Long-Term Relationships – The New Rock’n’Roll

With Trent Reznor, Jack White and more making ace tunes with partners, Mark Beaumont reckons in 2010 music is finally giving monogamy a good name

Aside from “Of course I don’t want a pre-nup darling, it’s hardly like you’re going to run off anywhere with only one leg,” it used to be that the very worst thing a rock star could whisper across the pillow to their partner was, “Y’know, for a supermodel/A-list actor/Radio 1 DJ/obsessive fan of mine, you really can sing!”

Couples in bands have, historically, been a recipe for musical or marital disaster: Sonny & Cher went from ‘I Got You Babe’ to ‘You’ve Had Several Other People, Babe’ inside 10 years, both Abba marriages were forced so far apart by the pressures of success it’s taken 30 years for them to even talk about reforming, and Fleetwood Mac turned into a one-band Jeremy Kyle Show while recording ‘Rumours’. And let’s not even think about the Kate’n’Pete on-disc farragos. Those were reason enough for every court in the country to rule for enforced sterilisation right there.

So I was initially horrified to hear last week that howling industro-metal scaremonger Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails had started a band with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig. I know! Trent ‘I’d rather die than give you control’ Reznor has a wife! But, most shocking of all, How To Destroy Angels are actually pretty good. Subtle in a Portishead-y sort of way and with Trent’s mechanical menace kept seething at a safe distance, it’s almost as if Mariqueen has tamed him for the mainstream – the industrial equivalent of sobering up, pulling on an ill-fitting suit and trying not to twitch too much through parents’ evening.

But HTDA aren’t alone. Jack White’s collaboration with wife Karen Elson has turned in some surprisingly compelling murder ballads and is arguably the best supermodel record since Grace Jones’ ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ (mind you, she is really only up against Naomi Campbell’s execrable 1995 flop ‘Baby Woman’). There’s a monster buzz building around Jeremy Warmsley and partner Elizabeth Sankey’s joint venture Summer Camp after they stole the Camden Crawl with their saccharine wobble-synth pillow talk.

And with The Joy Formidable, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and The Besnard Lakes all finding that the whole ‘rock relationship’ thing can produce some remarkable sweet nothings, it looks like we’ve finally put behind us the days when ‘getting the other half in’ meant Linda McCartney playing one note on a keyboard at the back or Yoko Ono fucking up Side Four of ‘The White Album’.

In my opinion, it’s all down to one inspirational pairing, though. The returning Win and Regine from Arcade Fire finally laid to rest the spectres of Phil’n’Ronnie, Jack’n’Meg and George’n’Andrew and proved that the couple who play together really can stay together. And make beautiful music (outside the bedroom as well as in) while they’re at it. Although, if the current divorce statistics are to be believed, expect a plethora of bile-driven break-up records called ‘You’ll Never Get Custody Of The Accordian, You Bastard’ around 2015.