Truly original bands

I was out on my break thinking about music as I sometimes do, and got to thinking about the most original and unique band I listen to was. Almost immediately I thought about The Art of Noise.

As far as I’m concerned, no band that I am aware of before or since has exhibited the true uniqueness and originality of sound as AON. Their varied experiences and talents originally brought together under the auspices of ex-Buggles and then-Zang-Tumb-Tuum exec and producer Trevor Horn culminated in a sound so immediately identifiable that it could be readily spotted through the buzz of every other contemporary artist. Masters of the sampler and the tape loop, they would weave together songs out of just about anything, yet make it sound cohesive and even catchy enough to chart. 1983’s Beatbox was an immediate hit with breakdancers, while the same year’s Moments in Love became a seminal romantic anthem. Even after the split with Trevor and ZTT and the loss of Paul Morley, they went on to create some of the most interesting tapestries of sound I’ve ever heard. Subsequent albums combined traditional elements of drum kits and pads with globe-spanning, genre-crossing, not-so-traditional elements of spoken word poetry, native chants, pan flutes, African tribal artists, and more. Though they spent far more time off the charts than on, they still managed to score hits, often combining unique outside talent in doing so. They teamed up Matt Frewer in his role as iconic 80s character Max Headroom for Paranoimia, Duane Eddy reprising his guitar work for a remake of the theme to Peter Gunn, and Tom Jones for a remake of Prince’s Kiss, among others.

Although there are other bands out there whose uniqueness has attracted my interest – Jean-michel Jarre, Yello, and Kraftwerk to name a few – none of them have broken so many of the traditional rules of music while still maintaining a cohesive, comprehensible sound as AON.

So, who’s your pick for Most Unique and Interesting Band Ever? They don’t have to be influential or even well known. Just different enough that in the cacaphony of a thousand bands playing all at once, they are the ones you could pick out in a heartbeat, and interesting enough that their uniqueness isn’t just because they can beat randomly upon tupperware or trash cans to little more effect than making noise.

Oh, I just wanted to note: I don’t consider the abortive 1999 AON reincarnation with Lol Creme to be a part of the AON Proper collective. The Seduction of Claude Debussy bore none of the earmarks that made J.J. Jeczalik’s AON the fascinating fusion of sound I’d known and loved, and thus was a disappointment that I consider to be separate from, and unrelated to the original AON. Not that I don’t appreciate Lol Creme’s work in its own right, he just didn’t have the vision to continue where the old AON left off.

I’m not sure if your “trash cans” remark is meant to preclude my choice, but: The Velvet Underground. If they don’t sound quite as groundbreaking now, it’s only because nearly every band since them has been influenced by some part of their style. They were the Marcel Duchamp of rock, predicting woozy guitar bands like Galaxie 500, the stripped down indie-simplicity of early R.E.M., and the harsh sound and aesthetic of punk and all-out noise rock. They melded the straight-ahead approach of 50’s rock and doo-wop (Bo Diddley was an obvious influence) to an entirely new sonic palette of scorching feedback, drug poetry, and speed-freak guitar rave-ups. I’m of the opinion that Sister Ray is the most solid-sounding, astonishing piece of music recorded in the 20th century.

A few other bands I would consider instantly recognizable and unique:

Beat Happening
My Bloody Valentine
Add (n) to X
Joy Division
Camper Van Beethoven
Flaming Lips

I don’t hear anyone else who sounds like The Fiery Furnaces.

October Project (if there’s someone similar, let me know because I’m sure I would enjoy it!)

Henry Cow
Dr. Buzzard’s Original “Savannah” Band

Beck. One of the most versatile guys out there. Great lyrics.

Spike Jones and His City Slickers.

Bonzo Dog Band
Flash and the Pan
Procol Harum



They recently toured with Tilly, a show my friend saw. Said they were super duper dandy, looked them up, and sure enough. Go. Now. Listen.

Since I got that out of the way, 90% of the people will skip out on what is below. I’ll add it only for archival purposes.

Since most people took all my good ones, like Beat Happening, CVB, Fiery Furnaces, etc, I’ll add…

Modest Mouse
Tilly and the Wall
Neutral Milk Hotel
Smoking Popes
Math the Band
Daniel Johnston
Jollie Holland
My Morning Jacket
Postal Service
Devendra Banhart
etc, etc, etc

I’ll second both The Fiery Furnaces and Devendra Banhart. The former’s Blueberry Boat might possibly be the strangest thing I have ever heard.

I would also like to nominate Animal Collective. Although I like FF and find DB tolerable, they both weird me out a bit. I can honestly say, though, that through all of AC’s weird noises and strange, insistent rhythms, I really like them.

Bruce Springsteen is always instantly recognizable, and pretty unique simply for the amount of people in his back-up band.

Mike Patton, especially Mr Bungle.
Shpongle is being more and more mimmicked, but is still far ahead of the competition.
John Zorn, David Axelrod and Ornette Coleman.

Van Der Graf Generator - instantly recognisable; their lead instruments were electric organ and saxaphone!

Pere Ubu or lead singer David Thomas. Should maybe have made my ‘best gigs’ list as well…

Copied endlessly, but they were originals in their time:
Kate Bush

Cocteau Twins

Dead Can Dance
Never copied, because they couldn’t be copied:

Victoria Williams

Kirsty MacColl

Yma Sumac

Lene Lovich

Nina Hagen


Grace Darling

I have to say, I haven’t ever really heard anyone else like The Mars Volta. But I’m not so sure that’s really a good thing… :smack: :smiley:

I would say Primus has a completely original sound thanks to the incredible lead bass playing of Les Claypool. Throw in his “unique” vocals and you have a band that definitely stands out.

The Residents

Einsturzende Neubauten

Frank Zappa

King Crimson