In honor of the Divine Fits album dropping next week we decided to craft a list of the top 10 supergroups to form throughout the years. What makes a supergroup is a little hard to define, so we decided to create just a few quick guidelines when discussing various groups eligibility for the list. First, the group must consist of 3+ members, and those members must have had a previous notable project prior to the formation of the group. This eliminates The Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye) and other notable duo collaborations. In addition, the supergroup must have released a studio album, and not just performed together live and/or released solely live recordings. We also eliminated outfits that might be termed more of a “collective” with a lot of rotating members (i.e. Broken Social Scene, New Pornographers), which made it ambiguous to determine the mindset of actually forming a cohesive group. That is pretty much it.
With those guidelines, the stable of supergroups was a little thinner than we thought going into making this list. Not many of the groups have even released more than one successful album. Supergroups often burn hot but also burn very quickly. Another issue we noticed is that when bringing together several ultra-influential members from disparate groups it appears difficult to gain a cohesive focus on the project at hand. Often, the members seem either too overbearing when all combined, or sometimes too passive. Either way, all the groups below have had some measure of success when combining their collective powers. Enjoy, and as always let us know what we overlooked, missed, or overstepped our bounds.
10. Wild Flag
The Members: Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney), Mary Timony (Helium), Rebecca Cole (The Minders)
LxL loves a good female led rock outfit, so why wouldn’t we love an exclusively female rock outfit? Taking a who’s who of 90’s female indie rockers turned out to be a boon on Wild Flag’s debut self-titled album in 2011. There isn’t much information yet on a follow-up project, but any news would leave us salivating.
The Members: Ian Williams (Don Caballero and Storm & Stress), Dave Konopka (Lynx), John Stanier (Helmet)
Formed in 2002, and releasing their full-length debut in 2007, Battles still didn’t grab my attention until their sophomore effort released last year, Gloss Drop. Their second album was a shining example of experimentation in a package that is not overwhelming, and was so well-respected it received an entire album of remixes, Dross Glop, featuring the likes of Hudson Mohawke and Shabazz Palaces.
The Members: Trey Anastasio (Phish), Les Claypool (Primus), Stuart Copeland (The Police)
Trey and Claypool? Okay, they seem to run in the same circles a bit. But Stuart Copeland? That was pretty weird. Oysterhead holds a special place in our hearts, because we endlessly played The Grand Pecking Order, their only album, endlessly in our early high school days. Still one of the strangest acts I’ve ever heard, but bless them for thinking outside the box.
7. The Raconteurs
The Members: Jack White (The White Stripes), Brendan Benson (solo work), Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes), Patrick Keeler (The Greenhornes)
The Raconteurs began an era where Jack White decided he wanted to share the spotlight with other artists, because let’s face it, there is no question that he was the star of The White Stripes. Sometimes this worked out, sometimes it was less successful, but all in all with the help of Brendan Benson and company, White was able over two albums to create some really good music with The Raconteurs.
6. Monsters of Folk
The Members: Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M. Ward (She & Him), Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes)
Maybe we like our Jim James a little more in full-on rock god mode, and maybe we like our Conor Oberst a little more full-on cutting himself mode. But, when their powers combined with the under-appreciated M. Ward, something pop-folky beautiful happened. Members-wise, I’m not sure you will see many sets of stronger catalogs combining to form an album on this entire list.
5. The Dead Weather
The Members: Jack White (The White Stripes), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age)
Jack White once again gave much creative control with The Dead Weather, this time to uber-babe rock goddess Alison Mosshart. The Dead Weather wanted to do one thing and one thing only: Rock everyone’s faces completely off. They managed to succeed on that front over the course of two albums, although I think we would all agree Horehound was the stronger of the two.
4. Derek & the Dominos
The Members: Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds), Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers Band), Bobby Whitlock (Delaney & Bonnie), Carl Radle (Delaney & Bonnie), Jim Gordon (Delaney & Bonnie)
The outfit that created the biggest hit of Eric Clapton’s formidable career, “Layla”, also featured Duane Allman contributing ample amounts of slide guitar throughout their one and only album. The members of Delaney & Bonnie were more “players” than “creators”, but they do a nice job filling out the band, and adding one more solid project to Clapton’s resume.
3. The Traveling Wilbury’s
The Members: Bob Dylan (solo), Roy Orbison (solo), George Harrison (The Beatles), Tom Petty (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra)
The Traveling Wilburys hands down have the strongest combined personal catalogs on this list. The only member who may not be considered a mainstream “legend” is Jeff Lynne, and believe me, he has plenty of big fans in the music community. Roy Orbison died before the second Wilburys album was released, making their first album the pinnacle of this project. Seeing this many legends together for an entire collaborative album is something I don’t expect to happen during my lifetime.
The Members: Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds), Ginger Baker (Graham Bond Organisation), Jack Bruce (Manfred Mann)
Coming off his work with The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton found his tonic with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce. Cream created some of the hardest hitting blues-infused hard rock and psychedelic rock of the middle-to-late 60’s, paving the way for the likes of Led Zeppelin and other blues-based rock groups. Cream’s work may not seem overly exciting to this day, but it had just as important an effect on popular music as many of the groups with much more fanfare.
1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The Members: David Crosby (The Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield), Graham Nash (The Hollies), Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield)
Not many groups can combine the musicianship, harmonization, and diversity of CSNY. While collaborative, you are also able to see each individuals clear mark on each song on their records, making the collective works a testament to four artists at the top of their creative powers. Neil Young is still much in the spotlight today, but not enough respect is given to the compositional skills of Stephen Stills and David Crosby today.
Todd – Fantomas
The Members: Mike Patton (Faith No More), Buzz Osborne (Melvins), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa)
I wasn’t overtly familiar with this project until Todd made it his pick and forced me to investigate. I hate metal music, but “Cape Fear” and some of their other work has a deeply cinematic feel, making it tolerable. Some of their other work though, is just more of the same metal trash: quick changes, fast drums, and guttural noises.
Wes – Snoop Lion
The Members: Snoop Dogg (solo), Bob Marley (Bob Marley & the Wailers), Jesus Christ (solo), Mufasa (solo)
Snoop Lion may appear to be only a solo artist, but he is really four individuals all in one. Think of it like the the holy triumvirate + 1. The greatest rapper, the greatest reggae artist, the greatest god, and the greatest Disney animal father all wrapped into one didn’t make the top ten only because the album hasn’t been released yet.
Austin – A Perfect Circle
The Members: Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan (Tool), Josh Freese (NIN), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson)
The big draw here was obviously Maynard, and A Perfect Circle seems to me like a more radio-friendly Tool. Not necessarily more radio-friendly because of sound or content, but because they keep the songs to a manageable length. Of all the hard-rock supergroups that have formed, I feel A Perfect circle has the most cohesive sound.
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general …