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Vulture’s Top Ten Least Impressive ‘Supergroups’

The unsuper Works Progress Administration.

Traditionally, supergroups are bloated, unsightly team-ups, good for a rash of publicity, perhaps a few hits, and a whole bunch of punch lines. But recently, combos of a different, even less impressive sort have somehow been labeled supergroups. See if you can name all the members of these bands: Tinted Windows, who got this ball rolling earlier in the year; Monsters of Folk, soon to release an album; and Slaughterhouse, a team of veteran noncommercial rappers who released their self-titled debut yesterday. Okay, you might know that Monsters of Folk comprises My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, M. Ward, and (bonus name!) Mike Mogis. But recent history holds no shortage of spectacularly unsuper groups. Here are our top ten!

1. Slaughterhouse
A quartet of technically proficient, slightly boring MCs with very poor Q ratings: ex–Dr. Dre buddies Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, ex-Eminem buddy Royce da 5'9";, and New Jersey’s Joe Budden (remember “Pump It Up”? No?). It’s been a surprisingly successful experiment, though — the team-up has these guys buzzing louder than they have on their own in a long, long time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that lead single “The One” is actually kind of fun.

tinted windows
2. Tinted Windows
Our favorite lineup on the list, just for sheer wha?-ness: Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, Fountain of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, and Taylor Hanson (of Hanson) united early this year to kick out spotless power pop (and casually weird people). When we charted the twisting course of their creation back in April, we found that Schlesinger and Hanson are actually good friends from back in the day — which makes the whole thing simultaneously less and more nonsensical.

3. Power Station
You probably don’t remember this now (nor should you, really), but in 1985 the world-conquering Duran Duran split into two factions, Arcadia and Power Station. The latter featured a couple of the non–Simon LeBon members of the band (namely, John and Andy Taylor), Chic drummer Tony Thompson, and “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” hitsmith Robert Palmer. Feeling underwhelmed? When Palmer unexpectedly pulled out of the Power Station tour, he was replaced by future Melrose Place actor Michael Des Barres.

4. Gravediggaz
The spooky rap-subgenre known as horrorcore never quite took off, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from this group. Other than giving its members an excuse to take on awesome, material-appropriate pseudonyms — Prince Paul was the Undertaker; RZA, the Rzarector; Stetsaonic’s Frukwan, the Gatekeeper; and Poetic, the Grym Reaper — it was a self-consciously silly experiment in B-horror-movie hip-hop: “I been examined ever since I was semen / They took a sonogram and seen the image of a demon.” Its debut, Six Feet Under (known as Niggamortis abroad), is considered an underground classic.

5. Bad Lieutenant
We’re not sure why Bad Lieutenant — basically a broken-up (now for good) New Order, minus persona non grata Peter Hook, plus Blur bassist Alex James — chose to name their band after the 1992 Harvey Keitel cult classic (Nicolas Cage stars in the controversial upcoming remake), but we can only assume it is because they, like the film’s title character, are open to receiving sexual favors as bribes.

6. Freebass
So what’s Peter “Hooky” Hook up to? Only uniting two other bassists — the Smiths’ Andy Rourke and Primal Scream/Stone Roses’ Mani — for the greatest three-bassist supergroup of our time. Don’t worry, this makes perfect sense. Says Hook: “Mani does the low part, Andy Rourke in the middle, and I do the high bit. It works out quite well.”

wpa
7. Works Progress Administration
The sprawling Americana act Works Progress Administration is built around the core of the former trio Nickel Creek but features a lot of other non–individually famous people, including members of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers not named Tom Petty, members of Elvis Costello and the Imposters not named Elvis Costello, and the guy from Toad the Wet Sprocket.

random axe
8. Random Axe
Slaughterhouse isn’t the only new indie-rap supergroup on the block; say hello to Random Axe, made up of three dudes — J Dilla protégé Black Milk, New York boom-bap veteran Sean Price, and Madlib affiliate Guilty Simpson — who are legitimate stars to people who say things like “Trife da God is definitely my third-favorite Wu-Tang Clan hanger-on.” Good news: There is an actual random ax featured in this promo shot.

9. Females Earning Money
We have to admit we didn’t even know this one existed until we googled “lame supergroups.” Females Earning Money, the creation of the formerly relevant Ed Lover, features Babs Bunny (from the first season of Making the Band 2), Lady of Rage (the token female MC during the prime Death Row years), and Lady Luck (your guess is as good as ours). We’re going to assume these females are not actually earning too much money.

swan lake
10. Swan Lake
Dan Bejar! Spencer Krug! Carey Mercer! Of Destroyer/New Pornographers, Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown, and Frog Eyes, respectively! Their experimental rock has been called “unlistenable” and “incomprehensible.” We’ll still take them over Asia.

Photo: Courtesy of Works Progress Administration