The history of music is littered with brave choices: Dylan plugging in at the Newport Folk Festival; Al Green turning his back on secular music; the person responsible for signing Mariah Carey to EMI.
What fascinates me is when the leader of a band decides to pack it all in and start anew. I’m not talking about going solo but forming a completely new band: new members, new name, new style.
It doesn’t often happen but when it does, rarely is it a success. Two men that have made the arduous decision and have lived to tell the tale are Paul Weller and Neil Finn.
Both had completely different reasons for dissolving their respective bands and starting again but I doubt that either made their choice lightly.
Finn’s choice was the easier and most logical of the two. He had inherited Split Enz when his elder brother Tim left so it made sense for Neil to strip it all back and start a smaller combo. The Enz never possessed a stable lineup or sound for that matter (From vaudevillian art rock to new wave) and by the time their last album was released (1984s See Ya ‘Round) they had exhausted their potential fan base. The clown make-up had not been sighted in a while either.
Their last hit song was a cracking pop tune called ‘I Walk Away’ which was loaded with connotations of leaving everything behind and starting something new and exciting.
In less than 18 months, Finn had his new band Crowded House and along with Paul Hester and Nick Seymour they cracked the US (something Split Enz never could) and finally the UK, becoming one of the world’s most loved groups. Interestingly enough, ‘I Walk Away’ was re-recorded for Crowded House’s self titled debut, with the new version taking on a more guitar driven sound that reflects Finn’s move to a three piece line-up.
It was a different kettle of fish for Paul Weller. The Jam were at their peak when Weller decided he had done all he could with the band (something Bruce Foxton, Rick Buckler and millions of Mods would disagree with). Weller’s interests in soul music was growing and slowly the punk in him waned. In hindsight, The Jam’s last single ‘Beat Surrender’ was like a snottier version of a song The Style Council (Weller’s next band) would soon release.
Going from sharp suits to sweaters draped over the shoulders, Paul Weller certainly took a hit in the credibility stakes. Yet for all their faults, The Style Council did produce some great music (‘Shout To The Top’ is a song) and Weller weathered the storm of the 80s to forge an acclaimed solo career.
Even though Weller survived, is such a ballsy move likely to ever happen again? Can one imagine Chris Martin leaving Coldplay to form a new venture with some other musicians? Thom Yorke ditching Radiohead? Such a notion is hard to believe but you tell that to fans of The Jam – they would disagree.
Something for the Gunners fans there (and don’t they need it). But while they sit on forums and ruminate as to the epicness of Chinese Democracy, us normal souls are being spoiled by guerrilla tactics from the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and now Bloc Party.
The latter’s 3rd album Intimacy dropped online a little over a week ago with very short notice from the band. The only clue as to its sound were the dancy between album release ‘Flux’ and first single ‘Mercury’. In an era of albums leaking like the entire music industry is run by the Keystone Cops (complete with Suge Knight in the Fatty Arbuckle role) this method of releasing new material will soon become the norm.
The only thing that doesn’t fly with me in the case of Bloc Party is the way they have decided to hold the physical release of the album back about 2 months. I am still a material guy in a digital world so I need to be convinced that what I am getting by clicking on a paid download is exactly what I would receive if I went in to my local record store (sound quality aside). So when it was mentioned that the disc version of Intimacy would contain extra tracks not found on the digital release, I decided to wait it out for late October to purchase the entire box and dice.
Until that time, apart from ‘Mercury’, I will be completely shut off from the album. I do know that it has already divided listeners but after enjoying their first two efforts I will purchase Intimacy on past history alone. It certainly isn’t the first time I have made such a foolish decision and it will not be the last.