10 Best Detroit Bands
Last week marked the release of ‘Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in America’s Loudest City.’ Written by Steve Miller, author of ‘Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone,’ the book traces the history of Detroit’s rich rock scene from 1967 to today. Diffuser.fm tore through ‘Detroit Rock City’ in record time, and in its honor, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Detroit Bands. Though we’re suckers for ‘Night Moves’ and ‘Cat Scratch Fever,’ you won’t find Seger or the Nuge on this inventory. Instead, we’ve focused on punk, techno, garage and other loud sounds that make the Motor City great.
No music-related Detroit list is complete without these miscreants. The Stooges' first three albums – ‘The Stooges’ (1969), ‘Fun House’ (1970) and ‘Raw Power’ (1973) – not only served as part of the blueprint for what would become punk rock, but they also helped the Detroit music scene land on the radar of music journalists throughout the world.
Formed a year before the Stooges (1964), the MC5 busted their asses on the local scene and became a headline attraction, regularly playing to audiences of 1,000 or more before even landing a record deal. Their performances were so incendiary that Elektra Records agreed to release ‘Kick Out the Jams,’ a live album, as their debut LP. Recorded over two nights at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1968, it's widely considered one of the best live albums ever made.
Cooking up a sonic brew of punk, gritty soul and blues, the Gories were a music geek’s dream when they arrived on the scene back in the late ‘80s. The bass-less power trio released a handful of singles, two split 7-inches and three studio albums before bowing out in 1993, but not before greatly influencing a young guitarist named John Gillis.
The White Stripes
Gillis would eventually change his name to Jack White after marrying local bartender Meg White. The couple formed the White Stripes a year later, with Meg behind the drums and Jack taking lead vocals and guitar duties. Within a few years, the duo would grace the cover of Rolling Stone and sell millions of albums, bringing garage rock to a mainstream audience without ever compromising their sound.
Fronted by former Negative Approach singer John Brannon, the Laughing Hyenas offered up a grimy take on Chicago blues and post-punk. Their 1990 ‘Life of Crime’ album is the group’s finest moment and features future superstar producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) behind the board.
Ex-Gories guitarist/vocalist Mick Collins formed the Dirtbombs, a soulful rock ‘n’ roll unit in the classic Detroit spirit, back in the early ‘90s. Along with his past work in the Gories, the D-Bombs (and his many other projects) have helped Collins become a revered figure in the garage rock movement. He's also a huge supporter of his local scene, and the Dirtbombs’ latest album, 2011’s ‘Party Store,’ is a covers collection featuring the band’s take on classic Detroit techno songs.
Speaking of techno, we couldn’t leave Juan Atkins off this list. Along with fellow Detroiters Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson (they went to high school together), this musician/DJ created techno in the ‘80s, a combination of ‘70s European electronic music, Chicago house, American funk, disco and jazz. Atkins’ importance to the progression of dance music cannot be overstated, and the coolest part of it as that he’s done it in a punk rock way, mostly recording for a slew of indie labels that supported his forward-thinking musical vision.
The Detroit Cobras
The Detroit Cobras have taken their classic R&B obsession and made a career out of it. The group has proven to be adept crate diggers, filling up their discography with raw covers of lost soul, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll gems, helping to introduce their audience to a slew of obscure musicians that have might have otherwise fallen between the cracks.
Demolition Doll Rods
Featuring former Gories guitarist Dan Kroha, Demolition Doll Rods injected glam-rock swagger into their stripped-down garage-rock mayhem. Never ones to take themselves too seriously (they were known to don outrageous costumes on stage), the three-piece went on hiatus in 2007, a year after releasing the well-received, and sexed-up, ‘There Is a Difference’ album.
With its infectious organ melody lines, the Hentchmen’s balls-to-the-wall garage rock sound stood out from the pack. Formed in late 1992, the group dealt out the jams until a couple years back, making the kind of music that was perfect for seedy burlesque bars on dingy street corners.