Rock duos have proved themselves as a great lineup alternative. As far as band configurations went, late 60’s hard rock found a way to strip down everything to it’s essential elements with: voice, guitar, bass and drums. Power trio’s like Nirvana or the Jimi Hendrix Experience have managed to have a large sound, while still leaving space for everything to breathe. But to some even a trio was restrictive. Some bands have managed to cut everything down even more, to a point where everything could be executed by only two musicians.
Taking a look at some of the greatest power-duos in alternative rock. Granted, some of these groups may have included other musicians in live setups. Furthermore bands like Ween or They might be giants while generally presenting themselves as duos play with a full cast of musicians. Most of the bands mentioned here prefer the guitar/drums set up, but there are some exceptions. All of them make a lot of beautiful noise.
1. Two Gallants
Brilliant guitar/drums rock duo from San Francisco taking elements of folk-punk and those of traditional american music. Like a few other bands on the list, Two Gallants has a bit of an obsession with the blues tradition and old time imagery. The sound of the group is defined by the fingerpicked chords, the raspy vocals and the complementary drums. The band has made five full albums and is a highly respected group that has achieved cult status.
2. Royal Blood
Royal Blood became the toast of the town in 2014 when they released their self titled debut album. The band prefers the voice-bass/drums set up, with the bass sound itself treated through different effect pedals and giving the group a sound as large as any other rock band on the festival circuit. The band has received commercial praise with their album charting in many countries. There was also appreciation from their peers, with Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) singling them out as one of the most exciting bands today.
3. Death from Above 1979
Death from Above 1979 became a highly influential band i alternative rock with their first album You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (2004). It was their only record for almost a decade. Their punk-rock sound with dance influences has been quoted by many bands since then. Because of this, the band’s return with an album in 2014 with The physical world was greeted with a lot of excitement by fans of the group.
4. The white Stripes
Possibly the most famous of the rock duos, the Detroit band, the White Stripes became well known first as part of the “garage revival” sound that was popular at the beginning of 2000s. Working over the minimalist drumming of Meg White, Jack White used blues, country and garage rock as a foundation for their music. It also helped that the band was well promoted, with the red-white color patterns featured in their clothing and logos, the mystery of the relationship of the two members and continuous spreads in music magazines. The band seemed to enjoy an almost continuous commercial and critical success. Despite this they announced their break up in 2011, with Jack White continuing to be active solo as well as in the Raconteurs and Dead Weather.
5. The Kills
The Kills is an Anglo-American indie rock duo that received a lot of press attention especially in Britain. Their sound was compared to the Velvet Underground, and like the White Stripes they have taken influence from blues music as a foundation to their minimalist sound.
Jucifer is a rock duo with a sound inspired by doom and sludge metal. The band has earned a reputation through their constant touring and have garnered a cult following.
The original power duo, where the sound was definitely larger then the sum of it’s parts, Suicide made electro-rock music, described by the band members as blues for New York kids. Hearing their debut album for the first time is certainly bound to be an experience difficult to erase from one’s brain. Author Nick Hornsby singled out the song Frankie Teardrop as a song one should hear in it’s entirety at least once in one’s lifetime. Although basing the band’s sound against synth sounds, the group’s music and sound was as aggressive as the toughest of any of the punk groups around at the time. The band’s influence on alternative music cannot be overestimated with countless bands taking a queue from Suicide.
7. Black Box Revelations
Black Box Revelations is a group from Belgium that plays garage rock and manages to make a great, big, exciting riot of a sound with just guitars, drums and vocals. The band enjoyed good reviews throughout their career and continues to tour, especially throughout Europe.
8. Dresden Dolls
The Dresden Dolls are a duo that became successful in the 90’s with a sound combining dark cabaret with the alternative rock that was quite popular at the time. The group managed to successfully combine influences as wide ranging as Kurt Weil to Tori Amos, while making music that could be easily accepted and played by radio stations. Girl Anachronism was in fact a legitimate hit for the band.
Since then, the band has continued to play and enjoy cult success, as the dark cabaret music scene has become larger and more well known since the Dresden Dolls first started playing.
9. The Black Keys
The Black Keys became one of the most succesful rock bands of the new century after having paid their dues for years as a garage rock/blues band. The group started playing as a two piece, guitar-vocals and drums, while covering blues songs or taking inspiration from that traiditon. In fact the band was known to cover Junior Kimbrough and Robert Johnson songs. The reputation of the band grew with each release and hit it’s peak with the popular 2011 release El Camino. By then the group was using a full group on most live appearances and even band recordings. Still, the group is known to continue to play live in the rock duo format at least for their hit I got mine.
10. Ghost Mice
Ghost Mice is an excellent folk-punk band from Indiana, that is known for playing entirely acoustic, un-amplified music. The band embraces a DYI attitude and anarchist political ideals while their lyrics focus on unity and and positive attitude towards life.