Tag Archives: Franz Ferdinand

You really had something there: “but, I don’t want you to go”

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:  

1) Denial:

“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’*

Luke took the news of N’ Sync’s breakup very badly; getting his newly found father to cut his hand off, then chucked himself down an air shaft.

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”.

Les Incompétents

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.

London’s Les Inc outfit appreciates St. Pauls Cathedral (whilst probably drinking Braaaannnnndddy)

Larrikin Love 

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.

“Yes? May we help you with something?” Larrikin Love and their short lived Irish romantic gypsy folk calypso punk ska sea shanty reggae bluesgrass sound.

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.

“I’m sorry. The library is closed. I’m afraid you’ll have to leave”.

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You really had something there: from “wow” to “wasters”

We all want to make it. Secretly. Even if you possess no real music talent, you want to be a rock and roll star. Why? Why the heck not? What an incredible lifestyle. We all become slightly jealous of all your favourite scenester bands that are increasingly becoming the same age as you, went to your school, met on your campus, played their first gig at your union bar, went out with your best mate’s ex-girlfriend for three and a half months, wrote their debut single’s lyrics on the back of a napkin in your favourite bar in Shoreditch. What a life: hype, mini tour, radio sessions, viral YouTube sensations, debut release, larger tour, festivals, new material recording in a chateau in the Dordogne, 2nd album, 3rd album, greatest hits and so on. But as much as they can be embraced by the warm bosom of the music world and above all it’s critics, the loyal fans, at the bat of an extended fake trendy eyelash, they can also get chewed up and spat out quite as easily:

“Wow [insert band name] what an incredible debut album. So fresh and new and exciting. I am totally [insert relevant and current adjective] for the follow up. I’m not even going to read anything about it. I’m going to [preferred music outlet] blindly and will purchase this album, safe in the knowledge that it will rock my summer of [insert appropriate year]. Here we go… Oh… well… it’s good…I think. I like the first song. I just need to listen to it some more… Oh. My. God. This [insert relevant and current adjective]. I don’t like it very much. Lazy. They’re not even trying. I’m so despondent. You were the voice of my generation. Now you’re just wasters”.

Evil cruel mistress, thy name is music industry. From “wow” to “wasters” in the space of 18 months, why is it that so many bands seem to fail to follow up some incredible early success? Is the industry moving so fast, that when a new sound is sprawled across the radio waves, people simply aren’t impressed by a few months later? Or is it a case of the musicians not being creatively capable of bettering or even matching their first outing? OR IS IT JUST ME?

Growing up, I’ve been hurt in a non-emo way, by a lot of bands that simply couldn’t do it again. Do we exist in a conveyor belt industry, where everything has to sound amazingly new and fresh? That by the time Bloc Party released A Weekend in the City” every band had bought a synth and pedal effect sound sampler 3000. Are we in a culture of masterful debuts, followed by flat difficult second albums, followed by anonymous third and new direction fourths? Not entirely.

An enormous plethora of bands I love, continue to impress and improve in little tiny ways or even produce similar sounding material, which nonetheless take your breath away. From Arcade Fire, Beach House, Arctic Monkeys, to Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, Mystery Jets, The National and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I don’t think if you like a band that much, and are loyal from the outset, that it’s possible to find fault in their follow ups. There are many people, for example who will punch you if you suggest that The Stone Roses’ Second Coming was a five year miserable anti-climatic pile of manure, while I will happily claim that there’s no such thing as a bad David Bowie album (in fact, if anything, his “best material” starts at “Hunky Dory” – album number four), and I will challenge you to knives at dawn anyone who badmouths “Icky Thump”. Flaws there may be, but I don’t want to know. The White Stripes were always there for me, and I will defend them to the hilt. So what, you ask was the point of that stream of consciousness?

OK. I know what happened here. The other day I was listening to what I can only describe as my ‘growing up music’. These were the tender years 2000 – 2006, where music was like, my identity, you know? I looked for heroes, and proudly displayed them on my wall or on my chest, and crouched for warmth in some dingy ally-way outside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for a glimpse of said heroes at the grave risk of missing the last northbound train and gaining hyperthermia. Maybe apart from the abovementioned, a lot of the featured in the expansive playlist just seemed to fall into a murky decline.

Bloc Party. The 2005 debut “Silent Alarm” full of ‘conversational’ guitar and some furious percussion, with some intense poetic lyrics, followed by a disappointing sink into synth and electronica on “A Weekend in the City” and “Intimacy”, and those stand alone singles “Flux” and “One More Chance” all drowning out the qualities which made the band so powerful and captivating. Here’s hoping that this year’s comeback; the fourth album entitled “Fourth” (sigh) will drag back to the glory days. Similarly Maximo Park with the wonderful art-rock debut “A Certain Trigger, may have finally come full circle again with the release of The National Health this year. The Strokes released probably one of the most important albums of my generation in 2001 with Is This It, an energetic powerhouse of a record, dipping into the glamorous and wild New York scene, somehow beautifully crammed into forty odd minutes. It’s funny, its touching, its brilliantly written, its how we all felt in those tender years; restless and energetic. If that was “it” I certainly felt like my life was complete. Tragically, the band dubbed “the greatest rock and roll band since The Rolling Stones” went on a catastrophic decline, churning out disheartening follows up over an eight-year period, and not even looking capable of revisiting the glorious summer of 2001, in which I actually visited New York!!!!! PLEASE sort it out, guys.

Elsewhere, you look at the debut offerings from bands such as Johnny Borrell’s Razorlight, the city lyefffff of The Rakes, The “fun-time” Futureheads, the echo-reverb shoe-gazers, The Music and my lovable Liverpudlians, The Zutons and see what happened next chokes me up. Even The Ordinary Boys. Yes, judge the young buck that I was, I really enjoyed Over the Counter Culture”, with it’s combination of cheeky lyrics about the everyday, brass and joyful guitar was smashing (my choice of word for summer 2004). Even listening to it now, it ain’t that bad. Yet the follow up Brass Bound – awful, just awful, and the latest one, I don’t even know, and quite frankly, I don’t want to know, not to mention the figure of Simon Amstell ridicule fodder that lead singer Preston has become. Finally, three bands who boast a respectable longevity, and two, maybe three, maybe even four quality opening albums, but who have slipped into states of almost self-parody: step forward The Killers*, Muse, and Kings of Leon.

* I happen to think that the second Killers album Sam’s Town is better than their debut Hot Fuss”. Just saying.

This might sound a wee bit harsh and a classic blogger’s rant. After all, who am I to sit here and demand continued perfection from every band who has the honour of gracing my eardrums? And this is of course, is an insight into my own music taste, which is obviously not gospel and therefore cannot possibly reflect music as a whole. There are also, of course a multitude of factors, which affect the quality of an album, from timing of release, to the handling and management of record companies. Yet it’s something I’ve noticed with these bands, and obviously something that’s worth sharing with you lucky people.

Maybe I did expect too much. Maybe I love too much. Bands can’t go on forever. And the important thing is that at some point, they made a significant impact on someone’s music taste, even if the follow up failed to live up to my expectations anyway. Then again, if you were a staunch defender of the realm of Bloc Party, you would argue, like I would with The White Stripes, that all the material is awesome. What kind of a conclusion is this really? Rant, rant, rant followed by “oh but it all comes down to the music taste of the individual and spare a thought for the pressured lifestyles these musicians have in a highly demanding industry”. I’m going round in circles. Lets end it with this:

“Wow [insert band name]. I really liked your first album. But your new stuff really does [insert relevant and current adjective]. Yet somehow, I feel I have a permanent soft spot for you. Maybe it’s because I was discovering who I was when I first heard you. I owe a lot to you. And I can’t really hold (what I see as) your sad decline against you, because you brought me so much [insert relevant and current adjective] early on. I love you. I’m going to listen to you right now, and make an awesome playlist called [insert awesome name here] in which you feature heavily”.

Part two coming up shortly.

http://www.mojobar.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/TheStrokes.jpg

“Guys, I think he died from disappointment”

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