Here’s the hot tip; every band’s early stuff is always better than their new stuff. Why? Because the Strokes didn’t start being a band the second they signed a record contract, they were around for years before. And during that time they wrote shiploads of songs. Plenty of them were crap but when they signed their contract, they chose the best ones and put them on an album. Maybe they had enough good ones left over for the sophomore record, but they were always eventually going to run out and start writing new stuff, and not all of the new stuff was going to be up to the same standard as the cream of a five year-old crop. So please stop saying ‘Their old stuff was better than there new stuff’ and just be happy that there’s new stuff at all.
Having said that, today I’d like to discuss this irritating trend of ‘going solo’. The next time I hear about the front man of a dearly loved band going solo, I’m going to hunt him down and piss on his head while he sleeps. Yeah, you know what? That is disgusting and extreme but I’m getting over these egotistical bastards running off into studios by themselves so they can pocket a large chunk of the cash and take up the entire spotlight. Who do they think they are? What historical evidence do they have to suggest that going solo will be beneficial to their career? Has anyone managed to successfully divorce their band and not slip down the spiral into embarrassing quagmires like Robbie William’s Rudebox or Phil Collin’s uh… entire solo discography?
It sucks when a new band emerges, releases three studio albums, and then announces inevitably that their frontman is fucking off with Stuart ‘The ear tumour’ Price to make some half-arsed LP that sounds exactly like material they would’ve released with their band, albeit with a poxy, Casio-keyboard drum loop in the background. Look at The Strokes, The Killers, Matchbox Twenty, The Arctic Monkeys, Cream, The Rolling Stones, Powderfinger, Take That, Pulp, The Verve, Blur, Black Sabbath, Genesis, etc. All of them have dissembled or taken breaks at some point because their disillusioned lead singer gets his head wedged so far up his arse that he forgets to look behind him at where the music’s coming from.
Dammit, it makes me sick. It makes me want to find out where Brandon Flowers lives, snap a copy of Flamingo in half and stab him with a pointy bit of it. What made Julian Casablancas nick off and record an album that would’ve sounded so much better if an actual band had played the music, rather than an assortment of 8-bit Nintendo Gameboys played through megaphones? Cuntiness, that’s what.
I presume there’s an unavoidable egotism that engulfs lead singers at some point. Maybe it’s impossible not to yield to the thousands of screaming fans at your feet, and there’s nothing in your power to do other than to think, ‘THEY LOVE ME! ONLY ME! THESE FREE-LOADERS WITH THE SOUND-MAKING BITS OF WOOD ARE LIVING OFF THE COAT-TAILS OF MY IMMENSE SUCCESS’! I don’t know the psychology of what’s going on.
But think about this, lead singers. A full English breakfast is fucking delicious. But a grilled tomato on its own DOES NOT CONSTITUTE BREAKFAST. A slice of buttered bread on it’s own is not delicious. It’s okay, but it’s not anywhere near as enjoyable as the full, complete thing. And when I went out and bought ‘Phrazes for the Young’ I felt like I’d just paid twenty of your earth dollars for a fucking grilled tomato. I thought, ‘Mmm, this is quite nice, but I wish it came with the bacon, eggs, baked beans and toast’. Yes, I realise the Strokes have just released ‘Angles’, but they’ve done so amidst a cloud of reluctance and petulance. Julian didn’t even record with them. He emailed the vocal tracks to the rest of the band. Which brings me to my next point.
You can’t be ‘rock & roll’ by yourself. Solitude defies rock. You can technically release a rock & roll album as one man, but that’s not what rock & roll is about. It’s not just a genre of music, it’s a culture and that culture involves getting drunk, listening to great music and partying with your friends. Going solo is a Pop phenomenon. It revolves around moneymaking and the self-determined appropriation of accreditation. It makes you rich at the expense of your artistic integrity and ex-colleagues. Look at Lady ‘Bucketarse’ Gaga. Being by yourself in a recording studio singing the songs that you wrote alone at home with nought for company except a half eaten cheese sandwich and a hot chocolate goes against the fundamental foundations of rock and roll music.
And that’s what hurts the most. I believe that rock & roll is sacred. It defies other genres by being more than just a breed of music. How many other genres can get away with such spine-tingling self-reference as found in tracks like, ‘(I Know) It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (The Rolling Stones), ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night’ (Kiss), and ‘Indie Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (The Killers)? Rock is a culture, a lifestyle, a blood type that pumps through the veins of western society like no other fashion of art ever has. No western adult has lived their life without a soundtrack of rock music playing in the background of every act, scene and shot. Rock & roll is made by a team of people who love music. It is an embodiment of man’s tribalistic instinct, holding strong the image of a few simple, common men with complicated, uncommon talents coming together to create something incredible, melodic and harmonious.
Pop music is all about making money. Rap music has as much artistic value as a Dr Seuss poem. Punk is simply rock played badly by thirteen year olds. Hip Hop is some sort of advanced Middle Eastern torture device. But rock is different because its posseses a spirit that you can feel. Rock is the music of modern generations, it symbolises our most human attributes, it can describe any emotion, it can tell any story. Rock can make you laugh, cry, hope and dream. When you listen to a rock song, you can feel exactly what the composer was feeling when they wrote it, their joy, their anguish, their confusion, and their pain. Rock and roll is beautiful. It’s perfect. It is the one true love that has been with me since I was old enough to understand words, and it will be with me until the heart-breaking, deprived time in which I can no longer hear.
So to conclude. Michael Bellamy, if you EVER disband Muse and go off to make a solo album, I’m going to find you and I’m going to sketch a portrait of Phil Collins’ fat, smug head onto your back with a knife to remind you of why the frontman of an amazing band should NEVER GO SOLO.