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The 6 best modern bands championing 80s-style arena rock

Big, bold, bombastic (sometimes), 80s-style arena rock is back in a big way - we take a look at six modern day bands flying the flag for the 80s and channeling its influence into their sound

The Big Music is back. Long after the 80s heyday of bands like Simple Minds, The Waterboys, The Alarm and Big Country, all of whom set about creating a rousing strain of impassioned rock designed for big arenas and pumping hearts, a new wave of artists are reclaiming the genre. Sweeping guitars and soaring vocals are the key signifiers, along with an earnestness and sincerity that, while not always endearing these bands to the hipper elements of the music fraternity, are designed to foster rolling vibes of good-time camaraderie.

There are several things that all of these groups tend to possess, including crisp production, a sturdy message and a gradual build towards the cathartic emotional release of a cloud-punching chorus. And while it might be a stretch to describe The Big Music as a scene, its purveyors are united by a similar sense of ideology and purpose. Here, then, are six bands with the everyman touch.


The Brooklyn-based trio of Billy McCarthy (vocals, guitar), multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson and drummer Rob Allen emerged from the ruins of indie band Pela in 2010. Augustines are all about diarising life’s triumphs and trials, McCarthy drew from painful first-hand experience for 2011 debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships (credited to We Are Augustines), which addressed the trauma wrought by the deaths of his mother and brother, both of whom suffered from mental illness. Most impressive of all was his ability to take intensely personal themes of damage and loss and give them universal scope.

The follow-up, 2014’s Augustines, dealt with the problems of how to move on from tragedy and reconstruct a life. This compounded the band’s reputation as prime purveyors of Springsteen-ish, heart-on-sleeve rock. As Sanderson has noted on more than one occasion, “struggle has kind of become our identity”. Augustines’ own brand of catharsis is versed in surging choruses, ringing guitars and hard truths.

The upshot of this emotional blood-letting and gritty guitar rock is an ever-widening fan base.

This June saw the release of their third album, This Is Your Life. A documentary, making use of footage from a sell-out show at the Roundhouse in London, is currently in the works.

From the archive

From the archive

From the archive


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