Twos for the road

Duos that did
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  June 24, 2010


It isn't too surprising anymore to see just two people stumble onto a stage and put on a show, whether it's Lightning Bolt or No Age or Sleigh Bells — there are countless duos out there. After all, when you can fit your music into an already-accepted, stripped-down, garage-rock æsthetic and/or back your two live musicians with an orchestra of virtual hired guns thanks to backing tracks and MIDI-synched accompaniment, who needs more people? But when Dex and his Flat Duo Jets were doing it, the duo thing was still pretty novel. Sure, there were bands with only two real members, but these — from Steely Dan to Tears for Fears to Sparks — were generally songwriting partnerships that employed back-up musicians. That said, the Flat Duo Jets were hardly the first two-piece rock band. Here are four other acts who proved that sometimes, all it takes is two:

READ: "The irresistible force of Dexter Romweber," by Daniel Brockman
SILVER APPLES | When drummer Danny Taylor and synth player Simeon Coxe (who played a homemade synth he dubbed the Simeon) burst onto the East Village underground in 1967, they become forerunners of minimalist electronic music, krautrock, and even punk, all while participating in the then-current psychedelic scene. With a sound built around bracing rhythm and fearsome audio oscillators, Taylor and Coxe didn't need additional accompaniment.

RANDY HOLDEN | Holden was already a vet of numerous West Coast garage/proto-metal acts (most famously, late-'60s power trio Blue Cheer) when he put together his two-person act in 1969 with drummer Chris Lockheed. An amplifier sponsorship had Holden blasting through multiple Sunn 200 Watt-ers, and the ensuing album, appropriately titled Population II, is a landmark in two-person heaviness.

METHOD ACTORS | Not every two-piece went for full-volume Armageddon. Vic Varney and David Gamble blazed a trail of jittery, dancy post-punk in this early-'80s duo. With basic guitar-bass-drums combinations and almost no sonic manipulation, Varney and Gamble worked strange, impassioned vocals and frantic rhythm into their infernal songcraft, producing a string of crucial singles and EPs and, eventually, their classic 1981 debut long-player, Little Figures.

GODHEADSILO | This Fargo duo couldn't have been more out of step with the grungetastic flannel rocking of the early '90s. Channeling their love of heavy metal, BMX biking, and Mountain Dew into a massive wall of sound, bassist Mike Kunka and drummer Dan Haugh managed to be punishingly loud and incredibly dorky. Their high point was their 1995 Sub Pop debut, Skyward in Triumph, on which Kunka's wall of bass stacks was pitted against the out-of-control wallop of Haugh's kit — most memorably on the album's centerpiece, the 15-minute drone classic "Guardians of the Threshold."

Related: The irresistible force of Dexter Romweber, Grupo of life, Death Cab’s Chris Walla aims for the heart and the mind, More more >
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