I always admired bands that end clean, bands that don’t stretch their stay in the limelight. When they run out of ideas they get out of the way for fresh minds with new sounds. F.T. Marinetti said, in his manifesto of futurism:
“The oldest of us is thirty: so we have at least a decade for finishing our work. When we are forty, other younger and stronger men will probably throw us in the wastebasket like useless manuscripts—we want it to happen!
They will come against us, our successors, will come from far away, from every quarter, dancing to the winged cadence of their first songs, flexing the hooked claws of predators, sniffing doglike at the academy doors the strong odor of our decaying minds, which will have already been promised to the literary catacombs.”
I feel the same way about modern music. How do these bands go on? Night after night rehashing the same crowd pleasing nostalgia from their first album. That would be the equivalent of me reliving my high school glory days. Currently, our culture has a whole circuit for fading fame and relevance that goes from hollywood squares, to reality tv, to reunion tours. Economically this is insanity, we give nothing to anyone who is actually doing something interesting, and pay endless royalties to people who did something cool years ago.
Here are a few bands that were once good, but are now actively destroying their legacy with shitty filler albums:
Bloc Party’s first album was awesome, it combined the sound of Gang of Four but stripped out the frankfurt school politics and replaced them with personal emotional monologues. They took a sound that was missing from the musical spectrum of the time and made it accessible to everyone. I think this is an often under spoken talent, to take a sound that was once only appreciated by record aficionados and making it comprehensible to a radio listener is a legitimate achievement. Their second album was a huge step down, but it still had some redeeming qualities. By the third album I was totally bored, they moved in the dreaded electronic direction, everything sounded like a rave. The single from their new album doesn’t look promising. I interpret their movement in “artistic” and “creative” direction just be a sign of careerists running out of ideas.
Dead Prez were once a well spoken, well thought out rap project. They were socialist, vegan, feminist and a hip hop band; they stood in stark contrast to much of what rap music was about when they released their first album in 2000. They were like Public Enemy resurrected but more serious. With their next album they became a shadow of their former selves. The record was titled “Revolutionary But Gangsta”, as if they were trying to say that they’re willing to embrace criminal and violent elements associated with rap music. The video for their lead single from the album shows them robbing a family who accidentally drive in the wrong neighborhood. Gone was any sign of intelligence, gone was anything that set them apart from the rabble of popular hip hop.
The Hives have been through a few interesting changes over their time, and have management to semi-reinvent themselves once or twice. They started out channeling garage rock with a cool lo-fi sound on “Veni Vidi Vicious”. With the release of “Tyrannosaurus Hives” they managed to take their sound and augment it with some cool riffs and additional song complexity while retaining their early stuff’s urgency. On their next album we begin to see them slowing down, it still has some cool songs like “Tick, Tick, Boom” and “Square One Here I Come”, but the majority of the album was skippable. Their new album “Lex Hives” is the first one that has almost no good songs, the lead single sounds like a Black Keys track (which is unfortunate because this band is a lot better then them), the other songs sound like a boring rehash of their past.