The Top 40 Most Underrated Guitarists in Rock Part 3
Okay, so now that you’ve read part 1, and part 2, we just have 15 of the most underrated guitarists in rock to go. If you want to own any of their material, just click ontheir album image to take you to Amazon.
Off we go:
While the guitarist from Joy Division and New Order isn’t a player of great technical skill, his rudimentary playing inspired countless other bands. With his sandpaper tone and great sense of melody he gave atmosphere and energy to songs like Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’ and ‘New Dawn Fades’ and New Order’s ‘Ceremony’.
*Bassist Peter Hook played in both bands as well, and his unusual style often took over as the lead soloing instrument,whereas Sumner anchored the rhythm parts. This gave them a truly original sound.
Vernon Reid gave Living Colour’s sound a heady mix of metal, progressive rock, jazz and soul, adding up to being one of the most versatile guitarists of the 80’s and 90’s. I love his use of synth guitar on ‘Nothingness” and his blending atonality and melody on ‘Auslander’, both off the album ‘Stain’.
13. Trey Spruance
Spruance competes with Reid for versatility. Not many guitarists can swing from ska to metal, carnival music and 70’s funk on one song, but Mr Bungle’s guitarist made it look easy. He also played some searing off-kilter riffs on Faith No More’s ‘King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime’ album.
*I need to mention that original FNM guitarist Jim Martin played great riffs on their earliest releases, most notably on ‘Angel Dust’.
12. Josh Homme
Homme was under the radar with his former band Kyuss, the progenitors of Stoner Rock. His guitar sound is huge due to it’s low tuning and he creates earth rumbling riffs interspersed with exotic solos. Now he fronts Queens Of The Stone Age and is getting more attention due to his side project ‘Them Crooked Vultures’, with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones.
2 of his best riffs are Kyuss’s ‘Green Machine’ off their ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ album, and QOTSA’s ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ from ‘Songs For The Deaf’.
11. Kevin Shields
The Dream Pop genre never made much of a dent in America; it got wiped off the map by the success of Grunge. But fore bearer Shield’s band My Bloody Valentine garnered them cult acclaim. His dizzying guitar tone was created by using the tremolo effect combined with eardrum shattering volume, a sound described as ‘glide guitar’. This inspired bands like Garbage and the Smashing Pumpkins (Corgan remains one of my favorite guitarists. You can check out my review of their new album here.)
MBV recently released a deluxe edition of their landmark album ‘Loveless’. My favorite track remains ‘Sometimes’ which has one of the best guitar tones ever recorded.
In all my years of reading guitar magazines, I’ve yet to see a piece on the Pixie’s lead guitar player, which seems crazy given how many artists he’s inspired, including Kurt Cobain. Complimenting solid riffs with truly oddball scales, bended notes and time signatures, Santiago gives Pixies songs a one of a kind sound. Two perfect examples; My Velouria off ‘Bossanova’ and ‘Planet of Sound’ from ‘Trompe Le Monde’.
9. Bernard Butler
Butler’s guitar playing with former band Suede is nothing short of amazing. His Glam rock style is intricate and emotive, all with a smooth sense of style and flash. Check out ‘The Glamorous Life’ for a prime example.
8. Billy Duffy
Because he’s from the Cult (one of my favorite bands), and because he’s Billy Goddamn Duffy. His combination of goth, punk, blues and classic rock stylings gave the Cult a genre spanning sound that still sounds distinctive. I won’t go into anymore detail, as I’ve written 2 reviews recently; one for their SXSW concert and another for their new album ‘Choice Of Weapon‘. His riffs on ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and ‘Wildflower’ still get the blood moving.
7. John Christ
Like Duffy, Danzig guitarist Christ is a blues metal badass. He gave demonic riffs and blistering leads on tracks like ‘Snakes Of Christ’, ‘Brand New God’ and their biggest hit ‘Mother’. Overshadowed by his cranky front man, Christ left after their 4th album and Danzig has gone through many players since (one of which you’ll be hearing about shortly), but he will always be seen as their preeminent axe-slinger and rightly so.
Guthrie’s work in the Cocteau Twins sounds less like a guitar and more like some type of musical instrument from another planet. His use of various effects pedals give his sound an ethereal, cloudy quality, almost sounding like a keyboard in many respects. Check out his work on ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, the title track from their 1990 album.
5. Geordie Walker
Walker is the guitarist from Killing Joke; a band that has influenced many bands in alternative rock and metal (check out my review of their latest album here). Using his Gibson hollow-body guitar with just a hint of delay and chorus, his tone sounds like a massive chainsaw at his heaviest, and bell-like at its most atmospheric. His endurance is also impressive as the band’s songs run long and heavy, putting listeners in a hypnotic head banging trance. Check out ‘Eighties’ the riff that inspired Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Asteroid’ which has one of the heaviest riffs ever.
4. Marty Wilson-Piper and Peter Koppes
The Church are primarily known for their hit ‘Under The Milky Way’ and they’ve been forgotten about by the world at large which is criminal. Their twin guitar approach is hypnotic and languid, comforting and cold, and mesmerizing. Check out their guitar magic on ‘Lost’ from the amazing album ‘Starfish’.
3. Marc Bolan
Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page get most of the credit for laying the template for heavy rock riffs, but Bolan did his fair share even if he was more tongue in cheek and not heavy-handed lyrically. His glam rock gems ’20th Century Boy’, ‘Bang A Gong (Get It On)’, and ‘Buick McKane’ have been covered by many a band (G’N’R, Danzig, and Siouxie and The Banshees are just a few examples) for good reason; they’re solid, catchy and powerful (and fun as hell to play guitar to).
Ash has been a constantly inventive guitarist, from his early works with Bauhaus and Tones on Tail to his other group Love and Rockets. His tinny, static radio tone and use of E-bow and delay gave his songs a spectral, cinematic and trippy style that straddled the lines between goth, glam and psychedelia. His creepy tape-delayed guitar work on ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ remains one of his most memorable, but I also love his acoustic work on songs like ‘Rainbird’ and the snarling dance track ‘The Mirror People’.
1. Tommy Victor
Prong guitarist, singer and songwriter, Tommy Victor deserves far more credit than he’s due; everyone from NIN, Marilyn Manson, Pantera and White Zombie have admitted to his influence and that’s just to name a few. His mix of thrash, groove and industrial is a wicked combination, as evident on whiplash inducing tunes like ‘You Snap Your Fingers You Snap Your Neck’ and ‘Unfortunately’. Their newest release is the excellent ‘Carved Into Stone’ which I recently reviewed, (check it out to get more insight on why Victor rules). In between Prong duties he tours and records with Danzig and Ministry, putting his personal stamp on their material. And click here to read my exclusive interview with Tommy Victor!
So that’s it! My Top 40 most Underrated Guitarists. What’re yours? Feel free to sound off in the comment section below.