Most Innovative Musicians

Out of all the bands making music, there’s a few groups that truly carve out a new space with an innovate sound, innovate songs, or just something about them. Here’s a compilation of the musicians/bands I think have some of the most innovate music and playing styles.

Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich (Camp Cope):  As the bassist for Australian alt-rock trio, she doesn’t back away in the corner with her root notes, leaving space for the guitar. No, instead she creates beautiful melody lines high up on the fretboard, filling in all the spaces in the songs. In fact, liner notes for Camp Cope albums list her as playing ‘lead bass’.

Vince DiFiore (Cake): Cake is a pretty simple Southern/Mariachi influenced rock band on their own, but what sets them apart is DiFiore, a trumpeter. This interesting element builds into the songs, making them pack an even harder and more memorable punch.

The B-52s: Formed in Athens, Georgia in the 70s, uber-fun new wave band the B-52s took inspiration from 50s and 60s culture, and played songs with toy instruments. It all combined to make one of the silliest but coolest bands of all time.

Lora Logic (X-Ray Spex): One of the original members of the 70s punk band, she defined their sound with catchy explosive saxophone riffs that went hand in hand with a ginormous day-glo sound and aesthetic.

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The Consumption

lying

face down on the mattress

in my leather jacket

tag scratches my skin

a sound escapes from between my lips

/a scream

my hair is so soft

the straw down below

i do not want to let what i love go

pounding head / it’s all in my head

total darkness, a growing wetness on the pillow

at the end of the world i will have my earbuds in and a slushie in hand

i have no name

i have no face

all i have is what i can’t afford

if you don’t like the show, just change the channel

drooping eyes don’t trip any signals

/a scream

i scream/

no ice cream in the tired sky of january

all pain is all consuming

everything wrong is all consuming

i am always consumed

by

everything

i shouldn’t (don’t have time to)

/ be consumed by

Hey Little Girl

hey little girl aren’t you cute?

i wanna i wanna i wanna eat you!

hey little girl don’t get mud on your dress

i paid a lot of money for your sunday best

hey little girl come on inside

you’ll stay pure and the boys will play outside

hey little girl that’s what you told me

now i’m stuck like this are you happy?

hey little girl i’m a little girl

who stays nice and doesn’t play with boys

hey little girl are you a good girl?

do you ever take boys for a whirl?

hey little girl why don’t you shut up?

let the men have a discussion

hey little girl soon you’ll be a woman

once your breasts grow in you can get a man

hey little girl that’s what you told me

now i’m stuck like this are you happy?

hey little girl i’m a little girl

who stays nice and doesn’t play with boys

hey little girl your legs are in a twirl

keep them closed your parents must be in a whirl

hey little girl you must hate girls

the way you obsess over her

hey little girl stay under control

without a little girl you will never be whole

hey little girl that’s what you told me

now i’m stuck like this are you happy?

hey little girl i’m a little girl

who stays nice and doesn’t play with boys

Break

break my legs to set me free

break my body to free my mind

if you stopped talking i wouldn’t start

if you told me to talk i don’t think i would

not a war hero

weary

they don’t write poetry

they understand

wikihow please tell me to exist

the daughter cells are dividing

into the dark night sky

the blank page doesn’t discriminate

or who has the fire

oh god please let it end

a week in a hospital bed could do me good

i’ll talk, please, just slow it down

i just want to be warm

it makes me sick how much they love to hate

how little i know

tear my nails down to the bone

my insides are splintered

and all that matters is inner beauty

The B-52s – The B-52s

Athens, Georgia new wave band the B-52s met sharing a flaming volcano cocktail at a bar. It’s such a weird drink, and such a weird story, that it makes perfect sense that the band is also insanely weird.

They took inspiration from 50s 60s fashion, thrifting, and tiki culture, and played with strangely tuned guitars, keyboards, and children’s toy instruments, to create a beautiful mess of sounds that defined their debut self-titled album.

The first time I heard the album, I was nine years old. My mom had the CD, and she put it on in the car. My first thought was that Planet Claire sounded cool, but was it ever going to start? Of course, my fears were abated because although it takes two minutes and thirty seconds to gather confidence and get going, once it does it’s glorious.

The third track, Dance This Mess Around, is one of their most well-known songs. Using a he said she said narrative, it’s the perfect dance track as a lot of it is just the naming of completely ridiculous sounding dance names. The Shy Tuna, everyone? It also displays their retro interests, as they reference dances that Patti Smith screamed about in her song Land.

One thing to love about the B-52s is just how funny they are. Their music isn’t serious, it’s fun and glorious and queer, it’s kitschy and unpolished but gleaming and shiny like a plastic makeup mirror. Their music might have sounded niche, but they inspired everyone from John Lennon (who said the album reminded him of Yoko Ono’s music) to Nirvana.

Rock Lobster is probably their most famous song. The intro guitar riff (sampled in Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time by Panic! At The Disco) is so famous just on it’s own, but guitarist Ricky Wilson introduced it to his bandmates as ‘here’s the stupidest riff I’ve ever written’.

As the song cartwheels through tales of parties and sea creatures and matching towels and rock lobsters (of course), it’s clear why the B-52s are so great. Of course, they make great music that’s perfect for dancing, but they’re also the Harry Potter of music. Perfectly enjoyable for children and adults alike. But besides that, the song is perfect, funky and authentic.

The three songs after that are good, but less memorable. But we have to talk about 6060-842. It’s hilarious storytelling, of a woman going into the bathroom, seeing a number written on the wall, and trying and failing to call the number. It sounds simple, cheesy and stupid,  but it’s weirdly heartbreaking while still really funny and danceable. The vocals are erratic, yet girl-group, high-pitched but not shrill.

But no matter your age, or the music you like, you can find something in this pitch-sharp debut of a band that just wants to have fun and dance in the sun. Even as the singers feel like they’re about to have a nervous breakdown and lose their shit, it’s fine, because they have so many great friends on their side, ready to dance it out and drink flaming volcanoes.

Three

he took every part of my body he liked

and carefully arranged them on the bed

small incisions in the heart to mold my love

my lungs go straight in the trash he never wanted to

hear what i had to say

the brain will stay on a shelf high on the wall

so someone remembers where he put his keys

the keys to my heart were in my lungs

(he doesn’t feel like a criminal)

(feels like he’s completing his monkey mission)

my fourth apartment was his

room 217, 24 stories in the air

jokes about closet space, i prepare a supper

a consummation one a consummation two a consummation three

death by three cuts

Free Will

the hedonistic society got free will drunk in the park on cheap vodka

and they kissed a little bit

the deflated balloon man bought it for them

no conditions

cheap cars abandoned buildings

tents behind trees they want too much

not enough

the strength it takes to leave

to arrive

we say crazier and crazier things until no one minds if we follow through

or if we don’t

we could kiss a little bit

who is a girl who stands up for what she believes in?

a joyful place of loving alone

too many secrets are hidden in these walls

PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me

Polly Jean Harvey could have done a lot of things. She could have gone to art school, could have made palatable pop music with her multi-instrumental prowess and commanding voice, or have left all her songs inside her head, not doing anything with them. But she didn’t. Instead, she spent two weeks holed up in Minnesota with renowned Nirvana producer Steve Albini and her band, crafting the album oft regarded as her best, and easily one of the best of 1993, or even the whole decade.

Album opener and title track Rid Of Me easily sets the stage for the rest of the album. As she sings about revenge and twisting her lover’s head off, tinny falsettos that almost sound like a newfangled synth sound flit in and out of focus until the band explodes into a screaming chaos of a chorus that proves PJ Harvey can handle dynamic changes better than Nirvana ever could.

With PJ Harvey’s name and voice being the forefront of the band, and with the knowledge that after Rid Of Me came out, the trio broke up and Harvey continued as a solo artist, the album easily feels like a solo project, but you can’t miss how the drums, bass, and guitar blend together to create a thrashing, dark, and booming instrumental that evokes the folky improvisations of Violent Femmes.

To put it bluntly, the album sounds like the cathartic release of pain. Endlessly raw, brutal, rough, punky, grungy, and bluesy, the songs are 50 feet tall. She’s not trying for a pretty sound, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. An example is her grungy cover of Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan. It’s a flawless reinvention of a classic tune, that keeps the 60s rock and roll spirit intact but shoves into the 90s to get a little dirty.

Harvey’s voice is a behemoth of pleading, screaming, and experimentation, and she can go easily between subtle vibrato on Rid Of Me, vocalized moans of anguish on revenge-seeking Legs, leaps of faith into head voice on Me-Jane or 50ft Queenie, even David Byrne-esque shouts on Rub Til It Bleeds.

Near the end of the record, the themes of sadness, violence, death, revenge, and pain, have been filtered into raw anger and exhaustion. Almost every woman has been taught since birth to tamp down anger and always seek to please, but Harvey said fuck that and let it all out.

It’s this release that leads to Dry, a track originally written for her first album of the same name, where as Harvey admits that her lover leaves her dry, she sounds so tired, like she just wants to lie down in the leaves outside her native Dorset, watching the sky darken and the cleansing rain start to fall.

She’s also sounding inspired by the feminist punk movement Riot Grrrl, on Dry with guitars that sound like a discarded song from Bikini Kill’s Revolution Girl Style Now demo, and on the fiercely ferocious Snake that rivals Kathleen Hanna in terms of anger and energy.

But it’s on the last song, Ecstasy, amid giant, unclean riffs, and a wall of sound, that she sounds happy, ready to move on and let go from the anguish on Rid Of Me, into new projects, loves, and experiences.

Smile

take those off

we need to see what you’re worth

1s and 0s form a body

dirt and pain form my body

smile

you’re on camera

when you die we will cash the cheques

songs save lives

let poets lie to you

stained with wine-dark blood

it’s alright to admit you failed

it’s easy to be easy

travel the desert as the skin falls from your body

there are so many things i want to forget

so many things you will learn to regret

in time it will be your time

sex and power from a body

he needs power over a body

you were there

smile to show your worth

you’re a camera

w.s.

i’ve met 57 academics

and kissed them all

you wish you could be like me

with all your dark poetry

i could love you until i can’t stand it

but you can’t stand me

i’m going home to the country

but there’s nothing i wouldn’t do to stay

give me your name

this is a gun in my pocket

we see her from space

but i flew the plane to go and say hi

you write my words

and i climb up on stage