I had a short conversation with a friend who asked my opinion of Coldplay (I don't have one). He said they sorta annoyed him since they seemed like a U2/Radiohead ripoff. I had never heard anyone described as being derivative of U2, which is interesting. This got me thinking about bands that seem to be able to define themselves musically in a way that limits the bandwagon effect.
Pearl Jam and (to a lesser extent) Nirvana seem to be the poster children for that problem. Vocal immitators of Eddie Vedder are all too common.
So, who would be on that list? Dave Matthews Band jumps to mind. Unique musical style, unique vocal style. The Who is another. You never hear anyone saying "Hey, they sound like the Who". I would add U2 to that list (Coldplay comparison not withstanding). And Phish. If you think they were just a Grateful Dead ripoff jam band, you weren't listening very closely.
Radiohead seems to have forged their own way.
Ok, surely there are others. I'm talking about bands with staying power here, too. Someone who was able to build a distinctive career.