10 Bands that Are Leading Post-Punk’s Third Wave

At the close of the 1970s, when early punk acts like the Sex Pistols were disbanding and the first cries of “punk is dead,” began to exude from the underground, bands who embraced the punk aesthetic but not its stringent minimalism, began to step outside of its all too confining constructs.

This new genre harnessed the angst-fueled energy of punk, but diversified it with new rhythmic approaches and more complex guitar work, and thus post-punk was born.Often described as “angular” or “jagged” post-punk was a new artsy approach to the fiery punk movement. Three chords were no longer enough to create a song, and it wasn’t necessary to play as fast as possible anymore. Instead bands began to experiment with different tempos, textures, and song writing formulas.

Punk was being fused with everything from synth music, disco, and pop, to hardcore, dub, and noise. In the late 70s and early 80s bands like Gang of Four, Wire, and Joy Division in the UK along with The Talking Heads, Mission of Burma, and The Modern Lovers in the US were forging a new movement that showed that musical prowess and songwriting could indeed be combined with the�raw energy of punk rock.

In the late 80s a second wave of post-punk bands arrived. This time they sprang out of the politically charged�DC hardcore scene. Again, bands were looking for a way to expand their aggressive sound and acts like Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, and Jawbox lead the way. These groups drew less on the groove and pop of the first wave, and more on noise, hardcore, and experimental rock influences. Post-punk was now not only a reaction to the limitations of punk, but also the limitations of hardcore.

Within the past year or two the calling card of post-punk has been dropped into popular culture once more. Whether it is dancey rhythms thrown into fuzzed out rock songs, or choppy riffing mixed into a driving punk tune, post-punk is back with a third wave. From MTV2 to the underground basement circuit, bands are running the energy of punk head on into experimentation that is diverse in both melodic and heavy ways.

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Perhaps, like the originators, the third wave�have come as a reaction to punk rock’s rise and creative trappings. This time around though, the post-punk revivalists are developing out of the punk revival, one that started with Green Day in the early 90s and has subsequently been watered down by acts such as Good Charlotte, A Simple Plan, and Sum 41.�

Much like other musical movements in recent years (see alt-country, garage rock, etc.) it is difficult to wade through the plethora of acts that are either leading the pack or merely riding its coattails. In an attempt to simplify this exploration, I have compiled a list of ten post-punk revivalists that should serve as an introduction to the ever-growing movement.

Franz Ferdinand – Perhaps the most famous of the third wave post-punkers, Franz Ferdinand deliver dance floor dominators as well as garage stompers all wrapped up in an air of cool. Franz are refined and nonchalant in a way that is endearing and ironic, not pretentious. Their songs are cleaner and crisper than most of their fellow post-punks because they cut away any unnecessary or bizarre parts and understand the benefits of modern production techniques while managing to not over do it.

Despistado – Despistado may combine the first two waves of post-punk better than any of the other third wave bands. Their half shouted vocals and speedy tempos pay homage to the second wave’s hardcore roots while their dance grooves and guitar tones sound like they came from post-punk’s heyday. Despistado are explosive, yet catchy as their adrenaline fueled social commentaries flirt with melodic song structures at every turn.

Bloc Party – Bloc Party are just one of many British groups reveling in the return of post-punk and hipsters that need to shake their hips, yet they are able to stand out. While most post-punk acts in the third wave are content to use a stripped down guitar tone that is often thin and jangly, Bloc Party don’t shy away from effects. You will find plenty of delay, echo, and reverb wrapped around their chords. Bloc Party are also one of the few post-punk bands that offer not only rockers, but also ballads. They know when to slow things down a bit and sing a little softer without compromising themselves.

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The Valley Arena – The Valley Arena take the dissonant frame work set up by bands like Cursive and Q and Not U and then add even more twists and shifts. What you get are impressive start/stop dynamics and changing time signatures mixed in with blazing and often screechy guitar playing. Vocally The Valley Arena are closer to the second-wave’s shouted style, but are never far from a memorable melody.

The Futureheads – The Futureheads play the same treble heavy, dance beat filled post-punk as their British contemporaries, but inject it with pop harmonies. Vocally, they may be the most impressive of the third wave post-punk bands. Throughout their self-titled debut they pull off harmonies that would make Brian Wilson smile and even throw in an impressive a cappella track.

The Constantines – Take the working class rock ethic of a guy like Bruce Springsteen and then mix in some Fugazi and you should be able to hear the Constantines. Singer Bry Webb delivers his blue-collar diatribes in a sincere gravelly tone while his band combines great rhythms with piercing guitars. The result is a post-punk act that channels a classic rock vibe. Think Crazy Horse if they had come out of the DC scene.

The Rakes – The Rakes are the embarrassing drunk friend of the post-punk revival in the UK. Their style is sloppier, more blurted, and overall more offensive then the rest of their comrades, but that is what sets them apart. Their production is raw and the vocals are full of cockney snot, yet The Rakes are still able to craft a melody and some semblance of a dance tune. It may sound like their songs are about to fall apart, but the duct tape holds true despite all the buzzing and throttling.

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The Narrator – The Narrator, like many of their peers, do draw on important 90s post-punk acts like Fugazi and Drive Like Jehu, but they also take inspiration from indie-pop acts of the same decade. That means their driving post-punk rockers are interjected with Pavement’s pop sensibilities and Modest Mouse’s quirk. The result is a post-punk act that is surprisingly easy on the ears despite their angular chops.

Bullet Train To Vegas – Sensual screaming and stuttering guitars make for one hell of a combo. Bullet Train to Vegas tone down hardcore’s distortion and machismo to make a sassy, but still vitriolic sound. At first listen they may just seem like a stripped down punk act, but thanks to their detailed and interweaving guitar work, Bullet Train to Vegas have earned that “post” prefix.

Maximo Park – Using post-punk as a tool for pop seems strange, but Maximo Park make it work. The jittery, thin guitars and bouncy rhythms are present, but strong vocals and hummable melodies take the forefront, while hints of 80s synth pop invade each song. Maximo Park sound like they are always smiling, a trait not often found in post-punk circles.