In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in celebration of the new Black Keys record, our favorite songs by duos.
When posed with the question of highlighting a single duo my gut reaction was to write about Michigan by-way-of New Jersey’s Dads. “Shit Twins,” the band’s epic anchor to its debut full-length, is one of the most soul-crushing break-up songs out there, full of poetic turns of phrase and face-slapping reality. Yet, as much as I have affection for Dads it would feel almost sacrilegious to not discuss Iron Lung, the monstrous duo that has been pushing the limits of heavy music for the past 15 years.
Having existed since the late ’90s, Iron Lung has undergone a whole bunch of geographic moves (the band started in Reno, but guitarist Jon Kortland currently lives in San Francisco and vocalist-drummer Jensen Ward is in Seattle), and that cultural diffusion has proven to be the one of the band’s strongest assets. On last year’s White Glove Test, Iron Lung upped the ante, crafting a 20-song album of its powerviolence-leaning material and an accompanying noise album. When isolated from one another the two halves of White Glove Test tell alternating stories, one of suffocating brutality and another of wide-open unease. When merged White Glove Test sees the clanking noise record fall perfectly in sequence with its ravaging companion, culminating in the most unique pieces of hardcore, metal, or whatever the fuck sub-genre Iron Lung happens to fall into for the split second it stays there.
Picking a single track from White Glove Test removes much of the album’s scope, but even with the 20-second track “Pain Directive” that opens the album, Iron Lung proves it can hit as many points as its contemporaries do but in a fraction of the time. Iron Lung may never be a household name–due in large part to its alienating style–but it remains one of the heaviest, tightest, and most ambitious duos going, even if it’ll often be dismissed purely for being deemed “powerviolence.”