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

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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.


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