the best rock albums, 2000s wise. If you were under 20 during their debut period, you lost your frickin' mind. Or stubbornly pretended not to.
9. Three Days Grace
Three Days Grace might be best known for their borderline obsessive fans, some of who worshipped the band in a way that only post-internet teens could. I mean, entire fanfiction communities were making up crazy stories about these guys. Come on, y'all. Brad's just trying to play the bass. He's not here for your angst.
Though it was, perhaps, their relatability that many of the fans connected to. While their first album, the self-titled Three Days Grace, was mostly well-received, some critics did say that the band needed to develop their sound further. But that was before lead vocalist, Adam Gontier, went to rehab in 2005 for an OxyContin addiction. He let his experience inspire and influence his writing for their second album, One-X. The personal emotions seemed to resonate with fans, eventually going triple platinum in the US.
The band is still going, even though Gontier left the band in 2013. He was later replaced by Matt Walst, brother of the bass guitarist Brad Walst and former singer of My Darkest Days. They've continued to do all right for themselves - the band has acquired 15 number one hits as of 2019, according to Billboard.
I realize Paramore isn't one of the top-grossing bands of the 2000s, but they did have some mainstream success. Their sound was a big part of that whole Warped Tour experience, practically a category in itself that a lot of bands got lumped into.
Paramore had most of its success between 2006-2010. They were recognized time and time again as one of the best alternative bands of the time. But after significant touring and three back-to-back albums, the band hit a rough patch. At the end of the decade, two founding members (brothers Josh and Zac Farro) left. Josh claimed that lead singer Hayley William's treated the rest of the band as though they were simply "riding on the coattails of her dream." He had complaints with the band's management as well.
Bassist Jeremy Davis left at the end of 2015. He then ended up in a legal battle with Williams over ownership rights to some of the band's songs. It was later settled in 2017.
Williams herself was struggling around this time. She admitted later that she was depressed during this period. She also was going through a divorce from her husband at the time, Chad Gilbert (lead guitarist of New Found Glory). The band is still, officially, in existence (and Zac Farro returned in 2017), but they've never quite gotten their glory days back.
It seems that some members of the band resented Williams being seen as the face of the band. But Hayley William's distinct vocals helped them stand out. She was a strong female lead. Arguably, that's what provided most of their success in the first place.
Most people think of the obvious "Misery Business" when Paramore is mentioned. But that's forever tainted now thanks to Olivia Rodrigo. So instead, I'll leave you with "Brick By Boring Brick." Both were great alternative songs, 2000s era.
Blink-182 isn't a distinctly 2000s band - they've been around in various ways since 1992. But they hit their peak around that time, part of that same "Warped Tour Collective". They probably could count as the poster child.
Plus they had that amazing slutty nurse. If that doesn't scream the year 2000, nothing does. They were the radio-friendly, polished 2000s alternative pop-punk sensation that ushered in the new millennium. One of the essential 2000s rock bands.
It wasn't until their third album, Enema of the State, that Blink-182 finally hit mainstream success. They had certainly paid their dues by then. They released Take Off Your Pants And Jacket shortly after in 2001.
But tensions were beginning to run high amongst the group. Tom DeLonge, the lead singer and guitarist, began to feel stifled. He wanted to broaden their sound.
As a result, he asked drummer Travis Barker to work on a side project with him in 2002. However, that left Mark Hoppus feeling excluded and betrayed. Understandable - he was the only one of the trio not involved.
The band stuck together long enough to release one more album in 2003. But they were experiencing personal change as well. All three of the men had become fathers recently. Between interpersonal conflicts, fatigue, and a desire to spend more time with their families, they finally decided in 2005 to call a hiatus.
In 2008, Barker was one of the only two survivors in a plane crash that killed 4 people. With significant injuries, his former bandmates met up in the hospital. This ultimately paved the way for a reunion.
However, they never really dealt with the friction between the members. Before long DeLonge departed the band again. Blink-182 has continued since then with Alkaline Trio vocalist Matt Skiba in the role.
Still, it'll never be quite like the old times for Blink-182 again. For your listening pleasure, their most iconic music video, What's My Age Again?
6. Foo Fighters
It took Foo Fighters a while to find their sound. But since they originally started as a one-man project by Dave Grohl, it's probably understandable. Even once they became a band, the early days of the group were plagued by relatively high turnover.
However, they settled into a fairly stable routine. Especially for a 2000s rock band. The same 4 members have been consistent since they finally settled their lineup in 2000. They made room for a fifth member when guitarist Pat Smear returned in 2010 (he had originally left in 1997), and added a pianist in later years.
They've been quite prolific as well, though their sound has continued to evolve. Understandable, as they've been going for 26 years. In that time, they've released 10 albums. When you factor in nearly non-stop touring between each album, that's an impressively high level of productivity that few bands could match.
Still, I think it could be argued that Learn To Fly is the earliest example of their distinctive sound that we all remember as a marker of the decade.
5. Our Lady Peace
Okay, I get it. Our Lady Peace didn't have anywhere near the commercial success that some other bands at the time did. How can I put them on the list, and leave out Green Day or Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Well, actually pretty easy. It's my list. No, but seriously, as much as I love some of the more mainstream bands of the decade, they weren't "2000s rock bands." It's a bit offensive to label something as huge as Red Hot Chili Peppers that way.
They were popular both before, and after, the period in question. Same with a band like Green Day. While they had a lot of hits during this time, I don't think it's fair to put them in a smaller box than they deserve.
Meanwhile, Our Lady Peace is one of the quintessential alt bands from the early 2000s. They had only a few big hits. But those hits had a distinctive sound you'd recognize on any soundtrack or TV show, even to this day.
Our Lady Peace more or less dried up after 2009. They're still performing, though not a huge headliner these days. They did recently release a new single in 2021 called "Stop Making Stupid People Famous". Hey, they always did speak my language.
One of their biggest hits was "Somewhere Out There", released April 2002. This one's got major feels for me. I can remember scream-singing this at basically every campfire I attended that summer.
4. Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys were another revolution at the time. They were an independent band that became a phenomenon thanks to crazy internet marketing and fan promotion. At the time, it was a huge discussion as to what it would mean for music in the future. In the age of technology, could a good band make it big, just by fan support?
After only about a year of performing, Arctic Monkeys had managed to find a devoted fan base. They distributed a demo CD that was given away at their gigs. Liking what they heard, people began to upload it to the internet. Fans burned new copies of their demo, giving them out. Word spread. Some devotees created a MySpace page to promote the band. Except, the band claimed they didn't even know about it!
A local photographer became interested in the band. He helped the band record their first music video. He then promoted it on his website - along with that demo. All this free publicity caught the eye of the record company Domino, who signed them in June 2005.
Their debut single, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor," was released only a few months later. It went straight to number one in the UK. Now obviously, having a major label invest in you is going to make a difference. Domino's backing gave them the opportunity to get their single out there properly.
But they achieved this with almost no manufactured press. It was simply the buzz created by word of mouth and a fanbase. Arguably, no one thought to harness it until the Arctic Monkeys showed them how. Want proof? Go ask a self-made YouTube musician how things are going. I hear Matty B is worth 3 million dollars.
3. White Stripes
The White Stripes were known for two things:
Reviving garage rock
Lying to us about being brother/sister instead of a divorced couple.
I mean, I get it. The idea of an ex-wife and husband getting along well enough to be able to not only have a civil conversation but go on tour together was a bit hard to swallow. They didn't want that to become the only topic discussed in interviews. They feared interest in their personal lives might take away from their well-earned rock credibility.
Plus, as Jack White pointed out in a 2005 Rolling Stone interview, "When you see a band that is two pieces, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, you think, 'Oh, I see...' When they're brother and sister, you go, 'Oh, that's interesting.' You care more about the music, not the relationship—whether they're trying to save their relationship by being in a band.
It didn't matter in the end, as the band disappeared in 2007. They officially broke up in 2011, leaving us all heartbroken once again. There was never an official reason for the sudden end.
Meg White had been suffering from anxiety, whether that was related or not. Jack White also stated later that Meg lacked enthusiasm to continue, which was a contributing factor.
2. The Killers
The Killers are primarily known for their stylized "retro-like" sound. Notable songs include "Mr. Brightside," and, "Somebody Told Me." Both received significant airplay on mainstream radio.
Like Foo Fighters, The Killers had a tough first year with a number of lineup changes. But as soon as they got all the kinks worked out, they've spent nearly 20 years with the same main members.
Technically, The Killers are still around. They recently released their 7th album Pressure Machine. They're already working on the 8th album. In June 2021, guitarist Dave Keuning stated that they "have a good start" during an interview with NME.
They aren't trending quite as high as their glory days. That's partly due to several extended hiatuses taken by band members who burned out on too much time on the road. It seems the band is finding the balance between making a living and a hard-lived rock and roll lifestyle.
1. The Strokes
The Strokes debut album Is This It came out to critical acclaim in 2001. It almost immediately was placed on several best album lists. An article by Slate called it the best album of the decade.
It really was an incredible album. Easily one of the best rock albums to remember of the 2000s. Their next two albums didn't reach the same level of success.
After this, they took a break to regroup. After a hiatus of five years, they started up again in 2011. They released their next album, Angles and then Comedown Machine in 2013.
But the decade was more or less a wash for the band. After the extended break, they couldn't get back to their previous popularity or record sales. Their contract with RCA ended. The band also failed to do much to promote their work (such as live appearances).
In 2020, they decided to start fresh - again. The New Abnormal was a critical success that received Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards that year. Many critics called it a return to their old form and style.
Like The Killers and White Stripes, they had a simple, garage-band style. This spoke a generation tired of the pop-culture excess of boy bands and Britney Spears.
I'm sure some will agree with parts of my list, and disagree with others. Music is, of course, a very personal thing. Many of these are ones I fondly recall from the decade in question.
Many other bands could have been included but didn't fit the categories as neatly. Some bands, like Radiohead, were certainly popular. But their success began well before the year 2000.
Bands like Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers saw massive success during that time. However, they've continued to be high sellers. Most people wouldn't associate them with a few specific years.
The bands included are the dedicated 2000s rock bands. They gave us the best, banger rock albums of 2000 and no more. Bands with a string of hits in a short time who left quietly out the backdoor. These are the alt bands that changed the decade in a whirlwind of sound - and disappeared.
Hopefully, you've at least remembered a few classics to reminisce to.
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Jamie Dixon is a contributing writer here at The Pyrrhic. She's a content writer by profession, but this is more fun. She's also working on her first novel in her spare time.
Find her on Twitter @onegirloneblog