These 10 UK Guitar-Rock Bands Will Make Your Playlists Stronger

In these troubled times, America is home to a wide array of laptop- and synth-focused pop stars. Meanwhile, in the UK (the country that practically invented electro-pop), there’s a new awareness of British guitar-rock bands plugging into guitars and turning up amps. And they brought hooks and riffs to spare.

Here are some of the most impressive British guitar-rock bands, with six strings and treble amps. Some of these leads will give you earworms. Others may have you strapped to an air guitar. And there may be a few that will damage your hearing entirely. (Which is always a great feeling, actually.) Whether you love them or hate them, one thing is certain: a guitar always looks cooler on stage than a laptop.

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Nozzle Nozzle Nozzle Nozzle – “Double Denim Hop”

Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard is what vocalist/guitarist Tom Rees has brought together to satisfy the rock ‘n’ roll demon within him. B3 delivers everything from glamorous ’70s-style riffs to contemporary psychedelic versions that make them as much a time machine as they are a rock band. Their American debut the Nonstop EP, out July 10. With so much promise, we can’t imagine what their third LP will sound like. This is the ground floor to be in, folks.

Sea Girls – “Ready for More”

The London-based Sea Girls are that band you’ll want to keep to yourself forever, but their musical vision is infectious. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics are both whimsical and perfect: lead singer Henry Camamile is equally sophisticated and clumsy. Guitarist Rory Young channels Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes (and maybe a bit of the Smiths), but with more energy. Their first American EP, Under the exit lights, is a great place to hear a British success story in the making. The Sea Girls have a knack for turning journal entries into hymns.

Girls In Synthesis – “Pictures Are Okay”

The most extreme band on this list, hands down. London trio Girls In Synthesis don’t have synths and a girl (drummer Nicole Pinto) but a lot of smoldering rage. Screaming vocals about the state of the world are paired with relentless, stripped-back punk and (un)controlled commentary. At gigs, you might think GIS leave sweat beading on their guitars. On closer inspection, it could be the hardware on their axles bubbling up from the intense heat. Get all the strength with Pre/Posta compilation of their collectible singles.

Sports Team – “Camel Crew”

If Girls In Synthesis is the raging blood that runs through the rebellious heart of England, Sports Team pokes fun at Britain’s middle class. Alex Rice expresses his country’s frustration in the third person. Guitarist Rob Knaggs has an unerring sense of appropriateness, creating a DNA of indie rock and scrappy ’90s Britpop. Parklife?) Their first album, Happy deep downis both seductive in its chaos and absurdity (see: a song about Ashton Kutcher called “Kutcher”).

Future Fires – “Halfway”

The Birmingham Future Fires quartet is a vector of possibilities. Their bio says they’re influenced by such disparate bands as Joy Division and Editors. But in practice, they create an anthemic brand of British guitar-rock. It’s not moody or unusual in texture. What they offer is much more visceral (OK, we’ll say, “emotional”) than your typical summer festival lineup fare. Their music does not belong to radio executives or “the stage”. But you can hear why these two worlds would come to their table. You’ll have to wait until December for their EP, but “Halfway Down” is a great place to start.

LIFE – “Turn on”

Hailing from Hull, LIFE is pushing post-punk attitude and darkness into the mainstream. Guitarist Mick Green brings twisted riffs and textured atmospheres to the band’s ominous tracks. “Switching On” recently received a pumped up remix from IDLES guitarist Mark Bowen. That’s fine, but the original version, which follows their release in 2019, A picture of good health, is positively stellar. If you think 1975’s ‘People’ is the pinnacle of British guitar-rock action, you might just need to get a LIFE.

Austerity – “Imperialism”

Against me! wrote a famous song called “Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious…” But listening to the anarcho-punks of Brighton Austerity deliver their tight, concentric raves is more an affirmation of joy than keeping a secret. Their debut in 2019, Anarcho punk dance party, tells you that they are in the stereotype. But as their political rhetoric flies high, the choppy guitars make it sound more like a party than a political science lesson. All would-be rock ‘n’ roll revolutionaries should take note.

Starsha Lee – “Mother’s Mess” Starsha Lee’s backbone is vocalist/dynamic polymath Sofia Martins and post-punk/glam guitarist Crispin Gray. His guitar prowess (which falls somewhere between Killing Joke and T. Rex) is the perfect launching pad for Martins to go off in a number of directions, most of which are pretty scary. Their latest mini-LP, love is superficial, injects some much-needed danger back into rock music. It’s rock ‘n’ roll both as an artistic statement and as an engine of fear.

The Mysterines – “I Win Every Time”

The Liverpool Mysterines are singer/guitarist Lia Metcalfe’s vehicle, exuding charisma the way other bands garner applause in golf. The Mysterines Conjure PJ Harvey’s Classic Get rid of me era and the louder days of Dead Weather. But Metcalfe has the playing and songwriting skills to etch his initials into the surface of the rock ‘n’ roll legend’s bar. Take the one from last year Take control EP for a ride and let her drive. The Mysterines really need to help the colonies once Mother Nature stops hating us.

Dream state – “Are you ready to live?”

Much like Future Fires, Welsh band Dream State fill that gap between radio rock and folks missing Warped Tour compilation CDs. Led by vocalist CJ Gilpin and powered by guitarists Aled Evans and Rhys Wilcox and drummer Jamie Lee, Dream State bring the riffs and the determination to move the audience. Imagine a slightly less wild Marmozets and you’re close. Dream State apparently has a lot more vision than it lets on. To the sound of their debut Primrose Pathwe’re glad they’re there.


Virginia F. Goins