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Saturday, September 30, 2023


A party of two can still make for a good band

Tenacious D is a prime example of band that is a bit of a joke, but still rocks. | Red Hour Films

Despite MGMT's sophomore album flop, it still reserves standing as a great band with only two members. | Sony Music

With some reluctance, the statement that bands with only two members are good seeps into print. It’s not that they are instinctually dreadful bands, but they just seem like the acoustic guitar. Yeah, it’s fun and beautiful in the right hands, but sometimes a little John Belushi comes out, and the urge to hulk smash them into little pieces occurs.

Bands like White Stripes and Black Keys have been forbidding additional members without depreciating in sound for years now. Even with their lack of members, the ethos of rock still remains in the blues scale backbones of the bands.

Lackluster garage bands that drop members who don’t pull their weight (like people who just sing) will always sound like they’re missing a piece of a larger puzzle.

It would be nice to imagine a musical world where Captain and Tennille didn’t exist and somebody actually wanted to play the bass in Houston suburbs. So here is a list of great two-people bands, besides the two more popular ones you may already know.

Some of the best two-member bands add comedy and acting as members of the band. Both Tenacious D and Flight of the Concords fit the bill as first-class bands.

When Jack Black and Kyle Glass formed the self-proclaimed legendary rock band Tenacious D they were in the acting troop The Actor’s Gang. The two of them did three shows for HBO, which have appeared on Comedy Central late nights. Some, of their more notable tunes are “Tribute,” “The Metal” and “Kickapoo,” which was featured in their movie “Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny” and “Tenacious D feat. Dio.” If you find that Jack Black does as good of a job singing obscenities as he does providing the voice Po in the movie “Kung Fu Panda,” then give the last five minutes of High Fidelity a watch to see his version of “Let’s Get it On.”

Following in the silly footsteps of Tenacious D, the Flight of the Concords’ Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement pack a musical punch to their comedy. The boys from New Zealand have their own show on HBO. The band currently has four CDs out, including “The Complete First (BBC) Radio 2 series.” This is what kick-started the duo’s career.

One of the great facets of two member bands is the one-guy-one-girl dynamic. Some bands in this category are The Ting Tings, Dresden Dolls, She and Him, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Matt and Kim. The only commonality of these bands, of course, is the gender of the members.

Coming from Greater Manchester, England, The Ting Tings’ Kate White and Jules De Martino are a fun break from regular CD mixes. The band is a mixture of astounding digital music and irritating things to come out of England — besides tabloid stories involving the royal family. If you want to give this band a listen, it’s best to stick to the earlier material in their album “We Started Nothing.”

The Dresden Dolls would have a welcoming home in Dr. Frank-N-Furter castle. The band contains members Amanda Palmer and Brian Vilglione. Out of fear that they would be called something gothic, Palmer labeled their style as “Brechtian punk Cabaret.” Apparently that means white face paint, a black and white color scheme and music that is terrifying while remaining beautiful. Some of their more popular songs are “Coin-Operated Boy,” “Girl Anachronism” and “Missed Me.”

Next on the list are She and Him. The band contains M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. M. Ward, the least famous member, has a notable solo career and is a force by himself in the modern folk scene. Deschanel stunningly seems to be a supporting character to most of the movies that she acts in, proving that sometime actors can be in a good band. A lot of her stellar movies performances are in “Yes Man,” “Winters Passing” the karaoke scene in “(500) Days of Summer.”

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quinterto know how to play the acoustic guitar. It takes only one listen to their version of “Stairway to Heaven” to realize that there is something special going on with the band Rodrigo Y Gabriela. The two met in Mexico City, and their self-titled album is a great thing to pick up if you’re looking for some good studying music.

Matt and Kim first caught attention when their song “Day Light” appeared in a Bacardi Mojito commercial. Matt Johnson and Kim Shifino have an easy style that will put a smile on anyone’s face (except for people who like the Dresden Dolls). The two recently came to Houston to headline the Houston Press Music Awards.

And now things are about to get a little weird. Bands that come in on the strange side of things are Ghostland Observatory, Gnarls Barkley and MGMT.

Ghostland Observatory is the pride of the Texas’ two-guy bands, consisting of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner. The two play an electro-rock-funk-new wave music hybrid. One of the best displays is their February 29, 2008, performance of the song, “The Band Marches On” with the University of Texas Longhorn Band. It’s not really the best display of just the two of them, until listening to an original version of the song where they bring the same intensity to the mix.

Gnarls Barkley is not one guy named Gnarls Barkley. It’s two people, Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse. The group is pretty popular since the release of the St. Elsewhere song “Crazy” was unleashed as a contagion that made people burst out singing “I remember when, I remember when, remember when, I lost my mind… does that make me crazy.” The two have yet to hit that same status with their new album. Cee-lo Green has had a successful solo career, and has done collaborations with Ludacris and T.I. Outside of Gnarls Barkley, Dancer Mouse mainstream centers around the cartoon band Gorillaz.

Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser make up MGMT; the band’s album Oracular Spectacular put them on the map. The strangest part of the band is their over-the-top music videos that accompany their songs. In the video kids a group of monsters terrorizes a kid, what this has to do with the song only Andrew and Ben will ever know. Like other two-members bands, their second album didn’t live up to the first, so start with that one and pretend that they never made another.

There are still a lot of great two-people bands. If you can think of any please send them to [email protected].

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