Music Collaborations We’d Like to See


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When I was about seven years old, I once asked my mother to buy me an action figure of Cliff Secord, the sky-flying hero from the 1991 box office flop, The Rocketeer. Terrified that I had abandoned my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, after I had spent over two years’ worth of allowance (AKA her money) on the countless series of figures, she basically replied, “Well, will the Rocketeer help out your Ninja Turtles?” The crossover idea never occurred to me at the time, but I quickly spun around with excited eyes and screamed back, “Mom, that’s a great idea!”

That’s the earliest memory I can think of in regards to a “collaboration,” which is pretty ridiculous given that I’m a child of the ’80s, and you couldn’t turn on Saturday morning cartoons without seeing some idiotic crossover PSA. But soon after that lightbulb moment, I couldn’t stop thinking about countless other crossover situations, and the ’90s only fueled that hunger. Robocop vs. Terminator? Freddy vs. Jason? Aliens vs. Predator? Hey, you could even toss in the NBA All-Star Games, too.

The idea of a collaboration in pop culture is exciting because it takes the best of two (or three, or four, or five, etc.) unique worlds and attempts to unify them into one powerful unit. It only works sparingly, though. Most of the time, a successful collaboration needs to be organic. Like all great relationships, it needs to feel right, it needs to feel good. That couldn’t speak any louder for collaborations in music.

With David Byrne and St. Vincent’s collaborative album, Love This Giant, on the horizon, Consequence of Sound opened up the dialogue on past successful collaborations, and then asked, “What about ones we’d like to see?” Just like a group of kids trading basketball cards and/or forming a plastic wasteland of assorted action figures, we came up with ten dynamite collaborations that we’d like to see. We tried to keep them as realistic as possible, too.

Perhaps you have some ideas, too. No?

-Michael Roffman

p.s. For those of you who also wished to see a Rocketeer/Ninja Turtles crossover, you have my condolences.

Paul Westerberg w/ Deer Tick

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One’s a recluse, the others can’t stay indoors. With Divine Providence, Deer Tick’s latest beer-stained LP, the Rhode Island outfit takes all the hearty, sweaty, and tenacious elements from The Replacements and rebrands it for a new generation — and some stragglers from years’ past, too. It’s okay, according to frontman John McCauley, former Replacement Paul Westerberg is a fan, having written Providence‘s secret track, “Mr. Cigarette”. If that’s true, however, why stop there?

Westerberg has no plans to tour, he’s released music chaotically over the past five years, and he’s without a real, legitimate backing band. Why wouldn’t he at least entertain the idea on collaborating with an outfit that suits him? What’s more, one that knows how to deliver the same trademark energy that he himself championed for over two decades. Admittedly, these days Westerberg likely prefers to stave off the reckless lifestyle Deer Tick revels in, but that doesn’t mean he can’t sling a guitar and cough out some lyrics in the studio or on stage — just book separate hotel rooms. Ha, could you imagine the look in McCauley’s eyes if all this came true? -Michael Roffman

David Lynch w/ Gemma Ray

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Anyone who’s heard Island Fire, the latest album by Berlin-based Englishwoman, Gemma Ray, would hardly be surprised by the notion of a collaboration with genius film-maker and occasional recording star, David Lynch. Much of the album’s surrealism plays like a soundtrack to a Lynch movie and Ray would not be out of place in the company of Lynchpins like the immortal Julee Cruise or more recently, Karen O. To add flavor to the appeal, Ray’s music is also a modern take on the fifties/early sixties genre so loved by Lynch.

Berlin would provide a fitting backdrop to a multi-media meeting of minds, taking Lynch way from well-trodden home turf to a new world of the art-driven bizarre. The city’s amalgam of grand buildings scarred from real and cold wars, and thrusting modern architecture provides a film set looking for a score. A plot involving a hostage scenario centred on Berlin’s famous Berghain night club, a missing consignment of vintage rainwear, an art-dealing dwarf fluent in Esperanto, and Ray cast as the Theremin wielding club singer is the minimum expectation. -Tony Hardy

Eric Clapton w/ The Black Keys

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The Black Keys are no strangers to out of the ordinary collaborations. Even with people’s mushy attention spans these days, most remember them teaming up with hip-hoppers like Raekwon on 2009’s Blakroc, and not too long ago, we were teased with a sequel that turned out to be for nought. With all the production work both Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been doing between Brothers, El Camino, and their endless touring itineraries, it’s kind of surprising we haven’t heard of more musical hook ups from their camp. We know they’re comfortable hanging with the likes of John Fogerty, who they brought onstage at Coachella to cover “The Weight” as a tribute to Levon Helm, or Dr. John, whose recent LP was produced by Auerbach, but there’s still room for more head-exploding jams from the transplanted Ohioans.

Eric Clapton is the type of blues rock luminary they need to coerce to Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville, stat. It’s not like “Slowhand”’s been doing much lately save for the odd, hit-filled co-headlining tour with fellow guitar deity Jeff Beck. Feel free to raise your hand if you disapprove of the idea of the three reimagining Cream-era classics like “White Room” or “Toad”. Yeah, I didn’t think so; I guess for now we’ll have to settle for the Black on Blues tribute album coming out in July, led by Iggy Pop covering “Lonely Boy” with, how about that, Clapton’s former supergroup drummer, Ginger Baker. -Gilles LeBlanc

Paul Simon w/ Laura Marling

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In her blossoming career so far, the closest UK songstress Laura Marling has come to Paul Simon was preceding him on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage in 2011. Yet a musical meeting of these two notable artists would be a natural development — there’s already some form. You can hardly listen to “Darkness Descends” from Marling’s stellar I Speak Because I Can without thinking of Simon; the flowing melody of the verses, shuffle percussion, lead guitar breaks, and its sharp lyrical observations would all find a natural home in a Paul Simon song.

Equally, Simon’s early work with Art Garfunkel embraced similar folk music forms that set Marling on the road to early stardom. Marling’s melismatic vocals would suit the rhythms of Simon’s jazzier leanings perfectly while harmonically you can imagine both voices meshing impeccably. To set this collaboration in motion, all we need is two guitars and a Winnebago. On a road trip across England to the West Country, Simon can revisit some of the inspiration from his brief English period before introducing Marling to some of his signature locations in America, naturally ending at Graceland. The resulting album would ideally be titled A Motorhome We Have Known. -Tony Hardy

Wu-Tang Clan w/ Odd Future

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What doesn’t make sense about this? By pitting together two of the genre’s most polarizing outfits, the result would just have to be something that bloggers might consider “wild”, “crazy”, or “meme-worthy.” It’s so simple of an idea, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two group’s respective PR teams have already had multiple lunch meetings to discuss the logistics. It just makes sense. One can’t spin Tyler or Earl’s material without hearing at least a faint whisper of Wu’s early work. It’s aggressive and affecting stuff, carrying an attitude that mirrors the foreboding tension off Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

So, why collaborate? If anything, Wu-Tang Clan could use some cohesive edge. Although critically-acclaimed, 2007’s 8 Diagrams still felt tangled, and the collective egos were so conflated that too many tracks lacked the heady punches. On the flip side, Odd Future have some notes to take, too. With a gig at Adult Swim and their identities less lore and moreover public information, it would behoove Tyler & Co. to wise up and listen to the “elders,” especially since so many of Wu’s members strolled down similar paths. (Does anyone remember 2001’s How High? Let’s just say, thank god for The Wire.) Now, it’s difficult imagining the two crews storming any studio or stage together, even just logistically speaking, but it’s an entertaining and downright frightening possibility, nonetheless. -Michael Roffman

Frank Black w/ Cloud Nothings

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The Albini connection. You don’t have to be a musical genius/scholar to hear the similarities between Attack on Memory and Surfer Rosa, both engineered by Steve Albini. Smothered drums with lead singers on the verge of causing irrevocable harm to their voices after each track. The victims/heroes in this case are Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi and the Pixies’ Frank Black (Black Francis), each representative of a movement in different eras. The late ’80s saw the Pixies bash their way through some genre called “alternative rock” while today’s Cloud Nothings attempt to keep it afloat.

Black recently produced an album by Pete Yorn, so why wouldn’t he want to work with someone who is, let’s be honest, more relevant on today’s Spotify playlists? Baldi and Co. could use an old war horse like Black to guide them through what will inevitably be a heavily-scrutinized follow-up to Attack. A following tour with Black would absolutely require a concert opener in the form of “No Future/No Past” with Black on lead vocals — no venue could withstand the crowd reception. Also, Black and Baldi teaming up on “Vamos” with the latter’s bandmates rollicking away is the stuff garage rockers dream of every night. -Justin Gerber

Neil Young w/ Kathleen Edwards

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I’ve always thought of Kathleen Edwards as the female Neil Young; prettier, younger, slimmer, but sharing a commonality of spirit and an eloquently humble view of the human condition. It’s a shoe-in that these fellow Canadians could work together. Edwards’ steely personality would be a match for Young’s excesses while you would pay top dollar to hear the master trading licks with her own ace guitar player, Gord Tough. To keep it familial, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon could bring his unique production touch to counter Young’s one-take tendency.

Vocally, Edwards employs a seemingly effortless delivery, imprinted with a very individual, almost masculine drawl that would work brilliantly beneath Neil Young’s forays into falsetto. Given Young’s preoccupation with the past and his recent excursion into American folk music along with Edwards’ penchant for Canadian travelogues, the pair could join forces to create a sprawling history of their home nation in song. Do we hear Canadiana? -Tony Hardy

Henry Rollins w/ Fucked Up

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On first thought, a collaboration between Ol’ Hank and the high-minded hardcore upstarts in Fucked Up is pretty much a no brainer. He spent five-plus years as the face of the almighty Black Flag, while the Toronto band is the closest thing there is to the Flag for a generation of fans who missed out on hardcore’s insurgent first wave. But beyond the sonic threads the two share, it’s a partnership that also works well aesthetically. Beneath his famously stoic, iron-clad exterior, Rollins has proven himself in recent years to be almost fearlessly intellectual, thought provoking, and, dare we say, pleasant at times.

These days you’ll more likely catch him musing hysterically during a one-man show than killing it in his trademark black gym shorts. And he’s got a kindred spirit (if he ever does choose to find one) in Fucked Up frontman Damien “Pink Eyes” Abraham, who beyond his gruff, imposing physique, and stage persona is equally charming, likable, and bitten with a similar intellectual curiosity. Both acts have a proven knack for compelling, smart guy hardcore polished off with a healthy dose of intensity, so this could and should work. -Ryan Bray

Peter Gabriel w/ Bon Iver

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This is bound to happen, isn’t it? After Peter Gabriel drenched Bon Iver’s “Flume” with strings for his Scratch My Back album, Justin Vernon returned the favor by Ivering up Gabriel’s “Come Talk to Me”. Each cover transformed into its own entity, though never lost the original artist’s intentions. With Bon Iver, Vernon proved he was able to step outside of his tortured-artist-from-real-or-hypothetical-cabin-in-woods persona and play around with other genres, much like Gabriel escaped his gimmick (excuse me, “performance artistry”) by dropping the costumes and playing around with African-influenced pop in the late ’80s. A combination between the two for an album would prove interesting, if not fascinating.

Gabriel’s been a busybody lately, touring all over with his New Blood Orchestra in support of his recent recordings. He has another tour planned celebrating the 25th anniversary of So, so it’s not as though he’s thinking about retirement. In the meantime, Bon Iver is still riding the wave of the reception received from their sophomore effort, so why not meet up with a living legend and keep things recording? Imagine the aged voice of Gabriel harmonizing with Vernon’s head voice over music ranging from piano-led to synth-driven, saxophones to full-on orchestras. Picture Gabriel going all Auto-Tune and Vernon screaming mercy. The respect is obviously there between the two, and a collaboration can only raise it to a higher level. – Justin Gerber

Jay-Z w/ Jack White

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While Jay-Z and Jack White represent two vastly differing sounds, the respective CEOs of Roc Nation and Third Man Records share some commonalities. They’re icons of their chosen genre, acting simultaneously as the measuring stick and point of inspiration for rockers and rappers the world over. Each man has an almost unnatural work ethic, perpetually building artistic empires that expand their influence far beyond the Billboard charts, and despite being at the top of each of their respective games, neither has lost sight of their soft-spoken roots despite vast swells of cash and adoring legions of fans.

With so much shared commonality, the pairs’ long-awaited collaboration would undoubtedly be a huge moment for rap and rock. But more than just being a song to be enjoyed by millions across the globe regardless of age, race, etc., their combined effort could conceivably fuel a new cultural renaissance. Like the pairing of Aerosmith and Run-DMC before them, the HOV/White collabo could usher in a new era for the rap-rock universe, opening the door for subsequent collaborative efforts by other duos and redefining just how rap and rock can be fused together into one ballsy blend. And if Beyoncé happened to be involved in their sonic venture, then that would be cool, too. -Chris Coplan