The Five Best Garage Bands You’ve Never Heard Of

The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes. It seems that all you need to be a part of the recent fad of garage rock is a heavy sound, band members who most would describe as “unique” – to be polite – and a name that begins with the word, The. In truth, this new wave of bands sounds as raw as the band you and your friends had in tenth grade – only worth listening to. It is the best new music to make its way onto MTV in nearly a decade, no offense to all you Britney fans out there. Much of the music draws its roots from blues, the same music that made Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck into guitar legends. It’s raw and loud, but manages to accomplish complexity through simplicity. Jack White might not whale out the riffs that made Jimi Hendrix famous, but ask any guitar player and he’ll tell you that it isn’t easy to turn out the kind of full sound one expects from the White Stripes with just a guitar and drums. Like most kinds of music, the select few make their way to the MTV stage, are not the only good bands out there and sometimes not even the best. So while you’re waiting for the next Stripes CD here are five of the best garage bands you’ve probably never heard of:

The Black Keys Dan Auerbach (guitar & vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums), two white guys from Akron, who look like they belong in the Weezer, know the blues like BB King. Don’t let the Fuzzy hard-edged guitar that leads off most songs fool you, just wait for Auerbach’s voice to kick in and you’ll know that he was born to play the blues. He brandishes guitar licks that are reminiscent of classic blues, classic rock, and nothing you’ve ever heard before. Pat compliments him perfectly with jazz and rock inspired drumbeats that mingle with the guitar. The duo just came out with their third CD, Rubber Factory, which shows the band evolving, moving forward without loosing any of the roots planted by its predecessors 2003’s Thickfreakness, and their 2002 d?ebut The Big Come Up.

The Kills Another duo, this guy-girl tag team from merry old England, plays blues based garage rock and that’s one of the only things they have in common with The White Stripes or The Black Keys. VV (the girl) and Hotel (the guy), share vocal and instrumental duties and compliment each other nicely. Don’t let the opening of Kissy Kissy, which sounds like the drum part to Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel fool you, their music takes a harder edged approach to garage rock, combining blues influences with a punk sound. The drumming is atypical, yet perfect, and the guitar has a deep tone that puts power into the simple guitar riffs. Check out their debut album Keep On Your Mean Side circa 2003.

The Von Bondies This formerly four-member band, now consists of Jason Stollsteimer (guitar & vocals) Don Blum (drums) Marcie Bolen (guitar). It was left bass player-less after the departure of original bassist Carrie Smith, but don’t fear – they plan to go on. Fans of sports video games might recognize the single C’mon C’mon from EA’s MVP Baseball 2004. Fellow garage rocker Jack White co-produced the Detroit based band’s initial independent release Lack Of Communication in 2002. The band no longer has ties with The White Stripes, which may have to do with the brawl between front man Jason Stollstemer and Jack White outside a Detroit club (White supposedly won the fight.) The band combines more styles than is worth listing for one of the most unique sounds on the garage rock scene.

The Kings Of Leon This Tennessee rock quartet is made up of brothers – except for the one that’s not, but he’s a cousin so it’s ok. Brothers Caleb Followill (vocals & guitar), Nathan Followill (drums), Jared Followill (bass), and cousin Mathew (you guessed it) Followill (guitar), make up a band that seems to be confused about what year it is. Their 2003 debut Young, Youth, and Manhood could most likely have topped the charts in 1972. With influences of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, and just a little bit of Hendrix it’s hard to go wrong. The music focuses on Matt’s impressive guitar work, while the rhythm work from the rest of the family blends into the background at times, standing out at others, but always being just right. Although defying many garage rock boundaries, their unpolished sound, and blending of past greats to create a distinctive sound causes me to place them in the garage rock genre.

The Secret Machines Another tale of brothers except for one, this Texas trio is composed of brothers Ben (guitar & vocals) and Brandon Curtis (bass, keyboards, & vocals), with Josh Garza (drums). The Group is again on the fringe of the garage genre, but they manage to squeeze in, drawing from classic rock, but creating a sound all there own. The classic garage fuzz is likely to come from Brandon’s hard-hitting keyboard style, but brother Ben refuses to be shown up with rocking guitar in songs like Sad and Lonely. Ben and Brandon at times seem to be diverging, but Garza’s tight beats manage to pull them back together just at the right moment. The band knows how to mellow out with songs like Pharaoh’s Daughter, and The Leaves Are Gone, which have been called down right Floydian. These bands are some of the finest on the market. Don’t expect to find a duplicate of The Hives or The White Stripes – because you won’t. Plus, any artist on this list would be immediately offended by any White Stripes comparisons. Instead, turn to these groups for distinct, new music expanding upon an already expansive genre.