With the glorious benefit of hindsight, 2003 was a pretty great year. In fact, as far as music goes, it might be the best we got in the 00s. The retro-fetishist fashion montage which NME (with only the merest whiff of hyperbolae) christened The New Rock Revolution was at its zenith. For fans of guitar-dominated music which wasn’t metal, what was so nice about 2003 was that many of the big albums weren’t disappointing, or compromised by a lack of ideas and/or a surfeit of drugs.
With the dying days of Britpop still fresh in our minds (for those who weren’t there: imagine Caligula sponsored by Topman), these things alone were reason enough to celebrate. Of course, hindsight also insists we wince slightly with knowledge of the disappointments with which we would soon become familiar. ‘Second album syndrome’ was already a familiar phrase in the music press, but it really came into its own in the 00s, as a seemingly endless succession of bands appeared fully-formed with superlative debuts, only to flounder when it came to their sophomore effort, often losing momentum by leaving too big a gap between albums. Once again, hindsight makes it clear that the problem with The New Rock Revolution was the tricksy lack of anything truly ‘new’ about it. Even more than Britpop, which was at least propelled into being by genuine shifts in national mood and culture, TNRR was little more than a collection of reference points.
But – oh – they were good reference points! The best, actually. So let us not bury TNRR here, but celebrate it for the truly great music it did bring us. 2003 gave us a clutch of great, and surprisingly commercially successful, indie rock albums: perfectly realised debuts from Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kings of Leon, strong returns from The White Stripes and The Stokes. Elsewhere, The Coral cemented their place at the forefront on the new wave of British bands with their second album Magic and Medicine. Berlin-based agent provocateur Peaches proved she was on a different wavelength from everyone else altogether with her second, wonderfully bonkers, album Fatherfucker. And, finally, a whole new sound and style of music was brought to national attention by a 19-year-old from Bow who went by the name of Dizzee Rascal. Good times, indeed.