By Mark PlummerTen years is a long time in the music industry. Some bands go on to have wonderfully long careers that surpass ten years, cementing themselves as experienced veterans within not only their genre, but also the music scene in general. There are those who break-up and then get back together, either successfully sticking it out, or after a luke warm attempt, never grace the airwaves again. Then there are those who graciously move on and say that the time has come to draw a curtain on their musical adventure, whilst reinventing themselves elsewhere. Whatever band you love, whatever music you’re into, there’s no point in denying that a lot has happened in the last ten fleeting years.

When I think back to what I was doing ten years ago and what I was listening to, I’m astounded by how much my musical taste has grown; from an ignorant teenager who would insist that all music but that with which I was listening to was plainly an abomination on the ears; into someone who has learnt to embrace a vast menagerie of sounds and discover the true joy of music in an array of different genres from classical, to the 50s and 60s, up to my beloved punk-rock/metal/alternative/rock of the current generation. This isn’t just a chance for me to relive some of the pinnacle releases in my 2003, but an opportunity to take a look at some of the albums that helped to shape bands that are still moving today. You may or may not agree with some of the releases I’ve chosen to highlight, yet these four bands have written music that has defined not only their career, but also the genres in which they sit.The first album I ever bought was blink-182 Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (2001), it was quickly thrown out by my parents (probably due to the ‘parental advisory’ sign on the front of the album; P.S. No hard feelings Mum and Dad, I went and bought the limited edition yellow disc straight away), but it started me on a band who would quickly become one of my all time favorites.

In November of ‘03, the band released their highly anticipated Self-titled album. It marked a departure from the blink that I had first bought, before ransacking their back catalogue; opening track, Feeling This, was a perfect example of this departure. Whilst feeling pretty similar, the fantastic work in the final chorus from Travis Barker, mixing up his final drum fills before the Beach Boys like vocals to close with their multiple layers, proved this to be a band who were very musically adept and not just a four chord punk-rock band. There was still a rooting in their old selves with Here’s Your Letter, Go and Not Now, but it was the tracks like Obvious, Violence and in particular, Stockholm Syndrome, that really stuck out and made this album the success it was, paving the way for a departure from the trio who released music that was steeped in toilet humor, instead leaving behind a seemingly grown up (on CD at least) approach that equated to, in all honesty, their best music yet.

Breaking away from the mainstream releases, there were those that helped to shape careers for years to come, releases that are forgotten by the mainstream, yet to the underground fans who have been with a band since the beginning, are equivocally even more important. One band with such a release, I found through a compilation CD: Fall Out Boy.

Far from this years’ release and their critically acclaimed Infinity on High, was an album that would help to break this band into the mainstream. Released on Fueled By Ramen, this independent record label are responsible for many of the underground (and mainstream) bands that the alternative/emo/rock genre fell in love with, Fall Out Boy’s Take This To Your Grave is no exception. Having first heard Dead On Arrival, I quickly got hooked and wanted more; to this day, “Tell That Mick That He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today” is still one of my all time favorite songs, helping to set up an album full of nifty little licks and fills to satisfy the taste of anyone who’s new to the pop-punk genre.

Whilst Grand Theft Autumn would go on to be somewhat replicated on their major label debut: From Under The Cork Tree; it was the trio of tracks like Homesick At Space Camp, Sending Postcards From A Plane Crash and Chicago Is So Two Years Ago that really cemented this as a release that would help to define a genre and provide inspiration for years to come, regardless of your opinion on Fall Out Boy during this present day; back in 2003, when they were playing small venues and releasing straight up pop-punk, they had a lot to offer (and still do).

Another band who I grew to fall in love with after hearing the song TwentyThree on that same compilation, was Yellowcard. The release of Ocean Avenue in July of ‘03 would prove to be massive for fans and the band themselves, going on to become their most successful record and setting them up for years to come. Whilst taking a hiatus and coming back, this album is still well-loved the world over. From it’s dark openings (Way Away and Breathing), it quickly opens itself up as a release full of summer anthems with the likes of Life Of A Salesman, the previously mentioned TwentyThree and, of course, Ocean Avenue. The introduction of a violin, in a genre largely restricted at the time, has helped to make Yellowcard a band who can rejuvenate their music and offer something uniquely different; giving them a big edge over everyone else. The charming tracks like View From Heaven and One Year, Six Months are beautiful in their heartfelt creation (particularly the former) and help to add a balance that breaks up the more serious tones of Believe and Back Home. All-in-all, this release is one-in-a-million and is still treasured to this day.

A month before the release of Ocean Avenue came another release that would again, set critics alight with praise and ask the question: ‘can this ever be topped?’. Brand New’s brilliant second album, Déjà Entendu, was a big breakaway from the previously angst ridden, but light-hearted, Your Favorite Weapon; replacing their sound with a gut-wrenching release of darkness that would give more meaning to the ‘war’ they had been waging with fellow locals and musicians, Taking Back Sunday.

As well as carrying on a growing theme of overly long song titles, Brand New marked themselves as a band who would cater for the disassociated teenagers, who felt misplaced with what they were hearing on the radio. Whilst Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades was enticing, the cutting and outstanding lyrics on Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t were built on with the classic The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows; ripping out hearts and leaving the lines of the chorus “wasting words on lower cases and capitals” on everyones lips. It was this chorus in particular that holds the fondest memories; the call and repeat nature invites such interaction that, for a moment, the listener feels compelled to sing along with more gust than usual. This was a release that connected on so many levels and still offers so much when listened to in its entirety. Whilst it’s easy to lose oneself in just these three tracks, exploring further and there’s great clean guitar work on Jaws Theme Swimming before a full-on chorus; the epic Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die that offers a great walking bass line to close; and the beautiful ending that is Play Crack The Sky, enigmatic and poignant to say the least.

Whilst I can argue that these releases are all canonical in their own right, we will all disagree on what albums should truly be praised and marked above others. The idea was never to definitively suggest that any of these releases mentioned, should be praised above other great releases of 2003 such as: Rise Against (Revolutions Per Minute), Muse (Absolution), Zebrahead (MFZB) and Funeral For A Friend (Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation), the latter a painfully omitted. Ultimately the message is this: despite the ups and downs that all of these bands have experienced over the last ten years, they’re all still writing and releasing music and keeping the machine moving, and we should be grateful for that!


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