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Where are they now, broken up or still around – good, young artists gone AWOL

16/09/2012

There’s a lot of good, great or just plain interesting bands. A lot of them have albums in your personal collection. An equally large number of them disappear before they’ve ever really made an impact. While I’m not the sort of person who’s constantly on the hunt for the next amazing discovery from the depths of the underground world, I’ve bumped into my fair share of up-and-coming fresh blood that never ended up actually arriving fully into the world. In the cases of a select few, that’s been a shame. Here’s a list of a small handful of acts who popped by, said ‘hi’ in the most pleasant and promising manner, and then mysteriously left before they could properly introduce themselves. In other words, excellent bands that I still listen to but which never got a record deal and who have all but vanished without a trace, often right at the cusp of delivering something really good.

And they all have Myspace sites instead of bandcamp/soundcloud, how mid-00s!

1984 / SHOPLIFTERS

Myspace

Who: A bunch of aspiring young musicians from Cardiff who worshipped the Manic Street Preachers and have spent way too much time around their lyrics booklets – including cultural references and politics commentary delivered in a typically youthfully hamfisted way – sounds like a recipe for cringing but while a bit shambles, 1984 or Shoplifters still had a knack for a tune and a promise for something better had they had gained more experience under their wing. Originally known as 1984, the band changed their name into Shoplifters after some personnel changes, only to disappear into the great unknown soon afterwards.

Recordings left behind: None, just a ragtag bunch of demos and other home recordings on Myspace.

So why should we care?: Out of all the bands on this list, these guys were the most embryotic: still clearly a young band playing in the garage when they could, with no proper recordings or any other claims to fame. They did however have some potential too. While the songs wear their influences extremely clearly on their sleeves and the tunes come from very well-tapped veins of inspiration, 1984 had the most important thing under control – the knack for a tune. While a few of their songs still hang around in my hard drive, the most notable to name is arguably “Rusty James” which seemed to be somewhat of a calling card for them; to the point that when the band changed their identity, it was the only song carried over to the second incarnation. For a fairly good reason too. While “Rusty James” takes a bit too much from the Manics book of songwriting (it’s even got a soundclip from a film as an outro!), a more polished studio recording could have easily attracted some attention thanks to its rather marvellously catchy and rocking chorus that taps into that well of finely made rock and roll. It’s also the only song of theirs which is both worth a mention AND found on the Myspace link above, albeit as a live version that rocks up the original quite a lot and lacks some of its more subtler qualities, but still manages to work swell enough even in its current form. The rest of the band’s best songs sadly did not make the transition (“Colossus” and “Epitaph”, for what it’s worth) and, as brutally honest as this is, the other two songs on Shoplifters’ Myspace aren’t much to care about. Which might have signalled why they never got any further.

BLOSSOMS

Myspace

Who: Finnish feel-good disco/funk/pop group. With their groovy rhythms, funky attitude and danceable moves, Blossoms were here to make everyone party and dance. Early Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Electric Six dosed with heavy amounts of sunshine and smiles, if you pardon the x-meets-y.

Recordings left behind: a self-titled EP and a similarly self-titled album. My copy of the latter comes with a personalised kudos message! Both are rather swell, even if the EP’s value is slightly lessened by the album containing re-recordings of its two stand-out songs (although the EP version of one of them is superior to its album cousin).

So why should we care?: Because they were fun. Very much so. Neither the EP nor the album could be called fine art but they do one thing really well and that’s having fun. The fact that Blossoms were a young grassroots band even works to their advantage: they sound like your friend’s friend’s band who’s come to play at your party, except they’re actually good. Their presence is akin to what you would call “intimate” in the case of a more serious artist, only brought to the world of highly extroverted feel-good pop music.

Blossoms had three stand-out songs. One of those was never recorded and only made an appearance on their live sets (I saw them briefly a small eternity ago and I still remember the song). The other two are the aforementioned duo that can be found both on the album and the EP, “One Night” and “Beach”. Of these two, “Beach” can be found on the Myspace address above – it’s a song that takes a more serious angle compared to their usual frolics, but pulls it off brilliantly. For a more typical Blossoms song, the rather jolly single “Get Laid” is also on Myspace – it’s one of those songs that almost seems a bit knowingly moronic and is twice the fun because of it.

PROLOGUE

Myspace

Who: Finnish pop/rock group who listened to British music of said kind and thought they’d give it a try. And that try was very successful. Had they not faded away into wherever they went, I genuinely think these guys could have been fairly huge because their songs tick all the boxes. Initially a fairly intimate, low-key band specialising in somewhat adorable pop nuggets, their later works showcased a whole new side that was bolder and grander than anything before but with their talent for some genuinely lovely melodies intact. I could have easily seen these guys alongside eg Rubik and Pariisin kevät in the Finnish music world.

Recordings left behind: Outside a myriad of early demos and the digital single that became the band’s last official release, there’s one “proper” release: the self-released Stars Are Holes in the Sky EP with its five rather lovely little tunes. I’m very happy I randomly ordered it on a bored whim, it’s a joy to pull out every now and then.

So why should we care?: There are two very good reasons and they’re both readily available on the Myspace account. One is “Stars Are Holes in the Sky” from the similarly titled EP: a suave, elegant and a rather dashingly moody piano pop masterpiece much in the way of, say, early Coldplay or Travis but with a charm of its own. The other is “Ghost Writing”, part of the band’s grand reinvention but which eventually became a promise of nothing as they disappeared soon afterwards. What a tune. The gorgeous melodies and atmosphere are still there but married to a BIG Pop Moment that soars in the skies, looking to go higher and higher, which it eventually does as the finale breaks into one of those all-so-wonderful epic fireworks moments where backing choirs fill the air and the instruments build and build in intensity. It’s so, so good. And so, so evil that it will never seem to get a follow-up.

SQUIRRELHOUSE

Myspace

Who: Proof that sometimes chucking your band into any old blog can actually succeed in creating new fans. Back when I wrote for Indie Paws, an old music blog created alongside my friends, I decided to break one of my now-standard periods of inactivity by randomly checking out some of the billions of emails we’d get from indie label mailing lists, hopeful/desperate new bands seeking attention, etc. Usually this resorts in barely anything because I’m a picky bastard and things have to catch me in the right mood: Squirrelhouse did just that. An indie rock act from Texas with several great things going on for them just in terms of line-up: often excellent bass and guitar riffs, a trumpet player as a regular lineup member and, in an amazing coincidence, a member with Finnish blood in his veins.

Recordings left behind: One album, SPQR, which is still available at CDbaby the last time I checked. It’s an okay album, pretty much what you’d expect from a new unsigned band with a couple of highlights but which isn’t particularly memorable as a whole. If that sounds oddly negative for what is supposed to be a band I really want more material from, you’re right. But the album isn’t why I’d recommend Squirrelhouse.

So why should I care?: The demos for the second album are. They’re what attracted me to the band in the first place, got me checking their Myspace fairly frequently for new material and which are still found on my hard drive. In a classic example of a band really getting their act together after they had been working their craft for a while, the demos for the second, never-released album are quite frankly excellent. They’re almost all in the Myspace link: “Apocalypso”, “Monster part 2”, “Jolene” & “All That Shit” (sadly missing the first part of “Monster”), of which the first two in particular are something I really, really enjoy coming back to time and time again. “Apocalypso”‘s jangly frolic is great in itself but the real gem is that wonderful moody middle where things slow down and the trumpet’s bittersweet tones take the spotlight; “Monster part 2” on the other hand builds and sustains its intensity in a gripping way until finally releasing it in an Arcade Fire -esque finale. Of the other songs, “Fours” is worth a listen. It’s the highlight of SPQR and its slacker groove has a way of finding a home in your head.

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