CJ Baker is a published writer who recently started the podcast Ongoing History of Protest Music.
The White Stripes performing live at the 2007 O2 Wireless festival in London
The 15 Best Power Duos
When The White Stripes rose to prominence in 2002, one of the things that helped set them apart was that they were a two-person rock band. They featured Jack White on guitar, keyboards & vocals and Meg White on drums and occasional vocals. Jack White excelled at being able to work within the limitations of the two-piece dynamic. But The White Stripes were not the first rock & roll power duo, and with their considerable success, they certainly weren't the last.
The following is a list of the 15 best rock & roll power duos to ever compete in the rock & roll tag team division. The list includes current contenders and past champions. Many of the bands are guitar and drums oriented, but some vary the formula and feature bass & drums or even synthesizer & vocals. It is also good to note that there are bands that are commonly billed as rock duos, but they quite often employ either studio or touring musicians to perform with them. So they are not power duos in the truest sense of the word and are thus excluded from this list.
#15: Wye Oak
Wye Oak is an indie folk-rock duo consisting of Jenn Wasner on vocals/guitars & Andy Stack on drums/keyboards/backing vocals. The band formed in 2006 and has released 6 full lengths, their latest being 2018 released The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs.
Their music possesses a certain hypnotic quality that makes them an irresistible force within the rock & roll tag team division.
Holy Holy by Wye Oak (Video)
#14: Tweak Bird
Tweak Bird is a brotherly power duo made up of Caleb and Ashton Bird. They formed in 2007 and since that time they have released 2 full length albums and two EPs. Their 2008 EP Reservations along with their 2010 self titled debut full length was co-produced by Dale Crover (as one half of the Deaf Nephews production team) of the pioneering grunge band The Melvins (and briefly Nirvana). The band also extensively toured with The Melvins. That was definitely an appropriate pairing considering that Tweak Bird's sound includes obvious grungy elements.
The band's sound goes beyond being a grunge throwback. The band's unique sound was described by UK radio host Lauren Laverne as "Sabbath goes jazz". It is the band's refusal to be confined by genre rules which make them an exciting addition to the rock & roll tag team division.
Lights In Line by Tweak Bird (Video)
Jucifer is a husband and wife sludge metal duo consisting of Gazelle Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood. They have been slugging it out since 1993. They are known for their nomadic lifestyle of living in an RV and constantly touring. They have built a dedicated cult following due to their live shows which feature extremely loud volume and a huge wall of amps.
The duo has released 8 full-length albums, including the 2008 ambitious double album L' Autrichienne. The duo is known for its diversity, with songs that range from brutally heavy to more melodic tunes.
When She Goes Out by Jucifer (Video)
#12: The Pack A.D.
The Pack A.D. is a rock power duo from Canada. It consists of Becky Black on vocals/guitar & Maya Miller on drums. The band which has been together since 2006 has released 8 full-length albums. They are a force to be reckoned with in the rock & roll tag team division and they put on a kick-ass live show. They definitely deserve a bigger profile.
The A.D. is an abbreviation for After Death.
Big Shot by The Pack A.D. (Video)
#11: JEFF the Brotherhood
This indie-rock power duo consists of brothers Jake & Jamin Orrall. The band has been slogging away since 2002 and has released 11 full-length albums. Their first album to get widespread distribution was 2009's Heavy Days. Their 2012 album, Hypnotic Nights was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. In 2011 they also released a live album for Jack White's Third Man Records.
JEFF is one of the most authentically rocking duos of the rock & roll tag team division. They are a part of the current crop of indie rockers that prove that rock & roll isn't dead, it is just underground.
Hey Friend by JEFF the Brotherhood (Video)
Shovels & Rope
#10: Shovels & Rope
Shovels & Rope are a husband and wife folk duo consisting of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. The duo adds a raucous punk attitude and rock and roll energy to their traditional folk sound. In many ways, they are like an Americana version of The White Stripes.
The duo released their self-titled debut in 2008. It was originally meant to be a collaborative effort between two solo artists. Shortly after that project, the two got married, but they continued to focus on their individual solo recordings. In 2012, with the release of their exceptional O' Be Joyful, they became a permanent power duo. On August 26, 2014, they released their much anticipated third album, Swimmin' Time.
Gasoline by Shovels & Rope (Video)
#9: Local H
This rock & roll power duo has been slogging away since 1987, releasing their full-length debut in 1995. The band started as a power trio, but became a power duo in 1993, consisting of Joe Daniels on Drums & Scott Lucas on vocals/guitar/bass. In 1999 Joe Daniels was replaced by Brian St. Clair (in 2013 St. Clair was replaced by Ryan Harding). The band did manage a few modern & mainstream rock hits during the 90s (most notably 1996 released "Bound For The Floor") but for the most part, have maintained a lower profile than what they deserve.
They continue to be the unsung heroes of the rock & rock tag team division, releasing their 6th full-length album in 2008, the excellent but criminally underrated 12 Angry Months. They have released three more albums since then.
The One with 'Kid'" (January) by Local H (Video)
#8: Royal Blood
Hailing from the UK, Royal Blood are newcomers to the rock and roll tag team division. Consisting of drummer Ben Thatcher and bassist/singer Mike Kerr, they made their mark in 2014 by releasing an EP and their debut eponymous full-length album. The band proves that it is possible to create an explosive rock sound with only two members.
In a short period of time, they have garnered significant attention. Their debut album was nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize, legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has publicly praised them and they have been asked to support the Foo Fighters on their 2015 North American and UK tour. They continue to build momentum, even having the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed hip-hop duo Run The Jewels on the remix of their 2020 tune "The Ground Below."
Jimmy Page Loves Royal Blood
I went to hear them in New York. They were fantastic. Absolutely riveting, they're such fine musicians.Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It's so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they're going to take rock into a new realm – if they're not already doing that. It's music of tremendous quality.
— Jimmy Page
Out of the Black by Royal Blood (Video)
This Canadian indie rock power duo consists of Brian King on guitar/vocals & David Prowse on drums/vocals. In 2009 they released their critically well-received debut album, Post-Nothing which they followed up with the equally well-received Celebration Rock. Both albums made many critics' best-of lists. In 2020 they released their first live album, capturing the raw live energy that they are known for.
The House That Heaven Built by Japandroids (Video)
#6: Death From Above 1979
This Canadian alternative rock power duo consists of Sebastien Grainger on vocals/drums & Jesse F. Keeler on bass/synthesizers/backing vocals. The noise rock duo released their debut studio album in 2004: You're A Woman, I'm a Machine. The band broke up in 2006. Despite having only one album to their credit, it was enough to establish a large cult following.
Since their official retirement, there has been endless speculation and hopes of a possible reunion. That hope came to fruition in 2011, when they reunited to embark on a successful tour. They re-established their reputation for their heavy & energetic live shows. In 2014 they finally released their long-anticipated sophomore release The Physical World.
Romantic Rights by Death From Above 1979 (Video)
#5: The Kills
With the retirement of The White Stripes and with The Black Keys adding additional touring musicians in 2010, the dynamic indie-rock duo of Jamie "Hotel" Hince & Alison "VV" Mosshart may very well be the current reigning pure rock & roll tag team champions.
The Kills have released 5 full-length studio albums since 2002, with their latest being 2016 released Ash & Ice. They established a large following with their minimalistic but powerful sound. They prove that sometimes less is more.
Allison Mosshart is also known for being the lead singer of The Dead Weather (which also features Jack White on drums).
Future Starts Slow by The Kills (Video)
#4: Flat Duo Jets
The Flat Duo Jets were a psychobilly duo consisting of Dexter Romweber (guitars & vocals) & Chris "Crow" Smith (drums). They were active from 1983-1999. Between 1988-90 Griz "Tone" Mayer joined the band on bass, but they were mostly a duo. They went on to become highly influential.
They were especially cited as a formidable influence on Jack White. Jack White ended up reissuing their 1991 album, Go Go Harlem on vinyl for his Third Man Records. Flat Duo Jets has to be considered one of the founding fathers of the rock & roll tag team division.
Crazy Woman by Flat Duo Jets (Video)
The Black Keys
#3: The Black Keys
This indie-rock duo consisting of Dan Auerbach (guitar & vocals) & Patrick Carney (drums) have established themselves as one of the more popular current rock bands. Since 2002 they have released 9 studio albums.
Just like The White Stripes, the band has its roots in the blues, but the Keys take is more traditional. That being said, they have started to deviate from the straight-ahead blues sound of their earlier albums. Despite that deviation, they still have a fairly traditional authentic rock sound, and they provide convincing evidence that rock & roll is still alive & well.
Just as a note in 2010 they have hired touring musicians for their live performances. So in the live sense, they are no longer a pure rock & roll power duo. But they did have a good run in the rock & roll tag team division.
Too Afraid To Love You (live) by The Black Keys (Video)
The synthesizer & vocal duo of Alan Vega & Martin Rev was formed in 1970 and they ended up being hugely influential. The duo help shaped many sub-genres of indie and alternative rock including being a major influence on many industrial, post-punk, and electronic-based acts. Bands such as Joy Division/New Order, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Nick Cave, She Wants Revenge have all cited Suicide has an influence. They also proved to be an influence on Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen's song State Trooper (from his 1982 album Nebraska) was based on Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop". Springsteen has also been known to perform Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream" as well.
It is also good to note that Suicide was one of the first to use the term "punk music" to advertise a concert in a 1970 promo flyer. They are definitely one of the most influential duos of the rock & roll tag team division.
Frankie Teardrop by Suicide (Video)
#1: The White Stripes
Jack & Meg White retired as undisputed champions of the rock & roll tag team division. The supposed brother & sister duo (of course they were really ex-husband and wife, Jack taking on Meg's maiden name) released their self-titled debut in 1999, and they started to break into the mainstream consciousness in 2002 as part of the garage rock revival. Rock music was becoming so generic and complacent that The Stripes were a real breath of fresh air. They were true rock & roll saviors.
Jack White continues to be a creative musical force, but it is unlikely he will ever be involved with any musical project that will have the lasting impact of The White Stripes.
Icky Thump by The White Stripes (Video)
© 2012 CJ Baker
Who is your favorite rock & roll tag team? Any other power duos missing from this list? Feel free to leave any other comments.
Patrick on April 06, 2018:
I like the list. You missed out on House of Freaks from the 90's. Check them out. A very powerful sounding band.
luke on April 14, 2017:
Kyle on March 24, 2017:
Terrific list! :) But I miss THE KNIFE. They should be here!
SarahNola on June 28, 2016:
Black Pistol Fire.
OliverJones on March 26, 2016:
The Spinanes should be on this list. Manos is a brilliant album.
Anon on September 18, 2015:
Two Gallants are should be on this list as well. Love power duos!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on June 02, 2015:
I agree that The Tings Tings deserve serious consideration (even though I'm not sure who I would take off). The Front Bottoms have more that two band members and Sleigh Bells have more than two members as part of the touring band. So neither of those met the criteria of power duo that I was working with. Thanks for the input.
Mitchell on June 01, 2015:
The Front Bottoms, The Ting Tings and Sleigh Bells
Steve B on May 07, 2015:
How about Randy Holden's Population II - duo psychedelic rock from 1970
Egils Petersons from Latvia on October 30, 2014:
Jack White is one of my favorite musicians.
Matt on July 20, 2014:
Very surprised to not have seen Twenty One Pilots on here
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 08, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, vote and share. Greatly appreciated. The Black Keys and The White Stripes truly are great rocking bands.
nikkiraeink from So. Cal. on August 08, 2012:
Love, love, love The Black Keys and White Stripes! Awesome hub! I bet it was fun writing. Voted up, interesting, awesome and of course, shared!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on August 08, 2012:
Thanks for the read, comment and votes. Greatly appreciated.
Lisa Sumner from Vancouver on August 08, 2012:
Great hub, as usual Spartucus! There's a lotta great bands up there!
Voted up, interesting and awesome!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on July 11, 2012:
Thanks, I'll check them out.
Luke on July 11, 2012:
If you like these bands, try Tweak Bird. Another great power duo. :D
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 23, 2012:
Thanks! I'm glad that I've introduced you to some new music.
Pete Fanning from Virginia on May 23, 2012:
Well I've got some new bands to listen to, considering I had only heard of three! Interesting hub, voted up and...well interesting!
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on May 05, 2012:
Thanks, I appreciate your comments. I don't really listen to commercial radio. Most of my music exposure comes from music blogs and other music sites.
klarawieck on May 05, 2012:
This is a really nice article, spartucus. I have been trying to follow the new trends of indie rock but unfortunately here in Miami the radio stations are stuck in the 80's. It's really sad. I have to listen to satellite radio in order to hear something new. And even though I'm not a big fan of some of these bands, I have to acknowledge this hub is a jewel.
CJ Baker (author) from Parts Unknown on April 30, 2012:
Thanks for the comments! I'm glad I could introduce you to some new music. The Like Young was a fairly recent discovery for myself. It is too bad that they didn't stick around longer and receive more attention.
Theeyeballkid on April 30, 2012:
Wow very nice hub! I didn't know half of these bands and assumed that the White Stripes and Black Keys had a monopoly on the power due. (The Like Young sound great!)