Imagine that this band had a slow simmer of a career. Its founder took a chance on two frontmen that paid off spectacularly. He had a small group of songwriters working with him, some of whom also turned out to be pretty damned good. (And a sexy baldy bass player and double-crossing keyboard player who became the specialist interests of some delightful people and improved every song in which they had a solo.)
You listened to the early albums and though they were uneven, they were weird and exciting, and the front persons were amazing to watch. You once spent nine hours on a Sunday listening to one song after another and your flatmate shook her head, laughed at you and said "all the songs sound the same". WHICH WAS TOTALLY NOT TRUE BUT WHATEVS.
And you go online and there's a whole crew of smart people who want to talk about the weird cult band with the beautiful album covers and amazing production values and brilliant frontmen, and they want to analyse the lyrics, and argue about how each album is actually part of an intricate song cycle -- and back then because you were young, you didn't laugh caustically and take a drag of the imaginary cigarette of embittered cynicism. You wanted to believe.
Gradually the band gets really successful, and before you know it, everyone is listening to their albums -- which is disconcerting because who knew that kind of music would be popular?
And if part of you misses the feeling that you were in on a really great secret, that's mitigated by the fact that you can talk about it with your longtime friends and it's no longer a weird thing that you listen to over and over on Sundays when it's rainy and you're so skint that you've had beans for tea three times this week.
The band even sell out Wembley, to your delighted disbelief, and you go. And it's mostly great. Mostly.
(Those arseholes on the internet though, who say that the first albums were the best, and all these Johnny-come-latelys are only into it now because it's fashionable and they don't talk about the lyrics intelligently, they just want to perve on the frontmen? They can go do one.
Even if you also sneakily like the first four albums best yourself, fuck those elitists anyway)
But now, when you should be enjoying your favourite band being all over the place, in their pomp, odd things start happening. The founder of the band keeps insisting on putting weird rap solos over the intro and the bridge all the time. And you've got nothing against rap but he is awful at it, his lyrics are terrible, his slams are embarrassing and it's like listening to your Mad Uncle Ivor shout about how the government is tracking us through our bank cards. Then the founder -- who was never the best songwriter in the first place -- does an album where one side is entirely comedy songs. And you like the comedy songs but not all together.
The frontmen are increasingly knackered, phoning it in and eyeing solo careers, and who can blame them? You try to be upbeat about it, because it's no fun not liking something you used to love, especially if you're sentimental, like me.
By the eighth album, one of your frontmen does a runner -- over money and boredom, mostly -- and none of your friends are into it any more, and all the songs do sound the same. An incoherent mess, but not enough of an incoherent mess that you can stop holding up an imaginary lighter when they play the oldies. You contemplate getting a T-shirt that says "I wish I could quit you".
It perks up for a little while when they get a couple of new band members who are still enthused and fun, but it doesn't make up for the fact that the founder of the band is still forcing them to sing incoherent bullshit using the same four riffs. (And no-one likes John Shiban's songs. Poor John Shiban.)
You know the end is coming and when it comes to the farewell album, you can only just be arsed to still listen. It's pretty awful and the whole thing has sort of put you off the old albums, which you used to love. The frontmen go on to respectable and critically lauded solo careers. The sexy bass player remains sexy in many other bands.
(We won't talk about the godawful ill-advised techno album the band put out five years after the split. What the hell was that?)
(And as for the founder's solo album for the upstart new label, which was GRITTY and DARK and had SWEARING and WASTED one of the most delightfully charming frontmen in the whole business by making him awful? Literally -- LITERALLY -- fuck that noise.)
And now enough time has passed that people are really nostalgic about the band getting back together -- including the band. But the founder still insists on playing the same four tired riffs, with his usual unpleasant preoccupations in the lyrics.
And there's still a terrible rap bit in the bridge and the first song they put out was so deadly serious, despite risible lyrics and subject matter, that the front persons cannot show off their charm and wit and delightful chemistry.
That's the problem. They got the band back together but the founder owns the name, it's his band, and he's written half the bloody album*. Yet I still want to listen, even though there are better songs out there.
::dons T-shirt that says "I still wish I could quit you". Holds up lighter. Takes a drag of the imaginary cigarette of bitter cynicism::
[See also: Doctor Who]
*Yes, album. I am an old. Go away.
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