As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango”. It takes two for lots of other things too, not least of which is creating fairly noisy rock bands.
Rock duos (technically called “power duos”, I recently learned) consist of just two instruments – a drum kit and a guitar. Having such a simple setup means that musicians have to be true masters of their craft as, with the lack of “filler noise”, there is nowhere to hide any shortcomings in musical ability.
As a result, mind-bending guitar solos are frequent and drums consist of more than, as dad likes to describe modern music, “crash-thump, crash-thump”.
Music aficionados who like to “break down” songs into their component parts will be quick to point out that a lot of these bands have what sounds like additional instruments. This, in part, is what makes these bands even more impressive as these additional sounds are usually created without the use of additional musicians, but rather by using effects pedals, non-standard guitar tuning or a technique called double-tracking to create these qualities.
I’m currently moving through a two-man band phase and so have created a short list of my current favourite power duo albums – records I highly suggest for anyone who enjoys rock music, “something different” or simply just interested.
The Blue Stones – Black Holes
Last week I received a very exciting delivery that I had been waiting for since October 2018 (and a quick thanks to everyone involved in the multi-stage transport-and-delivery system required to get it to me!).
The package consisted of a limited release vinyl (look how pretty it is!) from my current obsession, The Blue Stones. I happened upon the band a couple of years ago through my streaming app’s suggested albums (the algorithm made a sensible suggestion for a change).
The Canadian duo recently re-released their debut full-length album, Black Holes. Their bluesy alternative-rock sound can be described as “good old rock ‘n roll”. The album pummels along, with the fuzzy-guitar-and-drum-induced-foot-tapping requiring a momentary pause in order to flip the record over to side two…. And then back to side one and back to side two and back to side one and back… well, you get the idea.
Check them out performing live: Black Holes (Solid Ground)
The White Stripes – Elephant
Possibly one of the oddest couples in rock music in the early 2000’s were Jack and Meg White of the now defunct White Stripes. Although married at the time (with Jack having taken Meg’s surname), the duo’s public image saw them parading as brother and sister, along with a strict black, white and red colour scheme that permeated everything from the clothing they wore to their album covers designs – all apparently in an effort to keep anything from distracting attention away from their music.
Elephant is hailed as their crowning glory. It huge contrast to today’s Pro-Tools, Auto-Tune world of digital recording, it was recorded in a low-tech studio on equipment which predated the 1960’s. The result is an exceptionally raw sound, and could be likened to your neighbours kids’ band practising in the garage (ergo its “garage rock” label).
Despite the fact the genius of this album turns 16 this year, it still provides a much needed interlude in today’s world of ultra-polished radio-friendly hits.
Check them out performing live: Hardest Button to Button
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
Although it can be described as the “backbone” of music, bass tends to be a rather underrated instrument. Regardless of the genre, there are very few bass-orientated pieces, with “solo” glory usually reserved for the more trebley-inclined instruments.
Royal Blood sets the record straight as bass guitar takes centre stage, providing speaker trembling buzz in the form of blues-inspired hard-rock melodies. Complemented by some eardrum-poppingly complex drumming patterns, their self-titled debut album can be compared to a high-octane roller coaster ride. I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for this band with none other than Jimmy Page stating that “Royal Blood’s music is like lava from a volcano”.
Check them out performing live: Out of the Black
I am sure my musical preferences will whiplash in another direction within the next couple of weeks, but until then I’ll continue enjoying what expert musicians pushing the boundaries of what is possible can produce with an agonisingly simple setup. If you’ve enjoyed the bands mentioned above, you can also check out, among others, The Black Keys, Japandroids and Death From Above 1979.
I hope that, for the last few minutes at least, I’ve made your world a noisier place.