After witnessing recent live sets by Deerhunter and Fucked Up in quick succession, I had a total light bulb moment, man. It concerned music, music bands (!!!) and the ways in which music bands can differentiate themselves from the competition.
Three words: contrast, jerk face!!!
Part of the reason that Deerhunter and (Messed) Up are so striking on-stage is the visual contrast between their respective lead singers and their backers. Whether it’s the sinewy weirdness of Bradford Cox or the David Yow-meets-Ox Baker angle of Damian Abraham, one has to concede that these bands are significant aesthetically (and sonically, from what I can tell).
Contrast in art is nothing new. I mean, check out this random website I found about the subject. #validated
What IS new (or not new) is the acknowledgement that contrast is a fairly easy way to make your band “interesting” even if you are unable to make your band “good”.
Deerhunter and (Screwed) Up are certainly not the first outfits to explore the wonderful world of contrast. Here are 10 bands (all a varying degree of “good” IMHO) who have historically used the contrast model to set themselves apart (in a good way IHOP).
1. The Damned
A fairly standard looking O.G. punk outfit if you remove the fact that Dave Vanier insisted on dressing like a vampire. Never made any real sense with their sound and looked quite stupid at times.
2. The Boredoms
Founder and frontman Eye is the only constant in a quarter century of the Boredoms as his hair alone gives the band an image, which helps when the rest of the outfit typically looks like well-mannered exchange students.
OMG!!! Easily the most gimmicky band on this list: a speed metal outfit “fronted” by a pair of pitbull. Listen to one of their full-lengths here. Notable because one of the band members wore an alien mask for this press shot and he was STILL overshadowed by the fact that his band was 40 per cent canine.
Similar to Caninus except this band was fronted by a FOX!!! I kid, I kid but this doesn’t change the fact that without Deborah Harry leading the way, Blondie would aesthetically look like a more low-rent version of the Knack.
5. Guns N’ Roses (circa 2000-2004)
This was the Buckethead era of “the Gunners”. No idea why Axl would sign-off on this goofball playing with them, considering it’d obviously deflect attention from his cool dreadlocks and whatnot. And yeah, I get it: Buckethead is avant-garde or whatever but at the end of the day, he wears a KFC bucket as a hat. I mean… c’mon!
6. Roxy Music (circa 1971-1973)
Early, early Roxy Music were collectively known for being “fashion forward” but Brian Eno took things to the next level. Maybe to compensate for his hairline or maybe because of drugs. Or both!!! Anyway, he left, ultimately torched all his feathers and started to dress more like this guy.
Ugh. We’re now four decades into Ron Mael’s creepy uncle look. #gross
8. Cheap Trick
An interesting double shot with unique images cultivated by their guitarist (a far, far dorkier version of Angus Young) and a drummer (I dunno… taxi dispatcher?) detracting and contrasting with their hunky frontmen. Maybe the most obvious band on this list. Also, Cheap Trick are terminally underrated.
A gimme when their bratty frontman is wearing one of his considerable hats.
10. The Cure
A gimme when their **** frontman is wearing one of his considerable hairstyles. Must disqualify that stretch in the 1980s where Robert Smith banished his hair for several months.