The 13 most underrated albums of the '00s

You might not have heard some of these lost classics, but there's no time like now to rectify that…

The 13 most underrated albums of the '00s
Mischa Pearlman

For every successful band – or even mildly successful band – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others who don’t become famous or well-known. That doesn’t mean they aren’t any good – commercial success is no indication of talent, but it does mean that there are plenty of great bands out there who are never exposed to the wider audience they deserve. By the same token, even established bands have to contend with the idea that their albums may just be released into a void that – through no fault of their own – they don’t reach the number of ears that they deserve. Even if a band’s previous record was a (relative) hit, or the critics love it, there’s absolutely no guarantee the public will respond in kind.

It’s with that in mind that this list was compiled: albums, all released between 2000 and 2009, that didn’t get their dues, but which really deserved a bigger audience and which still resonate as great records to this day. Of course, there are so many more that could have been added to this list, so if your favourite isn’t here, we can only apologise. At the same time, that’s also kind of the point…

The Get Up Kids – On A Wire (2002)

Given the reception and acclaim for The Get Up Kids' 1999’s Something To Write Home About, On A Wire was always going to have big shoes to fill. It didn’t help that On A Wire was a much more mellow, gentle affair. Produced by Scott Litt – best known for his work with R.E.M. – On A Wire was dismissed by fans who felt that the band were abandoning their roots for a more mainstream sound. Despite songs like Overdue, Let The Reigns Go Loose, Grunge Pig, the title-track, Hannah Hold On, Campfire Kansas (actually, the whole damn album…) being up there with the band’s very best, the tepid response to On A Wire resulted in a loss of momentum that they never really recovered from.

BoySetsFire – After The Eulogy (2000)

Although this second record by BoySetsFire does contain their best-known song, Rookie, the LP as a whole never got the dues it deserved – much like band. A surge of emotionally-charged post-hardcore, After The Eulogy’s songs explored the intensely personal subjects within a political framework that reflected the band’s extremely radical, left-wing and anti-capitalist worldview. Think Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name is an angry song? It’s nothing compared to this album’s title-track – just listen to the way vocalist Nathan Gray spits out the questions ‘Where’s your anger? Where’s your fucking rage?’ in a brutal call-to-arms for revolutions. Yet there’s tenderness and fragility here, too – and the way the two combine makes After The Eulogy one of the most formidable records of its time.

Broadway Calls – Broadway Calls (2007)

Put simply: Broadway Calls' intelligent and catchy pop-punk is some of the very best out there. Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong thought so, too – his label Adeline re-released this debut record the year after it first came out. Full of lyrically astute sing-alongs – not to mention a great cover of The Smith’s A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours – this album details the arduous nature of life as a touring band, but also widens its focus to make shrewd and perceptive observations about the world at large. It remains a fresh and invigorating record that’s a million miles away from the musically predictable and lyrically vacuous route pop-punk bands so often take.

The Lawrence Arms – Apathy And Exhaustion (2002)

Before Dan Andriano joined Alkaline Trio, he was in a band called Slapstick with fellow Chicagoan Brendan Kelly. When that outfit disbanded, Brendan formed The Lawrence Arms with Chris McCaughan and Neil Hennessy. In the same way that Dan splits songwriting duties with Matt Skiba for Alkaline Trio, so Brendan and Chris do the same in The Lawrence Arms. Brendan’s songs tending to be faster and more raucous compared to Chris’ more contemplative, slower efforts, yet, as this record demonstrates, they come together perfectly to create something truly special. Both tug at the heartstrings, but the ebb and flow between Brendan’s frenetic, lyrically cryptic observations (just listen to Navigating The Windward Passage or Boatless Booze Cruise Party) and Chris’ more straightforward poignant reflections (Brick Wall Views, Your Gravest Words) creates a pretty much perfect record.

Blackhole – Dead Hearts (2009)

Sometimes, having a famous brother isn’t always a positive force. At least, that’s how it seems things went for Richard Carter. He’d seen his siblings Frank and Steph do incredibly well with their band Gallows, something that should, if there were any justice in this world, have helped this debut album by his band Blackhole get the attention it deserved. Released a few months after Gallows’ Grey Britain, the blistering and bellicose Dead Hearts is surely one of the best British hardcore records of the 2000s, but despite critical acclaim, it just kind of floundered and Blackhole broke up. There was talk of a second album being made a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t seem to have materialised. Still, if this one album is their legacy, it’s a fucking good one.

Tellison – Contact! Contact! (2007)

London’s Tellison describe themselves on Facebook as a “waking-nightmare of a band”. To some extent that’s true, but only because the four-piece – despite a swell of hype around this debut album – never broke through in the way they deserved to. Clever and vulnerable in equal measure, Contact! Contact! is a record that navigates the travails of life (and love – and loss of love and life) with a beautiful open heart, incisive lyrics and a whole bunch of catchy choruses. It can be rowdy and shouty (Hanover Start Clapping, Gallery, Ambulance), tender and delicate (Fire, Hospital, Architects) or in-between the two (New York New York New York, Amory, Disaster! Disaster!), but it’s one of the best debut British rock records of all time, and not enough people know that.

Jetplane Landing – Zero For Conduct (2001)

Courting a wide range of influences from Pavement to At The Drive In, Northern Ireland’s Jetplane Landing stormed onto the UK alternative scene with this phenomenal debut. Although it did spawn a minor underground hit with This Is Not Revolution Rock, it was perhaps a little too erudite, both musically and lyrically, to really take off the way it deserved. Which is stupid, really – Summer Ends and the vitriolic What The Argument Has Changed (‘If I could make a list of all my regrets / You would be at the top of every page / Highlighted in red’ spits Andrew Ferris) are two of the greatest, original and untypical love songs ever crafted. An utterly ambitious but expertly executed debut.

Murder By Death – Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them? (2003)

Devil In Mexico, the first song of this second record by Indiana’s Murder By Death, features a certain Gerard Way on backing vocals. The second song, Killbot 2000, features Thursday’s Geoff Rickly. Admittedly, My Chemical Romance hadn’t become one of the biggest rock bands in the world by 2003, but this is would be a truly phenomenal record even without those two appearances. A concept album about the Devil waging war on a small Mexican border town, Who Will Survive… mixes gothic country, post-hardcore and Western folk and serves it up with a huge dose of whiskey and existentialism. It means these songs are as fun as they are harrowing – which is a good combination with which to soundtrack the end of the world.

Streetlight Manifesto – Somewhere In The Between (2007)

Much like reggae, ska-punk is inherently constricted inhibited by the very thing that defines it – its sound. Not, however, for Streetlight Manifesto. Yes, this third full-length has are horns a-plenty, but they’re deployed in a way that’s both original and inventive and which elevates songs way beyond the trappings and boundaries of the genre. Much of that is down to its lyrics as much as the music – the album is a philosophical treatise on life and death and the effect that mortality (and awareness of it) has on us as human beings. And while these are kind of gloomy ruminations, they’re also celebratory reminders that we need to make the most of our short time on this planet. Perhaps, if more people heard this record, the world would be a better place.

mclusky – mclusky Do Dallas (2002)

Welsh post-hardcore types mclusky were (and, now reunited, still are) a fiercely antagonistic and inventive band. And though they were highly influential within the post-hardcore scene and this record did receive nearly universal acclaim, they deserved more. That they didn’t get it – especially with this album – was partly their own doing. Not only did the record take its name from 1978 porn flick Debbie Does Dallas, but its first single was the delightfully-titled Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues, a song guaranteed to dampen any chance of radio airplay it might have garnered. Internal tensions between band members didn’t help matters either, and while they did manage one more album – 2004’s The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire – this is the record that should have set them on fire, yet it sadly failed to do so.

American Steel – Destroy Their Future (2007)

After American Steel released their well-received acclaimed third record, Jagged Thoughts, in 2001, they did something somewhat unadvisable. They changed their name (to Communiqué) and their sound, swapping gritty punk for infectious (and brilliant) keyboard-driven melodies. As good as Communiqué were, it seems too much time had passed when American Steel ‘reformed’ in 2007 and released this album. Bold and brash, it begins with the pissed off Sons Of Avarice – a politically-charged anthem that sums up the world now as accurately as it did then – and is followed by 11 more catchy, dark punk songs that failed to make the mark they should have done. Insistent and urgent, Destroy Their Future should have sparked riots all around the world.

No Fun At All – State Of Flow (2000)

While Millencolin might be the better known Swedish punk band, No Fun At All had their own flirtations with success, thanks mainly to Master Celebrator, from 1995’s second album, Out Of Bounds. Two albums and five years later, No Fun At All released this fourth record. While its songs did have echoes of the hard-edged melodic punk that defined them, State Of Flow was a noticeable more mature album. More rock than punk, songs like Celestial Q&A and the superb Second Best displayed a previously unheard and more accessible side to the band. That didn’t, however, translate into more exposure and just over a year later, the band broke up. They’ve since reformed a couple of times, but this album should have made them stars.

Scarling. – So Long, Scarecrow (2005)

Formed in 2002 by Jack Off Jill’s Jessicka after the dissolution of that band, Scarling. was more an exercise in blissful (but noisy) dream-pop than her previous band – especially on this second record. Haunting and beautiful, Jessicka’s vocals float above swathes of distorted feedback to create a powerful tension that permeates this album from start to end. Despite the notoriety and success of Jack Off Jill, So Long, Scarecrow received almost universally good reviews (as it should have done), but sadly failed to do much else. Though the band are still technically together, this is the last album that they’ve released. It’s not all bad news, though – Jessicka married the band’s other core member Christian Hejnal Addams in 2007. Maybe they’re just too happy together to write sad songs.

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