Genre-Hopping Virtuoso Bands
September 25, 2021 11:12 AM   Subscribe

What are some bands/musicians that perform in a wide variety of genres and sound good doing all of them?

Just to prime the pump, a few examples that I already know and love are Charming Hostess, Japonize Elephants, Frank Zappa, Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Immigrant Suns, They Might Be Giants, and Estradasphere. (These artists are pretty different from each other; this is a question with a pretty wide scope!)
posted by aws17576 to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard
posted by ferdydurke at 11:28 AM on September 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

On Cafe Tacuba's album Re, every song is in a different genre. (Disco, heavy metal, norteña, bolero...)
posted by umber vowel at 11:44 AM on September 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ween immediately comes to mind for me.

Also, Flight of the Conchords.
posted by Leontine at 12:01 PM on September 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

For me, Richard Youngs, absolutely.
posted by RGD at 12:08 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Los Angeles based hardcore band The Bronx have also been recording and releasing mariachi music under the name Mariachi El Bronx, with both bands operating more or less in parallel, for like 12 years now.
posted by Superilla at 12:09 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Phish. This is kind of their whole thing. Sometimes several genres in the same song. Rock, jazz, blues, classical, prog-rock, bluegrass, country, electronica, Jewish folk songs, punk, metal, even hints of hip hop in one or two songs. You name it, they do it. It's less "that was a jazz song and now we're gonna do a country song" and more of "this is sort of a bluegrass song except not really and, oh yeah, there's a klezmer jam in the middle of it." Usually in their own way and that way doesn't always have universal appeal, but they do it and they're really good at it. All four of them are schooled in just about any type of music you can imagine.
posted by bondcliff at 12:20 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mike Patton (Faith No More and Mr. Bungle are the tip of the iceberg.)
posted by kapers at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2021 [8 favorites]

Many of Dylan's backing bands have been capable of playing in quite a few varieties of styles.
posted by Candleman at 12:32 PM on September 25, 2021

Yo La Tengo
posted by niicholas at 12:35 PM on September 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

Back in the '60s, The Turtles' record company was like 'Hey, when are you gonna do another song like 'Happy Together'?'

And then they were like, 'Here's a concept album where we pretend to be twelve different bands playing twelve different genres, including a Beach Boys pastiche and 'I'm Chief Kamanawanalea (We're the Royal Macadamia Nuts)'.'

Three of them would go on to be in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.
posted by box at 12:43 PM on September 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

New Orleans musician Aurora Nealand is an excellent example of this kind of genre-code-switching. She plays straight up trad jazz, improvises on clarinet to buster keaton slapstick silent films with ragtime/new orleans-style piano player Tom McDermott. Then she also sings and plays accordion at the Contemporary Arts Center in a Laura Anderson meets True Stories era David Byrne conceptual art pop show. Then, she also has some Hedwig meets postpunk thing as well. And when she warmed up for Animal Collective, she pulled off the most amazing 8-minute solo looper piece that made the rest of the night pale in comparison. Everything she does she does with authority and joy.
posted by umbú at 1:41 PM on September 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ween. Absolutely, Ween.
posted by Vek at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2021 [9 favorites]

Loudhailer Electric Company they hail from Hull. They seem incredibly diverse, always-changing.

They also do some amazing harpsichord. Also involved in public-space events, and they blog, which is how I found them
posted by unearthed at 2:04 PM on September 25, 2021

I don't know how the Beatles haven't come up already.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2021 [6 favorites]

Haroumi Hosono for fucking sure.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:45 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

David Byrne
posted by nukacherry at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by Uncle at 4:18 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard pretty much choose a new genre for each album (and there are well over a dozen so far).
posted by dfan at 4:40 PM on September 25, 2021

Thirding Ween. It was actually the band that got me into a lot of genres I wouldn't have necessarily. They're often seen as sophomoric and dumb humor (which is absolutely true) but can be very touching and honest in a way. Chocolate and Cheese is all over the place. Golden Country Hits is actually old school country but done well. Mollusk is prog but accessable prog. It's all different but somehow still Ween.
posted by downtohisturtles at 5:27 PM on September 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Daniel Romano. Attack in Black was a great punk and indie rockish band. Then earlier solo albums (starting with Sleep Beneath The Willow) evoked a kind of classic 70s-era George Jones country. Then Modern Pressure went in a .. psychedelic pop direction. Or something. Oh, and then he put out ten albums in 2020...
posted by Lorin at 5:36 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know how the Beatles haven't come up already.
posted by Ursula Hitler

Right? I mean, especially The White Album
posted by QuakerMel at 5:51 PM on September 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ry Cooder. I think people hear his name and think oh, slide guitar guy.. But he draws from so many different traditions. Then there's film scores, the production of Buena Vista Social Club (which he also played on in parts,) collaborations with Ali Farka Toure, Vishwa Mohann Bhatt, The Chieftains, Flaco Jimenez and on and on.
posted by Lorin at 5:54 PM on September 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

Kinda old, but this was Ozomatli and Manu Chao’s bread and butter in the late 90s/early 2000s.
posted by lunasol at 5:56 PM on September 25, 2021

Weird Al and his incredible band. I know it's sort a genre unto itself, but still... They have tremendous chops.

The kind of contemporary and incredible class of jazz/hip-hop/R&B/rock solo/session musicians in the vein of Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and Terrace Martin.

Jack White? The White Stripes, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and his solo stuff are all "rock," but he clearly has some variety as well as plenty of country and folk influence and output.

I would also say that Post Malone's records are all kind of along the same lines, but he's also done completely earnest covers of Hootie and the Blowfish, Nirvana, Brad Paisley, and Sturgill Simpson. Sturgill, btw, might have a spot on this list, too.
posted by papayaninja at 6:29 PM on September 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Bad Brains played both (Washington D.C.-style) hardcore punk, and reggae.
posted by bertran at 7:25 PM on September 25, 2021

Yo Yo Ma!
posted by calgirl at 7:39 PM on September 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Came here to suggest Weird Al's band, but let's not forget their forebears: Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Parody acts like this one, by nature, have to master many genres, but Spike's band in particular was comprised of nothing but vituosi. Unbelievable musical chops.
posted by Dr. Wu at 7:47 PM on September 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

Depending on when you catch them, they're called The Oh Sees, Thee Oh Sees, Osees, or Oh Sees. Their window isn't all-encompassing, for sure, but if you're looking for any different type of rock from garage to psychedelia to sort-of-punk, they're your band.
posted by pdb at 12:03 AM on September 26, 2021

Scott Bradley, both by himself on the piano, and especially with the various constellations of Postmodern Jukebox.
posted by meijusa at 3:21 AM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bill Laswell comes to mind - he's done everything from R&B/Disco to experimental noise music, jazz, dub, ambient, funk, electronic... worked with Whitney Houston, Herbie Hancock, Buckethead, Jah Wobble, Bernie Worrell, Pharoah Sanders, Afrika Bambaataa, John Lydon... it's a long, long list.

XTC started out as a kind of Devo-ish New Wave band and did really angular synth-pop ("This is Pop"), evolved into a more accessible New Wave sound with stuff like "Making Plans for Nigel," and then post-punk with Black Sea and pretty much pure pop around English Settlement with "Senses Working Overtime."

By Skylarking they pretty much went full-on psychedelic and embraced the 60s revival sound with their alter-ego band Dukes of Stratosphere ("Vanishing Girl," "You're My Drug").

They pretty much mined that sound the rest of their careers, from Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch ("Chalkhills and Children," and a lot of jangle pop thrown in ("The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead").

Does genre-bending / mash-up count? Because I'd nominate Dread Zeppelin if so. For folks not familiar with them, they started performing Led Zeppelin / Elvis Presley mash-ups with a reggae style thrown in. Initially I kind of wrote them off as a gag band, but a friend talked me into seeing them live at a tiny venue somewhere around 2013 or 2014. They are absolutely amazing live, and blend genres seamlessly and are entertaining to boot.

Bill Rieflin was a drummer who worked with Ministry, Lard, R.E.M., King Crimson, Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3, and... Taylor Swift. He also did keyboards, bass, production and other instruments.

Danny Elfman also comes to mind. Oingo Boingo was a blend of New Wave, Ska, pop, alternative, darkwave, and more. His latest solo album is filed under Industrial Metal, and then there's his soundtrack work that spans all kinds of genres.

Also shout-out to Anne Dudley, who was part of Art of Noise and has had a huge career doing session work, works for orchestra and film scores.
posted by jzb at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned him yet but: Prince! His run from Dirty Mind to Sign O' the Times covers a lot of genres, often several in any given album (the latter album has probably the most markedly diverse array of sounds if you're looking for a place to start). If you use one of the streaming services, special editions of 1999, Purple Rain and SotT have come out since his death with a huge glut of b-sides and unreleased gems that cover the gamut of genres.
posted by misscleo3861 at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

Tori Amos’s music has been quite all over the place and is often phenomenal, particularly her stuff from the 90s and things she’s released since 2010.
posted by wondermouse at 8:21 AM on September 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Danny Elfman has also composed a piece for contemporary classical percussion quartet Third Coast Percussion.
posted by matildaben at 3:13 PM on September 26, 2021

Okay sure it's comedy, but Spinal Tap performs folk music as its own opening act, The Folksmen. Both bands write genuinely catchy songs!
posted by Threeve at 7:51 PM on September 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fishbone has mixed ska, punk, soul, sort of metal, rock, maybe even jazz?

The Police don't seem varied enough for the question, but they too were ska/rock/punk and of course pop.
posted by troywestfield at 9:07 AM on September 30, 2021

Sault and the collective around it keeps pouring out brilliant albums every few months, equally skilled at stark post-punk, warm r'n'b, political afropop bombs, and whatever else they need to do to make a funky portrait of modern chaos. Amazingly cohesive albums, considering how much ground they cover.
posted by bendybendy at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2021

posted by eileen at 7:16 PM on September 30, 2021

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