There is something else: the rather tragic instance when a band, for whatever reason, just when things are starting to kick off, decides to pack it in. Those bands who, upon hearing the news of the split, catapult you into five stages of grief:
“pffff , stupid internet forum rumours”
2) Over the top realisation and reaction:
“[Sobbing] but I don’t want you to go, I, I, I love you and your vision. Oh curse you, foul music industry temptress! A pox, a pox on your houses! I’m building a shrine in my kitchen”. I need a lyric for my MySpace profile NOW”
3) Backcataslog © – Loud and Proud:
“What do you mean ‘turn it down’? Haven’t you heard the news? Show some respect for their bootleg EP I downloaded and debut album I was given at a free concert”.
4) Philosophically facing the truth:
“[Smoking a pipe, gazing out of the window, holding a photo of said band in-between your thumb and forefinger] I truly wonder how far they might have gone. This is a sad loss to the industry”.
5) Moving on:
“Well these things weren’t meant to be. Let’s see what else is out there…”
*Google searches ‘hot new indie bands’*
Of course, over time, short-lived bands have made quite an short, sharp and oh so meaningful impact: Buddy Holly and The Crickets; Cream; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; Joy Division; Nirvana, amongst others, and of course, the band which quite probably defined my youth: the whirlwind adventures sailing on the Good Ship Albion with my boys in the band, The Libertines, sadly sunk after drugs and break-ins replaced the music I cherished. We all know about that little episode, so here for you, are three other bands I loved and lost too quickly, also brought to you by the letter “L”.
Around the same time as I was listening to the Libs, acing my A-levels and kissing girls for the first time, I was heavily immersed in the chaotic sound of London’s six piece, Les Incompétents. The sound in question was bawdy, raucous, full of intellectual drunken ramblings from a bunch of guys who at the best of times were comically dressed and pissed on stage. And I sucked it all in. Around the time when nights out began to mean something to me, Les Incompétents were a welcome inclusion into this world I had just discovered. Their debut single, the swirly, boozy “Reunion” gave terrific insight into the kind of ramshackle outfit London had on its hands, a cross between The Pogues, Adam and The Ants, Tenpole Tudor and The Coral having a session. And not the right kind of session.
“How It All Went Wrong” remains fondest in my memories, with lead singers Billy Leeson and Fred Macpherson stumbling through a night out, and coming to blows with Andy (?) the disco queen (“drinking Braaandy”). It’s a wonderfully unruly song, one that I had the pleasure of seeing live at a venue I can’t remember the name of, possibly in Camden, maybe at the Camden Crawl. It was my first stage invasion and the first time I had my hair washed with cheap lager, made friends with the guy who pulled me from the heaving crowd, and walked away with ripped clothing and bruises on my body. Riotous would have been an understatement, as they injected a heck of a lot of life into London’s live music scene. I also saw them support Babyshambles in a comparatively placid set.
And so where did it all go wrong? Well foremost, lead singer Billy Leeson was disturbingly assaulted and put into a coma for several weeks, after an altercation on a bus. It also became clear, that members of the band were having the classic “creative differences”. After Leeson had recovered from his attack, Les Inc played their farewell gig at the 100 Club off Oxford Street, and that was that. A posthumous release of their only album, “End of an Error” featuring everything they had ever recorded was followed by Leeson heading Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man, while Macpherson later went on to form one of my new favourite bands, Spector. Short, but happy whirlwind times had by all with London’s Les Inc. *see comment regarding the formation of Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man – Thanks for this, Neil Martin.
What first attracted me to Larrikin Love was the sheer amount of energy poured into their music. The fusion of Irish romantic gypsy folk calypso punk ska sea shanty reggae bluesgrass was so refreshing and exciting, and something, which we might never hear again. I had heard a series of rough demos and drooled over the prospect of a polished studio version, yet also felt the rough sound of the demos suited their style of music and deportment. Songs such as “Edwould”, “Meet Me By The Getaway Car”, “On Sussex Downs”, and the brilliant “Downing Street Kindling” – a vitriolic rant at Tony Blair (of all people) were perfect examples of what the band were doing. The language from Ed Larrikin remains beautiful; poetic and heartfelt, covering a variety of areas from identity, love, politics, to child abduction, all complemented with incredible melodies and such a wide array of instruments and rhythms.
Seeing them live at Reading Festival in 2006 was completely awesome, losing myself in the sheer passion and liveliness the band created in a flash of a fiddle, or puff of a pipe. A month later, they released “The Freedom Spark” and it met all my expectations. Featuring assistance from the likes of Patrick Wolf and Jamie T, the album made it’s way to the top of my pile. Presenting itself like prose, with a story like shift between emotions, the record was a mesmerising adventure captivating you even further. Destined for greatness, they surely were.
Not long after this, sadly, the band announced out of the blue, they were going their separate ways. It was a bitter blow, considering I had monitored their progress carefully, and moved with the hype and expectation chronologically from demo, lives performance to debut release. Each went off to explore new musical outings including Ed Larrkin pursuing his new band, Pan I Am. Sorely missed.
The Long Blondes
It’s easy to get upset about a break-up of a band, especially when you are utterly and unashamedly besotted with the lead singer. Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes was, and most likely still is, cool, feisty, chic and dresses extremely well – a sort of sexy librarian, if you could imagine. Her charisma on stage was matched by a cracking voice and a group of similarly cool looking cats, who most likely owned vintage fashion shops or were part time teachers or art students, or models. Dorian Cox, the hardworking, broody, unruffled lead guitarist and co-singer/songwriter, Rennie Hollis and Emma Chaplin often stood there glamorously playing synth, bass or rhythm guitar, while the drummer Screech Louder (real name Mark Turvey!) completed the outfit. The Sheffield quintet caught my attention early 2006 with a glamorous art indie pop dance sound, crammed full with clever and sophisticated literary and pop culture references, everything from Alfred Hitchcock, Edie Sedgwick to Bobby George and Scott Walker. The debut “Someone To Drive You Home” dealt with everything from jealousy, seduction, useless loveless relationships, suspicion, faded glamour, aspirations and looks. Plenty of feedback, pulsating rhythms and all the hallmarks of an eighties tinged disco pop band, a Blondie, Human League, Roxy music fusion. Puuuufffeeect. “Lust In The Movies” summed this up well, as well as “Giddy Stratospheres”, the popular “Weekend Without Makeup” and the fantastic “You Could Have Both” with a delicious and bold spoken word section towards the end. It was a fearless and relentless debut, an album for misfits across the country.
Seeing them live was a lot of fun. I saw them in a small tent in Reading, a big stage in Glastonbury, in Leeds and in a small converted church in Brighton, in which during the set, she bent down to the crowd, singled me out, looked into my eyes and STROKED MY FACE. Just goes to show, it pays to turn up super early to get the best spot in the crowd. Needless to say, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. No matter where they played, they had an enthralled, suave following, they commanded the stage and always a set to match. The follow up, “Couples” (the use of the quotation marks in the title was a tribute to Bowie’s “Heroes” = instant win) toed the line and provided a similar energy, containing a bit more synth aesthetic (Erol Alkan produced it), rather than Cox’s guitar. It still had that quirky fantasy pop tinge to it, with songs like “The Couples”, or the seductive “Too Clever By Half” There was a hint of new direction with the minimalist stripped back “Round The Hairpin”. With two neat little albums plus a host of unreleased demos later put out on “Singles”, (“Christmas Is Cancelled” was one of the first song Long Blondes songs I heard, and is brilliant) and a Phillip Hall Radar Award from the 2006 NME awards, previously won by Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs, the band were set to continue their success, and develop their cult following, in like, the coolest way possible. Before Rough Trade snapped them up they were probably the greatest unsigned band of the time (post-Monkeys watershed).
But guess what? It wasn’t to be. Dorian Cox unfortunately suffered a stroke, which led to a series of cancelled gigs. The band felt they could not go on, as Cox underwent physiotherapy to learn how to play guitar again. The band went off in different directions, forming new projects. Jackson is working on her new solo album, which I know will be awesome and Cox is, I believe, recovering well and performing in his new band, Milkteeth. But the audacity in their approach to their music, outlook and generally being utterly absorbing and interesting without, it seems, a great deal of effort makes the legacy of The Long Blondes something that British music itself should miss dreadfully, as well as me.