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Side Projects Are the New Black: From the Dead Weather to Handsome Furs

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When it came out that Jack Black White (thanks…indieindeed) yet another side project popping, there was some eye-rolling. Then it was revealed that he’d be headlining his new act, The Dead Weather, on the drums with The Kills’ hair-tossing, throaty-voiced, rocker vixen Alison Mosshart singing, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar, and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs on the bass; this would be no D12.

Of course side projects have always gotten a bad rap as the throwaway diversions of uninspired musicians concealing their lack of inspiration behind novelty. Even the phrase itself, “side project,” sounds like a petty digression. Yet, many side projects, well, rock.

Just take Head Wound City, the thrash band comprised of Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jordan Blilie and Cody Votolato of The Blood Brothers, and Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian of The Locust and Holy Molar. Their noisy sprint of an EP could light a fire up under the ass of any noise band worth their weight in amphetamines. Or take The Breeders, headed by Kim Deal of The Pixies and Throwin’ Muses Tanya Donnelly, which pretty much left America asking, “Throwin’ Muses? What’s that?” Perhaps the ultimate in side project bands has been the Gorillaz, which left Blur in the dust with hits like “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc.” Yes, a virtual cartoon outfit band did indeed upstage its real live predecessor band.

Sure Audioslave had nothing on Rage Against the Machine, but it’s difficult to conceive of any realm in which Chris Cornell could outmatch Zack de la Rocha. I mean, could you ever imagine Chris Cornell banding together citizens to protest a purportedly anti-Latino sheriff, as de la Rocha did this year? Exactly. But that’s no reason to discount bands like the Handsome Furs. After all, couldn’t you consider side projects akin to horizontal integration in the business world? And more importantly, can you ever really get too much of a good thing? Oh sorry, I missed what you said. I was too busy wailing along to “Radical Friends.”

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About TracyOneill Tracy is a freelance writer based out of Brooklyn obsessed with nutritional supplements, mediocre music, audacious (to put it politely) apparel, literary giants, and perfecting the fine art of the Sunday Bloody Mary.

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