The 15 Greatest Iowa Bands Of All-Time

Yesterday, I posted my “15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands Of All Time” list.  Today, I’d like to go back to my roots: Iowa.

I grew up in the Hawkeye State.  And although I love it like a little brother, I also reserve the right to make fun of it like a little brother.  BUT ONLY I CAN!!!  Not even other Iowans get to make fun of Iowa, just me!  Don’t tell me it’s boring to drive through.  Iowa didn’t ask you to visit.  What did you expect on the highway?  Ferris wheels?  The Lollipop Guild?  Here’s the trick to driving through Iowa: Expect nothing, and you’ll never be disappointed.

Anyway, regardless of what people think, there is a long and rich history of music coming from Iowa.  You probably just didn’t know.  Sit back, and prepare to be wowed:

15) House Of Large Sizes – House of Large Sizes is Iowa’s Yo La Tengo.  They’re an indie rock band that’s been around for decades, everybody respects them and nobody listens to them on purpose.

14) Modern Life Is War – MLIW is undoubtedly, without question, 100% the coolest thing to ever come out of Marshalltown, IA.  The second place award goes to a homeless person that fell out of one of their 500,000 trains.

13) Slipknot – Slipknot increased our list of famous people by 75% just by existing.  There’s nine of them!  Iowans are required by law to like Slipknot, even if they hate their music.  This rule also applies to the Field of Dreams movie, Radar O’Reilly from MASH and meth.

12) Ummm….hmmmmm.  Okay, what’s the next one?  Oof…this is kind of embarrassing.  Bands from Iowa…bands from Iowa.  Buddy Holly died here!  So did Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.  But that was all together.  Did I mention that Captain Kirk’s character is supposed to be from Iowa?

11) Oh shit!  Greg Brown!  I forgot about Greg Brown.  I don’t know any of his music but he seems cool.

And there you have it!  The greatest Iowa bands of ALL TIME!!!

Council Bluffs Rock City!  Photo from

Council Bluffs Rock City! Photo from

The 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time

"Why don't you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?"

“Why don’t you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?” Photo from

First thing’s first: I can’t include Bob Dylan in this list.  Yes, he was born in Duluth, MN, and grew up in Hibbing.  Yes, he spent a year or two putzing around Dinkytown (the “bohemian”/college campus part of Minneapolis), but everybody knows he really cut his teeth and became the fuzzy-headed, Mad-lib lyrics legend that he is in New York City.  So here’s the deal:  I won’t include Bob Dylan in my “The 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time” list, but that means I get to pretend like Semisonic never existed.  Deal?  Okay.

Now, there’s a lot of great/interesting/important bands that didn’t make my list, like Halo Of Flies, Har Mar Superstar, Off With Their Heads, Harvest, The Castaways, The Suburbs, The Litter and much more.  That just goes to show how storied the Minneapolis/St. Paul history is.  Feel free to leave a comment if you think a band should have been included.  And, like Dylan, there’s bands like Low, Trampled By Turtles and the Gear Daddies that are commonly referred to as Twin Cities bands but are actually from Duluth and Austin, respectively.  No list for them!

Oh and guess who else isn’t on this list?  Howler.  Those guys suck in any town.

So, without further ado, my list (with YouTube videos in the links) of the 15 Greatest Twin Cities Bands/Musicians of All Time:

15) Mark Mallman – I honestly never liked Mark’s music until I saw him live at 7th Street Entry.  He bopped around with his boppity hair at a keyboard and directed every band member like an orchestra conductor.  He wore ridiculously hideous studded denim jackets.  He was hilarious.  A fan was born.  What a weirdo.

14) The Soviettes – I love the Soviettes!  Girl punk at it’s best.  And the drummer kind of sounds like the dude from the B-52s, somehow.  Ironically, I cannot stand their side-project band Awesome Snakes.  Rock lobster!

13) Quincy Punx – This band did not give a FUCK.  I mean that in the best way possible.

12) Cows – Cows were the best example of that weird, noisey, AmRep sound that ran parallel to grunge in the 90s, but didn’t get 5% of the attention.  If these guys aren’t in an insane asylum today, I don’t know where they’d be.

11) The Trashmen – These guys really only had one hit song back in 1963, “Surfin’ Bird.”  Yeah, it’s basically two Rivington’s songs mashed together.  But they made it SO much better.  And it’s also arguably the first punk rock song ever.  I never fully appreciated this song until I heard it blasted at ear-bleeding volume at a bar in Madison.  It shook my guts like a paint-mixer.  And I’ve never seen the episode, but apparently Family Guy used this song in one of it’s shows and a bunch of morons think it’s from that.  Sit down, son.  This is the best fake surf band that Minnesota ever produced.

10) Morris Day & The Time – It’s impossible to mention The Time without Prince.  They were his cronies and underlies.  They were the Scottie Pippen to Prince’s Michael Jordan.  Gilligan to Prince’s Skipper.  St. Paul to Prince’s Minneapolis.  But damn, they sure sounded good.  I also feel like MC Scat Kat is more real than these cartoon characters.

9) The Suicide Commandos – Formed in 1975, the Commandos were the Twin Cities’ first punk rock band.  They also appeared to be about 3 feet tall and could have played Richard Dreyfuss’ part in Jaws.

8) Atmosphere – I’m a little tired of Minneapolis rap.  Brother Ali, P.O.S., Doomtree.  It’s all a bit slam-poety for me.  But Atmosphere has enough melody to their music and they change it up pretty frequently, so I’m a fan.  “Now I’m too fucked up to dance, so I’ma sit with my hand on the front of my pants.”

7) Lifter Puller – The pre-Hold Steady.  I would have put Lifter Puller higher, but I’m friends with the guitar player, Steve Barone, on Facebook and I don’t want to look like I’m kissing his ass.  Craig Finn takes Twin Cities name-dropping to exquisitely new heights.

6) Babes In Toyland – Just click on the link.  If you don’t think this kicks ass, then you should just stop reading my blog.  By the way, Courtney Love stole the dress from HER.

5) Dillinger Four –  Paddy tends bar in several places across town.  I’ve never gotten the nerve to ask him when the next D4 album is coming out.  Seriously guys, Social Distortion kicks out albums faster than you guys. One of the best live bands you’ll ever see.  If they’re not too drunk to hit the strings on their guitars.

4) Soul Asylum – It’s easier to convince people Big Foot is real than to convince people that Soul Asylum used to be good.  From their early punk records to the pre-Runaway Train alternative rock stuff, give it a chance.

3) Husker Du – The Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo of the Twin Cities.  They broke up four years before grunge went big.  But they influenced the Pixies, who influenced Nirvana and blah blah blah.  You know the story.  Let’s be honest, they were too tubby and dorky to make it big, but they kick the shit out of those other bands any day.

3) Jay-Z – Just kidding.

2) The Replacements – Legendary.  They either put on the most transcendentally amazing live shows or they’d get wasted and play “Hello Dolly” eight times in a row.  They once supposedly played a showcase show full of half punk fans and half country fans.  They played country until all the punks left, played punk until all the country dudes left and then yelled “Are we signed yet?!”  When their record company pushed them to put out a music video for MTV, they returned with a video of a speaker blaring for four minutes, followed by five seconds of someone kicking the shit out of it.  The Replacements are GODS.

1) Prince – Duh.