Cluney’s Top Ten: Who’s in the band now?

September 30, 2009 by  

sex pistols

This week has seen a lot of interesting/disturbing news emerge from the music world. Thom Yorke has recruited Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a new and as yet unnamed band. Rumours of Noel Gallagher performing with Kasabian have done the rounds, and Ian Brown has let slip that John Squire sent him material for his new album “My Way”, only for Brown to dismiss it out of hand.

So, should great bands continue without the original line-up? Can a group ever regain the peak of their brilliance after the trauma of a messy break up? Even I don’t have the ego to say that I have the definitive answer, so allow me to put forward arguments for and against the hit and miss phenomena of musical resurrection.

Arguments for:

1. New Order. Admittedly, reforming a band when the lead singer has killed himself may appear to be a little difficult. Especially when said singer seemed to be the creative centre of your band. But following Ian Curtis’ suicide, Bernard Sumner and Co shook themselves off, changed their name, and continued their habit of making compelling, catchy and creative music over a period spanning 8 albums and 29 years. Admittedly not everything they made was as exciting as “Blue Monday” or “True Faith”, but I defy you to find a more compelling tunes from among its contemporaries than “Crystal” from 2001’s “Get Ready”.

2. Oasis. I know, I know. You either love or hate Oasis and there is a definite 3 album period from “Be Here Now” to “Heathen Chemistry” that is entirely forgettable, but the band redrew the map for English music from the 90’s onward. And they did so with so many different members that it was unreal, but the attitude and style remained the same. Probably due to a combination of class A drugs and Noel’s unbending arrogance, but hey, that was kind of the point right?

3. The Rolling Stones. When you think of the Rolling Stones, inevitably you think of Mick and Keith. And of course you do. If you took out of the equation either Jagger’s outrageously camp stage persona, or Richard’s aura of chemical induced invincibility, the result would be so fundamentally wrong as to demand destruction immediately. But, aside from these two, the line-up has changed a lot over the years with no change in quality. Founder member Ian Stewart: Out! Too Ugly. Brian Jones replaced by Mick Taylor before his death. Mick Taylor leaves. Ronnie Wood brought in. Bill Wyman leaves. Darryl Jones performs with the band, but is not made an official member. And the beat goes on.

4. Velvet Underground. Am a little uneasy about including them here as, due to the death of Sterling Morrison in 1995, the reformed Velvet Underground didn’t have much time to surrender to the slow decline common to the once-greats. But perhaps that’s the point. The Velvet Underground were one of the most influential bands ever to pick up instruments, and their reunion European tour was a massive success. Maybe without the deteriorating health of Morrison, there would have been a wealth of new recordings with which to judge.

5. Pink Floyd. Not strictly a real reunion, but their one-off show at Live 8 made an awful lot of people delirious with happiness. It was the first time the band had been on the same stage for 24 years, and the four song set was nowhere near enough.

Arguments against:

1. The Doors. You just can’t have the Doors without Jim Morrison. Some bands only exist because of the charisma of their frontman. It was like reforming The Jimi Hendrix Experience without the good man himself. It should have been obvious to all, but they gave it a go. Even with The Cult’s brilliant Ian Ashbury, the reformed Doors just never had the same energy and vibrancy without Jim, leading former drummer John Densmore to file a lawsuit “to protect the good name of the band”. Harsh but fair John, harsh but fair.

2. The Sex Pistols. Riding high on a wave of nostalgia for “the good old days” John Lydon attempted to breathe new life into a band who, even to most generous enthusiast, were much more important as an expression of the times than as bona fide musicians. After firing Glen Matlock, the band brought in Sid Vicious, a man who couldn’t even play the bass guitar when the band was formed, for fuck’s sake. But that was punk. Lydon always maintained that the Sex Pistols never saw a fraction of the money generated by their one studio album. Driven by this, the Pistols embarked on very short Filthy Lucre tour looking a bit too old and chubby to be the menacing presence they once were. Then Lydon went on I’m A Celebrity and now makes a lot of money selling butter.

3. Audioslave. Take three quarters of Rage Against The Machine, add in the voice and driving force behind Soundgarden, mix well and enjoy the result. Right? Nope. What you get is a self-indulgent monster of a band that thinks it’s better than it is. Audioslave lacked the fire of Rage Against The Machine and the dizzy creativity of Soundgarden. De La Rocha must have been laughing himself to sleep at night. That is, assuming that he can actually laugh does ever sleep. Mercifully, Audioslave was disbanded in 2007, citing “musical and personality issues”. Rage were reformed, and we await new material with hope in our hearts.

4. The Verve. I love the Verve. Absolutely love them. But until they do a bit better than “Forth”, they are going on this list. Ashcroft’s ego is big enough to borrow from his own solo material (listen to his Check The Meaning, then listen to I See Houses) as well as re-using the bassline from “Love is Noise” ON THE SAME ALBUM!! The complete bastard. What a let-down. And after all the will-they-won’t they build up after the problems with Nick McCabe.

5. Limp Bizkit. If you were, like me, a chubby white 13 year old in the mid to late 90’s, you will have had a soft spot for Limp Bizkit. I know that you won’t like to talk about it, but it’s ok, it was a long time ago and no one is judging you. It was refreshing to see a fat, podgy hick making loud, abrasive music that gave you an excuse to throw your weight around at concerts. I still think that “3 Dollar Bills Y’all” and “Significant Other” have their moments. But as time went on the formula wore a little thin. Limp Bizkit even tried to make serious music. From the release of “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water”, incidently, the worst name for an album EVER, the world realised just how much of an arse Fred Durst is. When Wes Borland left, we happily assumed that Limp Bizkit would lay down and die. But in February this year, they reformed for a tour. And the world went on.

So, the question remains unanswered. Maybe unanswerable? Who knows? But one thing is for sure, that as long as there is money to be made from music, and as long as musicians continue to lead lives of irresponsible excess and debauchery, bands will reform and try to recapture the magic. Have I been unfair to anyone on the list? Got any suggestions for heroes/villains I missed? Let us know what you think!

Special mention goes to Take That for inflicting those awful Morrison’s adverts upon us, Spandau Ballet for proving that Tony Hadley will not go away, and to Guns N’ Roses for taking so long to get their act together that I just don’t care anymore!

Liam Clune

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