After being with one band for a while, some musicians are itching to do something different. Rather than getting experimental and releasing it under their established outfit, some prefer to form new bands altogether. Most of the time these side bands are not very impressive and very rarely do they outshine the core band. But if done well, a side band can at least separate itself from their well known work. There are tons of these groups out there, but there are only a few that do their best to differentiate themselves from the core band. I know I missed a lot of groups out there (let me know which ones in the comments), but here are some of my favorite songs from these great and interesting side bands.
“Level” – The Racounteurs
Sometimes it feels like Jack White is in a new band every other week. While in the highly successful White Stripes, he recruited Brenden Benson and other musicians to form this rag tag and gritty group. Though the music is still filled with White’s impressive and innovative guitar playing, the overall feel of the band is rougher and harsher than The White Stripes. The music takes on more of a folk rock feel while still incorporating elements of blues and alternative rock. This is one of the best cuts from their debut album. It finds White and Benson sharing vocal duty leaving lots of room for complex guitar solos. The band would go on to release one more album before going on hiatus. Truth be told, we probably won’t see anymore new music from the group considering White’s successful solo career and his work with The Dead Weather.
“Standing There” – The Creatures
Siouxsie and the Banshees were never afraid to play around with their sound, but this side project featuring Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie was spontaneous. You never knew what type of song they were going to do next. As this track shows, the band was also more in tune with their animal nature. A lot of the sounds and images used in their songs made listeners get in touch with their primal instincts. It’s no surprise since Sioux and Budgie were dating at the time. “Standing There” has vibrant horns, giving it a swing feel, and tribal like percussion that booms throughout the track. The catchiness of the chorus and the Latin dancing featured in the video will make you grab a flamenco skirt and clap fiercely with Siouxsie Sioux. The Creatures would go on to release a total of three albums, but this remains one of their best songs.
“When Your Heart Stops Beating” – +44
The nasty “hiatus” of Blink-182 resulted in two bands from founders Mark and Tom: Angels and Airwaves and +44. While Tom’s band was trying to change the world and the face of music, +44 just wanted to rock out. Consisting of Mark Hoppus, Travis Barker, Shane Gallagher, and Craig Fairbaugh, the short lived band released their debut in 2006 with the following song as their lead single. The track is catchy, full of energy, and just puts you in a good mood. It’s not drastically different from what the guys would do in Blink, but it managed to satisfy heartbroken fans. The album did fairly well, but couldn’t match the success of Hoppus’ previous band. It’s a shame because the LP is actually really good filled with irresistible pop punk. They may not have strayed too far from the working formula, but the result was still upbeat and a lot of fun to listen to. Hopefully, there’ll be more music from them in the future.
“I Feel So” – Box Car Racer
This is yet another offshoot of Blink-182. Formed shortly after the release of their fourth album, this band featuring Tom Delonge and Travis Barker went for a heavier sound and drew a lot of influences from punk rock. The album explored dark and serious issues while chugging guitars and lots of distortion played in the background. This single doesn’t featured Delonge’s best writing, but the intense guitars and simple chorus give it a punch. Anyone who listened to this album should not have been surprised when Blink changed their direction for their self titled release. The band was moderately successful, but only released one album. While it was decent it didn’t do much in the alternative rock scene, but it is a lot better than Delonge’s current side band. Some may even say this project began Blink’s downfall since Mark Hoppus was upset he was not part of it.
“Snuff on Digital” – Blaqk Audio
Some side bands have issues making themselves distinct from the core band. This is not the case with Blaqk Audio. Featuring Davey Havok and Jade Puget from punk outfit AFI, this project finds the guys trading in distorted guitars for keyboards. The music here is strictly electronic and synth based with some elements of dark and new wave. Rather than moshing, this music will make you want to dance. Some of it makes you think of the ’80s while others are reminiscent of ’90s techno. Even though it’s a different genre Havok keeps his haunting lyrics in tact. This track is one of the most upbeat and infectious from their debut album Cexcells. Since they released a sophomore LP in 2012 there’s a good chance we’ll hear more music from them in the future.
“Clint Eastwood” – Gorillaz
The Gorillaz are so popular and well known it’s easy to forget they’re an offshoot of Blur. Whereas Blur were the finest example of Britpop, the Gorillaz were all over the place in terms of genre. With elements of hip-hop, pop, electronic, funk, and soul it’s hard to pin them down. Their debut single named after the iconic actor remains one of their best songs. Though Del the Funky Homosapien laid down the rhymes, Damn Albarn’s cryptic singing during lines like “I’ve got sunshine/in a bag” are the most memorable.
“Kamikaze” – Plastic Visions
This band features Brad Shultz of Cage the Elephant and his cousin Kane Stewart; truly a family affair. Cage the Elephant are known for their brash, wild sound and some of that is present on this project. What makes it different is the fusion of punk, noise rock, and surf rock to create their fuzzy, rough sound. This track is the first off their EP and features unchained vocals (similar to Matt Shultz) and scratchy guitars that sound like static. The short, punchy songs are full of energy with this track being one of their finest. Though they’ve only started, hopefully we can expect a full length album from them in the near future.
“Spike” – The Network
When Billie, Mike, and Tre aren’t running around with Green Day they have several musical projects to turn to. One of them is the weird, punk, and electro inspired band The Network. Though the guys tried their best to say they weren’t in the band it’s hard to deny once you hear Billie’s distinct vocals. Rather than their stadium pop-punk, the guys go new wave with lots of synth and odd songs involving lots of sex and drugs. This is one of the best songs from their sole album because it maps out the sad and humorous journey of a junkie trying to score. The track is interesting because there’s very little singing involved. It’s pretty much Spike having a phone conversation with the occasional “I need a fix” for the chorus. It’s a cool idea that the band manages to pull off. Also, I love the way Billie says “La Jolla.” Guess that’s my inner fangirl coming out.
“Punish Me with Kisses” – The Glove
This project is the brainchild of The Cure’s Robert Smith and Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Surprisingly, it features Jeanette Landray, not Smith, on vocals. At the time, Smith said it was because he wanted more of a background position, but many speculate it was intervention from the label. Still, it’s easy to tell Smith is involved with the project. Though the band managed to get more bluesy and trippy at times, the flourishing keys and dreamy lyrics all sound so similar to The Cure. The frontman even did vocals for the entire album, but they can only be found on the re-release of their album. Landray does a decent job, but Smith’s vocals are the best.
“At Your Funeral” – Pinhead Gunpowder
This band originally formed in the early ’90s and features both Billie Joe Armstrong and Jason White. Though they’ve been around for a while, since two of the members are in Green Day they’ve released very few albums. Unlike their other side projects, this one has a very brash, classic punk rock sound mixed with raw garage rock. Still, it’s hard to miss Billie’s distinct vocals, especially since he gives everything a melodic tone. This track is a personal favorite. It’s rude, snotty, and cynical like so many of Green Day’s best songs. It may be short, but it’s to the point. You can’t miss the snarl as Armstrong sings “At your funeral/Things will be different/I will feel so good.” If you want to get into the band, then this is the best song to start with.
“38” – Revolting Cocks
Featuring Al Jourgensen, Richard 23, and Luc Van Acker, plus a long list of revolving players, this industrial band shares many similarities with Jourgensen’s band Ministry. The above song sounds like something from the band’s earlier efforts. They don’t shy away from the industrial genre, but they also delves into alternative and metal with a hint of psychedelia. Whereas as Ministry was a serious outfit touching on political issues, RC is more self aware and includes a lot of humor and risque topics in their songs. This track is from their debut Big Sexy Land and sports more attitude and less parody than their later material.
“Outsider” – A Perfect Circle
I’ve always preferred this group over the core band Tool. While there are some similarities between the two, this outfit focuses more on alternative and prog rock along with psychedelic influences for an ethereal and haunting sound. Instead of bringing on a heavy mood Maynard Keenan and co keep things on the mellow side, though as this song show things can get intense. While they’ve done some amazing covers of “Imagine” and “Let’s Have a War,” this single shows off their blended sound and will be the most appealing to Tool fans.
“Lies of the Beautiful People” – Sixx AM
While Niki Sixx will always be known for his work in Motley Crue, he has a successful career with his band Sixx AM. With a heavier sound and more thoughtful lyrics than the Crue ever had, Sixx AM deals with issues of beauty, drugs, and addiction. A lot of the material stems from Sixx’s past as a heroine addict. Their debut album was even named after his autobiography The Heroin Diaries. “Lies of the Beautiful People” features the guitarist’s signature riffs and fiery playing style, paired with James Michael the strong and passionate vocals. Talking about the obsession with beauty, the video is a gruesome look at what some will do to meet society’s standards.
“Stop Drop and Roll!!!” – Foxboro Hot Tubs
Yet another side project of Green Day. Whereas the Network focused on new wave, this band has more of a rockabilly vibe with hints of surf rock and psychedelic. With their raw sound they feel like a garage band from the ’60s. The guys cut loose here as Billie takes on the sleazy persona of The Reverend, who howls in just about every song. The band is notable because it sounds nothing like Green Day, which isn’t an easy feat for most side bands. The title track from their solid debut album shows off the vintage, dirty, and sleazy vibe of the music. Since their first album was so promising, hopefully we’ll get some new music from them in the future.