Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos
Todd Cole

Wednesday night, noisy indie duo No Age (above) pulls into Fitzgerald's. The two-piece of guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Allen Spunt, starting making waves in 2007 with their debut Weirdo Rippers. 2008's Nouns brought them even more acclaim, and along the way they gained former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould as a friend and collaborator.

They also spawned plenty of imitators in the process, with a healthy batch of two-piece noise-rockers coming in their wake, or at least getting increased light shed on them after No Age's across the board critical praise. Remember the Japandroids?

Last September's Everything In Between (Sub Pop) is another set of stellar No Age jams, with Randall and Spunt sprawling out their tightly-wound sound with loops and aural swirls.

We love duos here at Rocks Off. You know that two-piece bands have to be happy, since they only have to split the money two ways after the government and management take their cuts.

The Black Keys at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 22, 2010
The Black Keys at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 22, 2010
Marc Brubaker

We define a rock duo as two people: Drums and guitar, drums and bass, or drums and whatever bashing out songs. Simon & Garfunkel and Hall & Oates were duos, but only in the songwriting sense; same for the Everly Brothers. Sparks are a great, grandly weird glam-rock duo that uses extra musicians to fill themselves out.

Mates of State and the Black Keys also tour with a revolving set of musicians who come out when needed. When the former came to Warehouse Live last summer, they made their small sound fill up the whole room, and the Keys are one of the loudest blues-rock bands going at the moment, although Kentucky's best-kept secret, the Black Diamond Heavies, may have something to say about that.

Golden Axe at Fitzgerald's, December 31, 2010
Golden Axe at Fitzgerald's, December 31, 2010
Marc Brubaker

If the White Stripes return at the end of this year or for the Apocalypse in 2012, everyone else's sound will be made moot. By far, they are the loudest two-piece we have ever seen or heard.

A few months ago the Chicago Tribune asked a few rock duos like Matt & Kim, the Keys and No Age how they get so loud live. Most, obviously, use heavy feedback and plenty of extra volume poured on to whip up their sound. The almost unnaturally cheerful M&K use their grins and sweat.

The Keys seem to use the empty space onstage to their advantage, with the duo never that close together if they can help it. Tegan & Sara are very good at filling in the blank spaces when it's just them in an acoustic setting.

DJ duos like the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and Justice are commonplace. Comedy duos like Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords only need each other live, but the Mighty D did enlist Dave Grohl and others for their 2001 studio album.

The Houston scene has some great duos in its midst, with Golden Axe, Caddywhompus, Female Demand, and Ghost Town Electric just a few we can think of off the top of our shiny heads.


Death From Above 1979
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

When people sit around and chat about bands that left us too soon, you almost invariably hear of someone's undying love for DFA 1979. Their last stand in Houston was opening for Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age in 2005.

Jeff The Brotherhood
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

This was a recent discovery for Rocks Off, seeing them on a street corner at last year's SXSW. We drove home to Houston listening to their debut, in a hurry to get to Reliant Center to see Justin Bieber.

Lightning Bolt
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

Lightning Bolt gigs are more scheduled community sweat-sharing events than musical shows. If you are were on the roof at Khon's in July for Bolt's show with Indian Jewelry, you will understand.

Local H
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

Are we in the minority in thinking that Local H has been woefully underrated? 1996's As Good as Dead still gets play around our parts at least once a week. They are like a compact little Nirvana, and "Lovey Dovey" is required listening around February 14.

Ghostland Observatory
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

It's amazing what a dude in a cape and an extra from Hackers can do with a laser kit and some Giorgio Moroder beats.

Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

How can a duo that started playing gigs in 1970 still sound a million years ahead of things released in 2011?


Two Gallants
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

You remember these Americana guys from that delightful mix-up at Walter's on Washington, right?

The Kills
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

Is this the sexiest boy-girl band (besides the Stripes) ever? Maybe. All we see in our heads when we hear the Kills is lingerie and drugs. But that goes for Nancy Sinatra too.

Black Cobra

We need more metal duos in our lives. These boys opened for Priestess and High On Fire just last April. Early Man was a duo when they began, and soon added another member, which we hope Black Cobra avoids.


A Japanther show will make you want to take your pants off and dance. Some guy climbed the stage riggings at an outdoor show we saw them at in Austin and he hung upside down for about an hour watching them.

Big Business
Two Timing: The 11 Best Rock Duos

Most of the time at live shows we tend to meander, get a beer, run outside for a smoke, but at a Big Business show we never move unless we are about to piss our pants.

Honorable Mentions

Blind Pilot El Ten Eleven Hella Japandroids Moreland & Arbuckle Idiot Pilot Middle Class Rut PS I Love You The Bad Veins

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