Six Side Projects That Don't Completely Suck

Because, let’s be fair, a lot of them do…

Musical side projects can be funny things. Member A from Group B can get together with Mate C to create something best left in row Z. (Does that make any sense? It all went a bit Sesame Street for a second, there.) That’s a pretty regular manifestation of the side project – a collision between parties that does little to further the cause of either.

Some bands use side projects to indulge themselves in ways that their better-known ‘brand’ won’t easily allow. Weezer has performed as Goat Punishment on and off (but mostly off) since 1998, appearing in small venues to play sets comprised of Oasis and Nirvana covers. One might even consider the globe-conquering Foo Fighters as a side project, given Dave Grohl was beavering away at then-solo material while Nirvana was an active concern. The Breeders began as a side project, and blossomed into something really rather wonderful.

There are outstanding examples out there: who doesn’t have time for GorillazFever Ray, Thee Silver Mt Zion or The Postal Service? All are fine acts where someone you knew from somewhere else delivers material that’s both standalone and complementary compared to their ‘day job’. But then there’s Alter Bridge. And The Last Shadow Puppets. And, oh god, SuperHeavy. Shudder.

Here, apropos of not very much at all (apart from what we’ll make clear, imminently), we’ve highlighted six pretty special side projects that don’t fall into the suck category, missing that fate by some margin.

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Crosses (†††)

The inspiration for this little feature, Crosses (we can’t be doing with the symbols all the time, sorry guys) is the coming together of Deftones’ Chino Moreno with Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and producer Chuck Doom. A concern since 2011, the trio released its eponymous debut album in February 2014. And it was pretty decent, you know, melding well the electronic elements that Moreno was keen to explore outside of the more-metal-minded Deftones with a strong melodic immediacy. Dark, but not suffocatingly so, it’s like The Cure brought snap up to date. We reviewed the album here, and you can check out ‘Bitches Brew’ below.

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Moderat

With such love for Modeselektor – aka Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary – and Sascha Ring’s Apparat project already established at Clash prior to this trio’s coming together as Moderat, it was inevitable that we’d be moved by their collaborative recordings. And so it certainly proved – their eponymous 2009 debut went down a treat, and last year’s ‘II’ collection (review) came in at eight on our best albums of 2013. A very warm-feeling electronic experience, Moderat’s music mightn’t push for the boundaries of its genre’s possibility space, but it delivers what any great music should: memorable moments to soundtrack anyone’s daily adventures.

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Run The Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P will tell you that Run The Jewels is very much a group ‘proper’ – “We’re a real rap group… I wanna make the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of a group,” Mike told us last year – but with both the Atlanta rapper and New York producer/MC having delivered so much fine material prior to this union, it’s easy enough for us to put them in the side project category (for the time being, at least). A second RTJ album, on the cards, will solidify the duo’s band credentials, but for now the music they’ve made on an eponymous debut LP – electrified rhymes and spiked beats, as cutting edge as a fresh razor and with biting rhetoric to spare – is both an arresting aside from and a perfect partner of each artist’s own solo repertoire.

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Stardust

Sometimes all it takes is one song. Just one song, and a legend is born. This unique partnership between Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, house artist and Kris Menace collaborator Alan Braxe, and vocalist Benjamin Diamond happened in 1998, with the trio releasing the single ‘Music Sounds Better With You’. Today, it’s regarded as one of the best-selling house tracks of all time, if not the best-selling track. Bangalter was offered millions to further the Stardust catalogue, to craft a debut album – but he switched his attention back to Daft Punk, crystallising this unison as a true one-off, and one of the best in its field. The song’s memorable Michel Gondry-directed video is below.

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Grinderman

This foursome’s initial moniker, Mini Seeds, never would have done justice to the heaviness of the material this outfit produced. Although, said name makes some sense given that Grinderman is, essentially, a streamlined version of The Bad Seeds, featuring Nick Cave (obviously), Warren Ellis, Martyn P Casey and Jim Sclavunos. A raw, raunchy and rampant beast, baring teeth bloodied and screaming murder, Grinderman boiled its members’ creative juices – 2007’s eponymous debut album possesses an energy that undoubtedly influenced the next Bad Seeds album, 2008’s boisterous ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’. A second LP, ‘Grinderman 2’ (fronted by the single ‘Heathen Child’, any excuse to post the bananas video below), came out in 2010, followed by a remix collection, but a brief 2013 live comeback aside, all has been quiet on the Grinderman front for a while.

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VCMG

Some partnerships can’t be dulled by time’s passing, and when Depeche Mode member Martin L Gore got together with Erasure’s Vince Clark – himself a founder of Depeche Mode, and later of Yazoo – the 2011 connection as VCMG both sparked nostalgia and cultivated some terrifically new sounds for the pair. An album, ‘Ssss’ (like the hiss of a snake), came out in March 2012 to a great reception, the band’s propulsive techno a flashback to stateside electronica’s evolutionary stages of the ‘80s and also entirely at one with the present. Which isn’t always what happens when a couple of 50-somethings collaborate.

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And your own favourite side projects are…? Atoms For Peace? The Dead Weather? M/A/R/R/S? Let us know through Twitter.

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