BBC's Guitarist List is Dumb, Here is a Better One: Part 2

My response to BBC 6's list was about the same as CJ's, more or less. "Really? Jack White? Slash?! Peter Buck?!? Fucking really?" Lowest common denominator popularity contests riddled with cliched, derivative and overrated artists have given the mainstream music press in general and the British press in particular a bad name, but this list was so craptastic I expected to see Rolling Stone's name affixed to it.

Anyway, I take no issue with CJ's well-considered alternative to BBC 6's pile of shit--all his guitarists are worthy picks, even if Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman's lead guitarwork continues to annoy the hell out of me, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has been off in spinning shithead land with Mars Volta since Frances The Mute. What can I say, I'm impossible to please.

Also, you named only one Kyuss song. That is a crime.

But a list of ten is bound to leave some important ones out (however obscure they are) and I figured I'd drop in a few more names, duos included, because they're just too good to go unmentioned. To wit:

Marc Ribot

From undiluted free jazz to lyrical Latin stylings and No-Wave outbursts, few guitarists can boast the diversity of NYC musician Marc Ribot. Along with his own astounding solo work, his mile-long credentials as a session guitarist feature playing alongside legends such as Tom Waits (his first appearance was 1985's classic Rain Dogs), Elvis Costello, John Zorn, McCoy Tyner, Jim Thirwell, T-Bone Burnett and countless others. His cosmopolitan tastes, boundless imagination on the fretboard and tightly honed precision (despite being a southpaw playing guitar right-handed) have stolen the show on pretty much anything he takes part in, but without being a preening egotist or boring technician. Ribot's primary talent is a mature virtuosity that shines regardless of what setting you put him in.

Favorite performance: "Hoist That Rag"

Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman, Shellac)

Indie/DIY curmudgeon, analog extraordinaire and all-around badass, Steve Albini has another widely overlooked talent--guitarist. You'd have to look long and hard for another musician that can pull off Albini's brutal-as-fuck sound, which sounds less like a guitar and more like sheets of steel being scraped together in front of a bullhorn. His confrontational, amp-destroying performances set high standards for underground rock as Grand Guignol back in the '80s, and years of supervising other successful artists behind the mixing boards has not diluted his abrasive originality one bit.

Favorite performance: "Ready Men"

Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets, Eyes Adrift)

Compressing strains of psychedelia, punk and country into an unpretentious, vivid and endearingly disjointed showcase, Curt Kirkwood was an indie guitar hero in a genre that generally shunned that kind of ability. His early work with the cowpunk trailblazers the Meat Puppets was widely emulated and idolized by many underground artists (including one Mr. Cobain), and resulted in the development of modern alt-country. Despite two decades of tightening the shaky vocals and cleaning up the lo-fi sound, Kirkwood's chops remain formidable to this day.

Favorite performance: "Plateau"

Thurston Moore & Lee Renaldo (Sonic Youth)

Watching the duo of Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo gradually mature from alienated No-Wave alumni into elder statesmen of DIY rock has been a fascinating journey, equally as fascinating as their continually evolving technique. The unearthly sounds they manage to cajole, wring, pummel and torture out of their unconventionally tuned guitars are unrivalled in rock, and their level of interplay and ability to sculpt even the most subtle of tonalities out of sheets of noise flatly owns any wanktastic Berklee grad you'd care to name. While their singing chops leave much to be desired, Moore and Renaldo are up there with Hendrix in revealing the potential of the electric guitar.

Favorite performance: "(I've Got A) Catholic Block"

Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah, Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects)

Since Allan Holdsworth is not eligible for this list (anyone reading this, look him up posthaste) I'm going to have to "settle" for mighty Swede Fredrik Thordendal, who appropriates elements of Holdworth's utterly insane jazz/fusion technique and turns it into viciously heavy cyborg metal. Employing the full use of his custom 8-string with unique mathematical riffing that has helped make Meshuggah a household name among metalheads and wildly imaginative, alien solos that melt the faces of all listeners within earshot, Thordendal brings a new level of intelligent virtuosity to 21st century extreme metal.

Favorite performance: "Stengah"

Dr Know (Bad Brains)

Hardcore punk's original guitar hero was one of its most unlikely contributors--a black Rastafarian and former jazz/fusion musician hailing originally out of D.C., Dr Know brought truly blistering, breakneck riffs and proper quasi-metal guitar solos (!) to the minimalist boundaries of punk rock, influencing countless other bands in the process. The fact that he could pull a seamless 180 and follow the maelstrom with authentic, chilled dub/reggae without losing an ounce of proficiency made him one of the most original guitarists of the '80s. Even Joe Strummer and Mick Jones would've given a kidney to play like Dr Know.

Favorite performance: "Don't Need It" (1982 version)

Stevie Ray Vaughn

SRV is quite possibly one of the most heralded musicians of all time, and for good fucking reason. Since Hendrix, simply no one has managed the same level of crossover appeal--if you like blues, rockabilly and/or rock, you like Vaughn. His appreciation for classic blues and R &B performers such as Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Elmore James and Stevie Wonder along with his stupendous string-bending and excellent feel for a genre generally only vaguely understood by white people brought 12-bar blues back into mainstream vogue in an otherwise depressingly overproduced decade. In addition, his cover of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" rivals the Olympian heights of the original. Find another guitarist from the last 30 years you can say that about. I'm waiting.

Favorite performance: "Texas Flood"

Page Hamilton (Helmet)

No Page Hamilton means no Korn, no Sevendust, no Limp Biz... ok, I'll stop before you start throwing rocks at the poor guy. But truthfully, all those shitty nu-metal poseurs couldn't hold a single candle to Hamilton's taut, thundering drop-D riffing and screeching solos. With years of jazz training and tutelage with Glenn Branca under Hamilton's belt, his band Helmet excised all of metal and hXc's usual bullshit for a punishing, straight-up display of determined minimalism. Musicians, take note--music is just as much about what you don't play as what you do.

Favorite performance: "In The Meantime"

Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)

Despite the claims of how grunge was a Gen-X rejection of increasingly moldy classic rock trappings, many of the '90s best rock bands were all about repackaging Sabbath, Who and Zeppelin riffs in a newer, edgier wrapper. And underrated Kim Thayil, always sitting in the shadow of frontman Chris Cornell was among the best of the revivalists, regularly coming up with Eastern-tinged, razor edged, and gloomily grinding riffs that probably made Iommi sit up and take notice (in a good way, not in a "Call my fucking lawyer!" sort of way). Along with Jerry Cantrell, Thayil deserves kudos as one of the few genuinely excellent guitarists of mainstream Seattle-era rock.

Favorite performance: "Holy Water"

Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine)

The mopey and meticulous God-Emperor of the shoegaze genre, Kevin Shields' studio wizardry is matched by his incredible skill with a guitar. Basing his style less on pure technique and more on walls of atom-smashing LOUD but enveloping and welcoming layered textures, no one can engulf you in a cocoon of warm sonic goodness like this guy. Now that shoegaze's gauzy, voice-as-instrument (aren't we all tired of that fucking phrase yet?) aesthetic is being co-opted for use in every genre under the Sun from the sunniest of indie pop to the grimmest of underground black metal, it's high time that Shields got his due in the mainstream. In the meantime, All of Us Who Know (TM) can curl up with our copies of Loveless and drop out.

My favorite performance: "What You Want"

Runners Up:

Agata (Melt Banana)
Doug Martsch (Built to Spill)
Adrian Belew (King Crimson)
Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard)
D Boon (The Minutemen)
Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar)
J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)
Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth, Bloodbath)
Mike Banfield & Ian Williams (Don Caballero)
Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Project)
Greg Sage (The Wipers)
Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O))), Burning Witch, Khanate)
Kurt Ballou (Converge)
Ian McKaye & Guy Picciotto (Fugazi)
Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers)
Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu)
Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity, Down)



  1. i just found this post by accident. i may want to marry you. just sayin'.

  2. Fucking yes! Dr. Know, Bob Mould, and SRV are 3 gods on guitar!