Mark, My Words: let’s keep the term ‘supergroup’ for special occasions

NME columnist Mark Beaumont doesn't see much that's 'super' about them

Heroes: they can definitely be super. Flying about, melting shit with their brains, landing enigmatically, I’m having that. Markets, OK, if they sell everything, they just about qualify. Drugs, yup, definitely super, especially if someone else has paid. Glue? I mean, if it’s sticky as fuck, I suppose…

But groups? Super? Really? A couple of session musos who once played on a Robbie Williams album hook up with the guitarist from Scrote and a singer chucked out of the band 15 years ago for hoofing away talent-destroying amounts of cocaine, and this constitutes a ‘supergroup’? And not just a bunch of out-of-work musicians who have so few back-up skills that they couldn’t even go into teaching?

How many times has the phrase ‘supergroup’ preluded crippling disappointment? Atoms For Peace. Angels & Airwaves. Velvet Revolver. Zwan. Even when a supergroup almost adds up to the sum of its parts – Them Crooked Vultures, perhaps, FFS, Prophets Of Rage, The Raconteurs – it rarely delivers anything as memorable as the source bands did. This week we hear news that Miki Berenyi of Lush has formed a new band called Piroshka featuring Moose from Moose, Justin from Elastica and Michael Conroy from Modern English. Now, I liked Lush. I liked Moose. I liked Elastica. I’d probably have liked Modern English, if I’d ever heard of them. But will I be going into their first songs assuming they’ll be as good as ‘Single Girl’, ‘Waking Up’, ‘…XYZ’ or whatever Modern English did (if you follow most links to them it seems their biggest hit was called ‘404 Page Not Found’)? Nope, I’m going in with the lowered expectations of a man who was fooled by Chickenfoot and Me Me Me and won’t get fooled again.


The problem is, the phrase ‘supergroup’ is vastly over-used – since Andy Burrows drums in most bands, aren’t about 90 per cent of acts supergroups now? – and it promises far more than most so-called supergroups can deliver. Often they’re made up of bit-players in other songwriters’ stories, decades past their peak; their appearance in a supergroup looks as desperate for cash and attention as Kanye West dancing around dressed as an Evian bottle. Many of the greatest supergroups were just called groups, since they were inherently aware of the limited profile of most of their previous bands: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Breeders, Foo Fighters, Run The Jewels. In fact, since the golden age of supergroups back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young set the standard for collaborations between famous hairy drug addicts, there’s only been one band that has really deserved the title. The Traveling Wilburys. Here’s a tip: if you look around your rehearsal room and you’re not sat with at least three people as famous as George Harrison, leave off with this ‘super’ shit. You’re a Cher cameo, not the fucking Justice League.

So what are you in? Now I wouldn’t want to rob the ever-increasing numbers of bandless bassists the opportunity to continue being a musician, but let’s stop trying to con the fans with the promise of unrivalled excellence. Let’s call them dumperbands, egowankathons or disappointoriums, anything to encourage musicians to leave their past achievements and failures behind when they start a new band and have a fresh clean-slate run at immortality without playing on their (often limited) former glories.

Better still, to make thing more interesting, let’s invent whole new forms of bands. Let’s have a bunch of metabands, where famous musicians get together to play each other’s hits to themselves, changing the words to biographies of their previous bands. Or how about some megabands, who you watch live then they give you a lift to Leicester for a quid? Or uberbands, who turn up somewhere near the venue, wait for eight minutes for you to find the gig and then piss off, charging you £6 even if you missed it? Just spare us more supergroups that fail to fly.