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Top 5 Contemporary Blues Rock Bands That Don't Totally Suck

Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures

Our sister blog, West Coast Sound, has caught a lot of shit lately for their disdain for neo-blues rockers The Black Keys. Just remember we're only critics, and opinions are just opinions. Nicholas Pell even offered up some alternative blues bands for you to dig. The problem is, as commenter AlexNicely pointed out, none of des blues bands are 'round no mo'. Pell responded with, "I couldn't make a list of five contemporary bands in that genre I like, but someone else probably could." Hey, that someone is me!

Granted, I like The Black Keys a good amount and don't give a shit if they're "hipster" music or not, just like I don't give a shit if music is "bro" or "gangsta" or "mod" or "punk." If it's good, it's good and I dig Dan Auerbach's use of metaphor and his grimey guitar riffs. But that only goes as far as the band's last two albums, which Danger Mouse produced. Maybe I have an unnecessary bias toward the Gnarls Barkley producer or maybe everything before Brothers sounds like crappy Muddy Waters rip-offs with less production quality than a My Bloody Valentine cassette put through a dishwasher.

That said, maybe Black Keys isn't your cup of tea. If not, give these five bands a try. In my view, these five blues fiends far outweigh The Black Keys and even The White Stripes or the Dead Weather and unlike Cream or Stack Waddy, you can actually see these bands in concert relatively soon.

5. Black Mountain

Here's what happens when you blend grunge with chewing acid gummy bears. Technically, Stephen McBean's band only "draws" on blues rock, lending more to psychedelia and Led Zeppelin than B.B. King or Howlin' Wolf. But plenty of tracks from Black Mountain's discography, especially off their latest, Wilderness Heart, evoke a sense of classic blues without seeming contrived.

4. Them Crooked Vultures

Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age's guitarist Josh Homme? Yes, please. This supergroup's one and only album may have sounded mostly like QOTSA, but guided by Jones, it went much further than Homme's original project, touching on metal, psychedelia and most notably, heavy blues undertones.

There's said to be a second album in the works, so now that Grohl is putting the Foo Fighters on ice, Them Crooked Vultures will stop by a town near you.

3. Dead Meadow

Like Zeppelin, Dead Meadow share an adoration for Tolkien and it bleeds through their wizard-like guitar rifts. It takes you on some sort of dark quest like that Johnny Depp movie Dead Man. And it's bluesy as fuck, too. It's simple and straight-forward, just like the blues should be, but that extra tinge of psychedelia will blow your mind, too.

 

2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Are you noticing a trend here? I'm a shameless BJM freak and most of the bands in this list were part of BJM frontman Anton Newcombe's revolution. If you weren't in Brian Jonestown Massacre, you were at least gonna start a band alongside him.

Newcombe has made pastiches of every genre of classic rock music and then some, including shoegaze, electronica, noise, acid folk and yeah, even some blues. They gave one of the best performances of my young life at Crescent in May, when they released their 13th studio album, Aufheben. There's nothing Brian Jonestown Massacre can't master and they've nailed the blues.

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

This is the only band today (besides The Kills' Alison Mosshart) that can get away with wearing black leather jackets. They'd just as easily stub their cigarette out on your eye as they would chug a class of mescaline and drive through the desert. Their imagery of tattoos, motorcycles and demon possession evoke just as much of classic blues as it does The Hell's Angels or World War II veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in some forgotten 1950's bar.

Maybe some of these bands fall closer to "blues rock" than others, but BRMC nails it. They rock, plain and simple, and that matters more than if they like vinyl records, fixed-gear bikes and whole grain cereal. Granted, I like The Black Keys a good amount and don't give a shit if they're "hipster" music or not, just like I don't give a shit if music is "bro" or "gangsta" or "mod" or "punk." If it's good, it's good and I dig Dan Auerbach's use of metaphor and his grimey guitar riffs. But that only goes as far as the band's last two albums, which Danger Mouse produced. Maybe I have an unnecessary bias toward the Gnarls Barkley producer or maybe everything before Brothers sounds like crappy Muddy Waters rip-offs with less production quality than a My Bloody Valentine cassette put through a dishwasher.

That said, maybe Black Keys isn't your cup of tea. If not, give these five bands a try. In my view, these five blues fiends far outweigh The Black Keys and even The White Stripes or the Dead Weather and unlike Cream or Stack Waddy, you can actually see these bands in concert relatively soon.

5. Black Mountain

Here's what happens when you blend grunge with chewing acid gummy bears. Technically, Stephen McBean's band only "draws" on blues rock, lending more to psychedelia and Led Zeppelin than B.B. King or Howlin' Wolf. But plenty of tracks from Black Mountain's discography, especially off their latest, Wilderness Heart , evoke a sense of classic blues without seeming contrived.

4. Them Crooked Vultures

Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Nirvana's drummer Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age's guitarist Josh Homme? Yes, please. This supergroup's one and only album may have sounded mostly like QOTSA, but guided by Jones, it went much further than Homme's original project, touching on metal, psychedelia and most notably, heavy blues undertones.

There's said to be a second album in the works, so maybe after Grohl stops wasting time with the Foo Fighters for a second, Them Crooked Vultures will stop by a town near you.

3. Dead Meadow

Like Zeppelin, Dead Meadow share an adoration for Tolkien and it bleeds through their wizard-like guitar rifts. It takes you on some sort of dark quest like that Johnny Depp movie Dead Man . And it's bluesy as fuck, too. It's simple and straight-forward, just like the blues should be, but that extra tinge of psychedelia will blow your mind, too.

2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Are you noticing a trend here? I'm a shameless BJM freak and most of the bands in this list were part of BJM frontman Anton Newcombe's revolution. If you weren't in Brian Jonestown Massacre, you were at least gonna start a band alongside him.

Newcombe has made pastiches of every genre of classic rock music and then some, including shoegaze, electronica, noise, acid folk and yeah, even some blues. They gave one of the best performances of my young life at Crescent in May, when they released their 13th studio album, Aufheben. There's nothing Brian Jonestown Massacre can't master and they've nailed the blues.

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

This is the only band today (besides The Kills' Alison Mosshart) that can get away with wearing black leather jackets. They'd just as easily stub their cigarette out on your eye as they would chug a class of mescaline and drive through the desert. Their imagery of tattoos, motorcycles and demon possession evoke just as much of classic blues as it does The Hell's Angels or World War II veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder in some forgotten 1950's bar.

Maybe some of these bands fall closer to "blues rock" than others, but BRMC nails it. They rock, plain and simple, and that matters more than if they like vinyl records, fixed-gear bikes and whole grain cereal.

The Black Keys are scheduled to perform Tuesday, October 9 at US Airways Center.


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