I’ve had a fascination with two-person bands for some time now, and I count many of them among my favorites. It’s great to see bands like The White Stripes, Death From Above 1979, and The Black Keys attain success over the years and inspire others to start making music even if they can’t find a bass player (or in the case of DFA 1979, stick with the bass and abandon the guitar). I’ve considered some theories as to why these two-person groups work so well. One possibility is that it may be that it’s easier to reach consensus as to which musical direction to take with two people (though the lack of a third mediating party may be the reason why after the initial spark of incredible inventiveness these partnerships tend to fizzle out, Local H being a notable exception (though there was a lineup change at one point)). Another might be that, as I’ve heard Jack White explain, that imposing certain limits allows creativity to flourish. One can be paralyzed by infinite possibilities, so by setting boundaries you at least are able to realize your limits. And once you know your limits, you can focus attention on challenging them. It’s in those attempts to challenge that great music can result, as seen with bands like Japandroids and No Age.
I mention those two bands in particular, because they seem to be the most significant inspirations behind the debut album Blame Confusion from another two-man group, Solids. Solids follow in the footsteps of their Canadian brethren Japandroids by focusing on energetic, driving rock songs with a guitar that seamlessly blends rhythm chords and inventive leads. The haziness of the vocals and general attitude bring to mind No Age, though Solids don’t take any of their trademark left turn forays into ambient noise. The result is a lot of distortion, a lot of riffs, and a lot of fun.
Solids definitely did a great job in choosing their influences, but the question remains if they add anything to the equation themselves. I’ll give a group a listen if they remind me of some of my other favorite bands, but in order for me to keep listening to their album, they need to offer something up themselves, or else I’m going back to the tried-and-true. Fortunately, Solids seems to have pulled off this task. I find myself singing along to the great lead melodies, usually making up my own words because a lot of the vocals are pretty indecipherable. I’ve read more than a few comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, which makes a certain amount of sense especially considering the guitar tones on the record, but you won’t find any of J. Mascis’s trademark solos on Blame Confusion. That’s not to diminish the guitar playing on the record at all–there are ton of great riffs to be found. The drums also do a great job of driving the beat when needed (like in “Traces”) or providing a rhythmic counterpoint to the caterwauling guitar. And sometimes it helps when Solids throws in the traits of another band to the mix, like …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead in “Cold Hands”.
Blame Confusion is a very good debut, and it’s easy to see that it would be a lot of fun to see Solids live. I’ll definitely be looking forward to seeing what these guys do next, and hopefully we’ll see an artistic leap forward like the Japandroids did with Celebration Rock.
*Note: In a perfect bit of symmetry, famous two-man band Suicide came up on my iTunes as I was writing this review. So this review comes courtesy of their 1977 performance live at CBGB’s.