March Madness is in full swing all around the country, with millions of people filling out brackets and playing the role of fortune teller with the hopes of winning their NCAA pools. I soon got to thinking and came up with an interesting way to apply this bracket concept to music. In my ongoing attempts to determine which nation has been more important to music over the last 25 years – the United Kingdom or the United States – I have taken my quest to the bracket system. Taking 16 of the most influential bands from each nation over that time period, I narrow them down to the one most important band who then battles the most important band from the other nation to determine the victor. If this all sounds complicated to you, it will make sense as we go along.
In the nation that I have always considered home to the kings of rock music, the bands coming from this half of the bracket are as follows: The Verve, Radiohead, the Libertines, Doves, Gene, Elvis Costello, the Smiths, Manic Street Preachers, Blur, Ocean Colour Scene, Depeche Mode, Oasis, New Order, Supergrass, Coldplay and The Cure.
First Round: While The Verve has always been a favorite of mine, Radiohead easily defeated them. The Doves beat out the Libertines, despite all the buzz and hype that has surrounded them throughout their career. Elvis Costello (the man) easily defeats Smiths follower Gene and the Smiths topple the Manic Street Preachers. Blur proves to be better then Ocean Colour Scene, and Oasis pulls out a narrow victory over Depeche Mode. New Order loses to Supergrass and the Cure easily beats Coldplay.
Second Round: Radiohead again proves to be too much of a match, easily beating up on Doves. Elvis Costello and the Smiths fought a close battle, but in overtime the Smiths brought home the victory. Blur and Oasis proved to be one of the most anticipated fights of the event, but Blur pulled out the second-half win. Finally, Robert Smith could not rally the Cure enough to pull out the win over Supergrass.
Third Round: Radiohead and the Smiths played well into the game before Radiohead came out victorious. And in the matchup of Blur versus Supergrass, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon led Blur to the easy win.
So when it was all said and done, Radiohead defeated Blur to be crowned number one in the United Kingdom.
Several interesting matchups characterized the battle for supremacy on our side of the Atlantic. The bands in contention are REM, Smashing Pumpkins, American Music Club, Green Day, Wilco, the Pixies, Jeff Buckley, Husker Du, Uncle Tupelo, Guided By Voices, the Replacements, Pavement, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Sonic Youth and Beck.
First Round: REM and Smashing Pumpkins went the distance, but Michael Stipe and crew came away with the win. American Music Club easily topped Green Day and the Pixies beat up on Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. Bob Mould and Husker Du defeated Jeff Buckley and Guided by Voices beat the alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo. The Replacements defeated Pavement, Nirvana beat Alice in Chains and Sonic Youth came away with the win against Beck.
Second Round: REM pulled ahead of American Music Club early and never looked back, while the Pixies defeated Husker Du. GBV lost to the Replacements and Sonic Youth trumped Kurt Cobain and crew.
Third Round: The Pixies ended REM’s run, while Thurston Moore and Sonic Youth defeated Paul Westerberg and the Replacements.
So after many tough battles, Sonic Youth defeated the Pixies to claim the US Crown.
So, in a very close head to head of Radiohead versus Sonic Youth, the victory went to …
So there you have it, Radiohead and the United Kingdom win the battle for supremacy of rock music over the last 25 years.