From the early 10s, but really gaining momentum around 2018, classic rock made a strong and victorious return to rock radio. At the same time, the UK-led New Wave Of Classic Rock movement began to gain momentum.
It matched – but survived – a trend that also saw the reboot of classic TV sitcoms, the re-release of popular toys from the 80s and 90s, and the resurgence of decades-old fashions.
Retail industries may have largely reset in the current era, but the new wave of classic rock – or classic rock revival, or new rock ‘n’ roll, or whatever you want call it – is still going strong. Read on for ten great songs that reintroduce a classic sound to modern rock fans.
Greta Van Fleet – Heat Above
In Heat abovefrom the album 2021 Battle at Garden’s Gate, the band infamous for sounding too much like Led Zeppelin are spreading some of their other classic rock influences, notably those from the progressive space. The saving-the-worldism that was too sticky and blunt throughout their debut album, Pacific Army Anthem (2018), is here polished into something glamorous, exultant and delightfully over the top.
Their instrumentation will remind you of Rush, their Elton John presentation and The Guess Who lyrics on this years-long single that represents Greta Van Fleet at her best.
Dirty Honey – When I’m Gone
Dirty Honey was still unsigned when he released his single When I am gone hit number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart in 2019. The song, which has amassed over 13 million streams on Spotify, introduced rock radio to a band that sounds a lot like their musical heroes, Guns N’ Roses, with a hint of Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, and even Led Zeppelin.
While the vocal similarities between lead singer Marc Labelle and Axl Rose are unmistakable, Dirty Honey retains the essence of their influences rather than ripping them off, resulting in original grooves like When I am gone.
The Struts – could have been me
Glam rock band The Struts burst onto the scene with It could have been me in 2013, the first single from the following year’s debut album, Everybody want. No one really cared about it until the album was re-released in 2016, but it’s by far their most popular song according to Spotify.
The single exemplifies 80s stadium rock, influenced by artists such as The Darkness, Aerosmith and Def Leppard, The Struts most often parallels Queen – in looks, sound and staging. And it’s almost as easy to imagine Freddie Mercury as singer Luke Spiller reviving the anthemic yet nostalgic lyrics of It could have been me.
Dorothy – Who do you love
There’s nothing new about comparing Dorothy’s lead singer, Dorothy Martin, to Grace Slick, or the band to Jefferson Airplane in their friendliest soundtrack. But, in turn, Dorothy also gives off allusions to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks.
2018 28 days in the valley is saturated in the alternately heavy and breezy sounds of 60s and 70s mainstream rock, the clearest example being Martin’s showcase Who do you Love. The boldly soulful melody reflects both the psychedelic undertones and lyrical heart that made Jefferson Airplane someone to love so iconic.
Rival Sounds – Do Your Best
Citing influences from Prince to Jim Morrison to Howlin’ Wolf, Rival Sons are frequently compared to The Black Crowes and Led Zeppelin.
Their biggest streaming success Do your best (from 2019 wild roots) shows the band’s electric but brooding guitar work underpinning a gospel story about Satan himself wooing a vulnerable soul. With a melody, you’ll instantly latch on to warmly belted voices, Do your best is the perfect example of the classic bluesy, riff-rich sound of Rival Sons.
Larkin Poe – He’s a self-made man
From lyrical content to thrilling rhythm, the blues influenced by Larkin Poe He’s a Self Made Man recalls Zeppelin good times bad times. A theme of aggressively seeking independence, common in 70s rock, is reinforced by a blazing slide guitar solo and powerful, resonant vocals.
As a celebration of self-reliance, it’s backed by the fact that multi-instrumentalist sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell self-produced the Self-taught man album (2020) and recorded it on their own label, Tricki-Woo Records. This single represents the culmination of blues, gospel and southern rock influences that make modern classics of the Lovell sisters.
Goodbye June – Oh no
Nashville, TN-based trio of cousins, Goodbye June delivers hard blues-rock that pays homage to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix among other classic rock legends. On the hit of 2016 Oh nothe voice of singer Landon Milbourn navigates between torrid screams and moving moans.
He’s been compared to AC/DC’s Bon Scott, and in his own words, he’s influenced by Paul McCartney and Leon Russell, but Milbourn’s incendiary vocals are ultimately a beast in their own right. Oh no reflects the band’s southern, blues-rock roots for a sound that brings the roaring past back into the present.
White Reaper – Maybe Right
With a style that borrows from Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd, White Reaper stands out primarily for its power-pop enthusiasm and classic guitar-rock ethos.
maybe rightfrom the LP you deserve love (2019), delivers an energetic yet layered guitar sound and frenzied beat that will take listeners back to the more upbeat days of ’70s rock.
Thunderpussy – Speed Queen
Naming Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard and Aerosmith among their many musical influences, all-female band Thunderpussy counted Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready among their earliest fans.
Their single queen of speed (2018), which unfolds appropriately before reaching a heart attack tempo at the end, was written as a near-love story between singer Molly Sides and guitarist Whitney Petty. His echoing, ethereal vocals and smashing instrumentation give the song the big show feel of ’80s rock classics.
Merry Wolf – Mississippi Queen
Queen of Mississippi, the only cover on this list, was first published in 1970 by Mountain. The original stands out for its raw, buzzy character with explosive vocals. In 2018, after extensive experimentation with their performances and production, vocalist Nick Reese, guitarist Blake Allard, bassist Greg Braccio and drummer Robert Sodaro of Joyous Wolf released their version.
Their perfectionism paid off in a cover that honors the high energy and fun/sensual groove of the original while standing out, thanks in large part to the deep, thunderous vocals offered by Reese.