Top 15 Afro-Punks
Thu Aug 18 2011
6. Living Colour
So what if spandex onesies or the door-knocker left-ear earrings didn't hold up—Living Colour's brand of funk metal still sounds urgent. Born out of the Black Rock Coalition, a group founded by ax player Vernon Reid, this New York outfit got the attention of Mick Jagger in the mid-'80s, and the rest is history. The band released its classic debut, Vivid, in '88, and its Grammy-winning sophomore album, Times Up, in '90. After paving the way for commercially viable and socially conscious heavy black rock bands, LC went on a bit of a hiatus over differing creative directions and so members could concentrate on solo projects. In 2009, Living Colour released the critically acclaimed The Chair in the Doorway, which proved that Corey Glover hasn't lost his ability to drop from a sweet croon to a guttural bellow, and that Reid can still sprint up and down the fretboard.
5. TV on the Radio
Don't be fooled by this year's stellar but sleepy Nine Types of Light; TVOTR are a band that was bred on the dissonant sounds of New York's No Wave scene and the political earnestness of '80s hardcore bands. The power-chord blitzkrieg of TVOTR's 2006 hit "Wolf Like Me" sounds like a warped Ramones LP playing at 45 instead of 33. And even when they aren't blowing out their speakers, Tunde, Kyp and the gang maintain their punk spirit by refusing to limit their creative scope. Like the Clash at the height of its powers, TVOTR is brave enough to try anything from Michael Jackson--inspired funk on 2008's "Golden Age" to a zany a cappella doo-wop cover of the Pixies "Mr. Grieves."
4. Grace Jones
Although the Jamaican-born artist and muse never sang over distorted three-chord rock, her defiant sexual and political perspectives and her groundbreaking visual art have made her a pivotal touchstone of punk attitude. As a singer, she put a New Wave spin on punk classics like the Pretenders' "Private Life" and Iggy Pop and David Bowie's "Nightclubbing" on her 1980 album Warm Leatherette. She also served as the subject of one of Andy Warhol's last great portraits. And Jones blew people away with the reimagined androgynous aesthetic she developed with artist Jean-Paul Goude, which challenged conventions of race and gender. Always a bastion of the avant-garde, her contributions have permanently broadened the creative scope of musicians in popular culture. One needs only to look at the grotesque yet elegant theatrics of artists like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife to see Jones's towering influence.