Poor ol’ Axl Rose: the eternally tardy, clothes-banning, strop-throwing frontman whose appetite for self-destruction has rubbed even hardcore Guns N’ Roses nuts up the wrong way. As Henry Yates pointed out yesterday, there’s a fine line between rock’n’roll larks and just being a bit of a twerp and, while indulging in the former might add to the heft of your legend, straying into the latter too many times will stop being entertaining and merely become fucking annoying instead.
All of these former Guns N’ Roses zealots renouncing their devotion after Axl’s latest antics, though, got me thinking about the bands who you just can’t stomach purely because of their frontman. And not just the groups whose irksome singer simply adds to their woefulness – because, even sans Bono, U2 would still be awfully blustering; even shorn of Fred Durst’s buffoonery and piss-poor vocals, Limp Bizkit would, alas, still be Limp Bizkit.
Instead, I mean the frontmen who invoke such white-hot fury in you that it hinders any potential enjoyment of the rest of their wares. Personally – and I’m aware some within these walls will deem it heresy – I’ve never been able to really get into The Who, and I attribute that purely down to Roger Daltrey. It matters not how good a guitarist Pete Townshend is, or that Keith Moon bangs his drums with all the might of a vengeful Norse God: as soon as I hear Daltrey’s awful howling- which, to me, is akin to a bellowed, full-frontal assault on the earlobes – my blood runs cold.
The same, too, goes for Muse: they’re so bombastic, so overblown, that I often think they’d be quite fun if they were fronted by a more flamboyant figure. But Matt Bellamy’s po-faced mewing renders them completely dull to these ears: music that’s undoubtedly grandly assembled, but lacking in anything remotely human.
Other offenders include Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth and his limp, woe-is-me bleating – why can’t he ENUNCIATE, for fuck’s sake? – and The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, whose vocals bear an uncanny resemblance to a farmyard animal that’s having its tail unpleasantly yanked upon. For all I know, The Decemberists could be unequivocally brilliant, and CYHSY might be the most groundbreaking, innovative band the world has birthed since Kraftwerk. It’ll be lost on me, though, because I can’t physically listen to either of their voices for longer than 20 seconds.
There’s an argument, of course, that great frontmen are often divisive figures – love ‘em or hate ‘em types capable of inducing fanboyish devotion or overwhelming rage. I think there’s something wholly glorious about Hayden Thorpe’s voice, but I know a few folks who’ve been put off Wild Beasts because of his pipes; he even admitted himself that his vocals have a Marmitey-aspect to them. And similarly, I’ve much love in my heart for the wizened growl of The Fall’s Mark E Smith, and glam flamboyance of Suede’s Brett Anderson. I know plenty of others who’d disagree.
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So, who are the lead singers who are so awful that they tarnish your enjoyment of an otherwise perfectly serviceable band? Which frontmen would you like to see booted out with their P45, so they can leave their more talented and palatable mates to get on with it? Let us know below…