Culture Rover

#165 - Wonder Twin Powers Activate

Whether sister-brother duos, boyfriend-girlfriend tandems, or husband-wife efforts (or some incestuously ambiguous combination of the above, such as the White Stripes), there has been a developing tradition of the male-female duo in rock.

I am leaving out plenty of groups, but I can think of many indie bands with couples at the core: Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley (okay, not forgetting the wonderful James McNew), Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore (ditto Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley), and Superchunk's similar pair of Mac McCaugan and Laura Balance (again, not forgetting the rest of that great band).

Of course, there's a deeper history here: Lennon-Ono, Paul and Linda McCartney, shoot let's even add Lennon-McCartney. Also: Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the Glimmer Twins (Mick and Keith), and others.

More recently, though, there have been groups that are simply duos. I think of Quasi as one of the originators in this vein. More recently, there has been the White Stripes, of course. Also: the Fiery Furnaces, Mates of State, and the recently deceased the Like Young. (There has even been a fascination with older, long-lost, ghostly duos such as the NuGrape Twins.)

These bands (minus the old-timey NuGrapes) bang out drums-and-guitar-(or sometimes organ) songs. The power of the music seems to derive from the explorations of "the relationship," that central project in so many contemporary lives.

There's something important about the fact that some of these bands are brother-sister combinations and others are girlfriend-boyfriend or husband-wife pairs. Part of it is a taboo incest thing, to be sure, but the other aspect has to do with the ideals that we have about these creative interactions: familial, tumultuous, with all sorts of blurred boundaries and high-stakes psychologies.

With bands such as the White Stripes, the Fiery Furnaces, Mates of State, and Quasi, among others, the emotions, ideas, desires, taboos, and dare I say politics of "the relationship" propel dueling duets of instruments and voices.

These bands construct musical models that ask, ponder, bemoan, and experiment with what it might mean to place the relationship at the center of each individual participant's effort to find, develop, perfect his or her own being.

17 July 2007

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