One common theme recurred again and again about our 20 Worst Hipster Bands list: People are amazed that we don't like the Black Keys. Well, we're amazed at their amazement. They have the most tepid, unadventurous approach to blues rock since Eric Clapton's solo career. So, in an attempt to do the world a solid, we've compiled this list of five blues-based rock bands that say “I am a person of taste and refinement,” not “I have an NPR membership, drive a hybrid and practice attachment parenting.”
5. Stack Waddy
Hailing from the great city of Manchester, England, Stack Waddy were a bit of a retro act even for their time. Their 1971 self-titled debut is drenched in fuzz and wah, without any of the heavy metal pounding of Sabbath or Deep Purple. But don't look for the boogie jams of their blues rock contemporaries, either. Authentic Muddy Waters' covers sit seamlessly alongside primitive versions of Kinks' songs. This is raw, rough and rugged blues punk before there was a name for it.
4. Edgar Broughton Band
When you hear Edgar Broughton Band singing, it's hard not to hear Howlin' Wolf. There's a bit of a sense of play to the Broughtons' (as they were known) approach to the blues. Their breakthrough hit, “Out, Demons, Out!” has all the passion of a church choir with all the silliness of a Yippie demonstration. Still, their ability to have fun with the sound shouldn't be mistaken for a sense of irony. This isn't hipster blues rock. This is what happens when British blues men drop acid.
An old joke goes “What do Eric Clapton and coffee have in common? They both suck without cream.” I'm a big fan of black coffee, but anything else to leave Slowhand's slow hands since Cream broke up is painfully white bread. Cream didn't pioneer white Brits on acid playing the blues, but they sure did it better than anyone else. It doesn't matter how many Baby Boomer nostalgia flicks we hear it in, “Sunshine Of Your Love” never fails to astound with its pounding psych pop blues heaviness.
2. The Oblivians
If you've never heard of the Oblivians, stop what you're doing right now and go give them a listen. It's impossible to respect the opinion of a person on all this new-fangled blues punk when they've never heard this band. Lots of groups were doing the blues punk band in the '90s — Jon Spencer, The Delta 72 and Thee Headcoats come to mind. No one did it as well as the Oblivians in all their lazy, lo-fi glory. As Eric Oblivian shrewdly pointed out that “if the kids don't hate it, it ain't rock and roll.”
1. Captain Beefheart
Don Van Vilet AKA Captain Beefheart isn't a musician. He's a legend, a one man brand and the inspiration for everything Tom Waits has done for the last 30 years. A frequent collaborator and childhood friend of Frank Zappa, Beefheart probably never thought much about what kind of music he was making. He just picked up a guitar (or French horn or shehnai or whatever he was into that day) and started playing. Because that's the thing about the blues, kids: You've ever got it or you don't. If it comes any harder than breathing, it'll always sound fake. That's how Beefheart could make an oboe solo bluesy.