NPR logo Bands That Kept Their Integrity

Bands That Kept Their Integrity

I was listening to the new Sonic Youth record, The Eternal, and it got me thinking about bands that have held on to a vision or their integrity over the course of a long career. Sonic Youth has been creating uncompromising music for more than a quarter of a century.

Of course, it's unlikely that every record someone makes will be a gem. It is, however, possible to admire a band for what it does, even after decades of making music. I think that's what I mean by integrity, along with not jumping into the latest trend, but simply making the music you feel deep inside.

This isn't to be confused with inspiration. Some bands lose their inspiration, but keep their integrity. Maybe the music they make later in their careers isn't as inspired because they've run out of things to say, or their creative spark is gone. But they continue to make music that matters, and that continually challenges them and their fans.

Here are a few bands that Robin Hilton and I would say have been around a while while keeping their integrity: Tom Waits, Radiohead, Bjork, Clem Snide, Grateful Dead, Daniel Lanois, Lou Reed. Others have had integrity, lost it and gotten it back, like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Robert Plant.

Let's come up with a good list of artists with integrity — those with an unshakable vision, for good or for bad. Submit your recommendations below.