# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - October 2010

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 6 / 10 / 2010

Miscellaneous - October 2010


Ben Howarth in his 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' column examines the issue of music career suicide and what can happen to bands when good ideas start to run out

When you really want to feel miserable, read a few of those ‘humorous’ columns in the culture/music section of 'The Guardian' website. Earlier this week, in a momentary loss of concentration, I started reading one about Weezer. Weezer’s story is one few music journalists can resist: Begin with an album of catchy, innocently ironic power gems; follow it up with a less catchy, less innocently ironic but seemingly more emotionally honest cult classic; Take a sabbatical; return with a pair of albums that have been recorded with noticeably larger studio budgets, but have noticeably less catchy songs; bask in the plaudits for these albums from people who hadn’t noticed how good your early albums were; release more albums, each steadily less catchy than the last; tumble into a nadir of co-written bilge that contains no memorable guitar solos, only the most banal of lyrics and a creative slump of the like only previously experienced by the Mauritian portrait artist who specialised in depicting dodos around the turn of the 18th century. Now, there is another twist in the story, helpfully highlighted by 'The Guardian', with a group of Weezer fans having clubbed together online in the hope of raising $10m that would persuade the band to break up. The interesting part is not the website itself, of course, which has little hope of success (and is probably a publicity scam into which both 'The Guardian' and myself have been embroiled). Indeed, even if the plan to raise the $10m payoff actually succeeded, all that would happen was that Weezer mainman Rivers Cuomo (by many accounts, not an especially pleasant person) would start releasing solo records, thus putting his long suffering bandmates out of a job (again. They were all packed off the US equivalent of Job Centre Plus in 1996 when Cuomo decided that he’d rather fail a degree at Harvard than be in a band). No, the interesting part is that there are Weezer fans out there who feel this personally. By accepting the obvious truth that ‘Only In Dreams’ is a remarkably good end to a remarkably good debut album, they feel an emotional attachment to the dross the same songwriter has churned out since. This kind of mania is leaving people especially vulnerable. Already, thirty bands have touted their similarly bland and unimaginative power-pop online in the hope that Weezer fans will pay them to split up as well. That isn’t actually true, but my point stands. ‘Metal Machine Music’, ‘Self Portrait’, ‘Tin Machine’, ‘Johnny Marr and the Healers’... the list goes on and on. How much would music fans have paid to stop those horrors ever having been released? Legions of bands, over time, have realised this loophole in the pop music career structure, one that allows them to get away with releasing all kinds of nonsense. "Run out of good ideas?" asks the label executive, "just sell your bad ideas instead." Take, Sufjan Stevens, for example – he of the sweet voice, lilting melodies and pretty orchestral parts has drenched his most recent album in industrial electronic noise. Doubtless to say, many who enjoyed his epic masterpiece ‘Illinois’ may find this one harder to stomach. The internet of useless facts tells me that are currently 254 licensed landfills in Scotland alone. And how many more will be needed to dispose of unwanted copies of ‘The Age of Adz’ when Sufjan Stevens’ fans realise what a mess he has got himself into? By some accounts, Mr Stevens is having a rough time, questioning the worth of career as a pop singer and, perhaps the entire worth of human existence. But is environmental degradation on such a wide scale really a fair response, Sufjan? An UN resolution, I would say, is urgently needed. Perhaps a motion might be tabled at the forthcoming Cancun environmental summit – that pop/rock artists embarking on wilful career suicide might release the offending new albums in download format only. Or, better still, not at all.

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