Sunday, October 3, 2010

Greatest LA Band of my lifetime?

My post from Monday had a line that made a few folks wonder - I said that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the best band Los Angeles has produced in my lifetime (since 1984). Outside of Guns N Roses, it's hard to argue against what the Chili Peppers have done to earn that.

Since their breakthrough album Mother's Milk in 1988, they've had a slew of hits and great albums while evolving from a punk/funk band to a rock band with solid melodies, brilliant songwriting and the ability to still keep it funky and raw. When their next album drops (soon I hope), it'll be one of the biggest rock albums of the year.

They're still relevant, their impact is rock solid and their legacy is still being written as one of the greatest bands of the last 30 years. Not to mention they're #1 on my must-see in concert list. But what about others who could make that argument for being LA's finest? For me, it all starts with Axl, Slash, and the boys.

Guns N' Roses had a six year run that rivals any band in music history. A sonic boom that paved the way for Metallica and Nirvana to kill the hair metal of the 80's and a rawness that captured the essence of the Sunset Strip back then.

Classic songs, a genre defining album, the powerful combo of Axl's voice, Slash's guitar and combustible creativity. Makes me wish Axl didn't blowtorch that legacy with his ego because had G'N'R lasted even 5-6 more years in that form, they wouldn't just be one of the greatest bands ever. They could arguably be the greatest band of the post-Led Zeppelin era.

Not a bad consolation to be cited as one of the greatest based on a perfect storm. But as we waited for Axl to drop Chinese Democracy, Slash and Co. made great music with Velvet Revolver and RHCP kept doing their thing. Greatness not denied, but never totally realized.

Fishbone came out around the same time as RHCP (even toured with them in 1988) and is the most underrated/underappreciated band of my lifetime. I didn't get into them until 2004-05 but once I did, it was easy to see why they don't get much love.

Their best albums ("Truth and Soul" and "Reality of My Surroundings") got them some moderate success but despite their ska/funk/punk/hard rock sound, the mainstream never fully came around to them. Those who saw them perform said they were the greatest live act they had seen. Even the ska revolution of the mid-90's didn't produce anymore fame.

By 1993, they lost guitarist Kendall Jones at their peak. Other members left and they continued to be a cult phenomenon. One day I hope to see them live and witness their genius. While they didn't get the full mainstream love (and were a victim of label politics), Fishbone had probably more influence on more bands in So.Cal than anybody. Just ask No Doubt or the Chili Peppers themselves.

(Edit: Somehow I forgot to mention this next band in my original post although they have my favorite guitarist and helped raise my awareness. What an IDIOT.)

Rage Against the Machine continued the legacy of The Clash, MC5 and Public Enemy as one of the only bands that mattered in the Clinton era (1993-2001) who didn't just rest on their laurels. They got angrier as they got older but they remained LA to their core - even naming their final original album Battle of Los Angeles.

Somehow they achieved more success than any political band in recent memory. In a time of prosperity, they stayed vigilant even on Saturday Night Live and at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. And sonically, they were just way too creative as Tom Morello made his guitar sound like anything and everything.

They got the hint. Music/message have to both be strong. But even though I like Zach and Co. and seeing them live in 2007 remains one of my highlights, I can't put them above RHCP thanks to their premature breakup. I would've loved for them to stay together during the Bush II Administration, especially in 2004. One of the 90's greatest bands and I'll always stay tuned to "Guerrilla Radio."

Jane's Addiction almost singlehandedly created the alternative rock scene. They're one of the most unique bands ever and I'm a big fan of Dave Navarro's playing - ironically I refuse to buy his only album with RHCP even though "My Friends" is a great song.

As great as their influence is and their songs are, their peak was almost shorter than Guns N Roses (3 years) and even though their song is in the intro of "Entourage," there's always a doubt that Jane's will ever stick around long enough to enjoy them. But their mark is set in stone.

Motley Crue? They ruled the 80's but let's be real. The only reason they're still relevant to most folks my age is because of Tommy Lee. I respect the Crue as legends and they're possibly the greatest hair-metal band but ask my peers to name a Crue song besides "Girls, Girls, Girls." Besides Tommy Lee's underrated drumming, they didn't musically add much to the game and their image trumped that.

No hate, just facts. In the same breath, you can argue N.W.A. was a band and deserves a role on this list. Unfortunately 3 albums means they're in the same breath as Jane's Addiction. They were the hip-hop Guns' N Roses and while their impact is untouchable, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube's solo work make you only wonder what they could've done if they weren't screwed over by money.

So there you have it. Oh wait a sec, what's this noise? My God! That could only mean one thing. I forgot about these guys!

Yep, Metallica started in LA. And they have everything the Chili Peppers have - longevity, impact, sales, hits, mainstream acceptance, relevance (thanks to their last album). Matter of fact, they and RHCP broke through (albums in 1988), changed the game (albums in 1991), went through an identity crisis in the mid-90's, came back with a force in 1999 (Californication and S&M) and still made an impact in the 2000's.

One of the greatest metal bands ever and among the greatest at their respective skills (James Hetfield - phenomenal voice, Kirk Hammett - Top 5 Guitarist of the last 30 years, Lars Ulrich - one of the greatest drummers ever and most versatile since he cowrites most of the band's lyrics).

You can't beat 5 straight No.1 albums. And even if I can't see them as an L.A. band like RHCP, they represent the best my city has to offer. So I guess the answer is a tie? Or a question for another blog.

By the way, the greatest band from LA period? These two trump everybody.


  1. Great piece homey. And you brought Metallica into the discussion. Well done.
    Given dates of origin & longevity, I'd give Metallica the edge over G&R. But def the Chili Peppers win out over all.

    Fishbone! So true about label politics. Plus their albums sound flat & boring compared to the live show. Had Rick Rubin produced them back in the day, the record would've been the best of the bunch.

  2. I agree. Metallica's got everything that the Chili Peppers have. Huge fan of them both but I'm going with the foursome who made me dream of Dani California.

    Rick Rubin + Fishbone? Man! That would've been a match made in heaven - One day, I'll see them live and realize what a crime it was they got robbed of mainstream love.