Sometimes the best thing a band can do is rip it up and start again.
This morning (January 26) White Lies are celebrating the fact that their debut album ‘To Lose My Life’ has gone straight in at Number One. The UK has evidently embraced the band’s glacial synths/brooding soundscapes/stadium-size hooks (insert your own music-journo cliché here).
Their success is easy to understand. In these straitened economic times, gloom and paranoia sells. It’s unlikely, however, that White Lies would have captured the zeitgeist quite so neatly if they’d kept plugging away in their former incarnation.
That’s because, until October 2007, the black-clad doom-mongers pictured above looked like this:
Back then they were known as Fear Of Flying. Tuneful post-punkers in the Maximo Park/Futureheads mould, the trio released two Stephen Street-produced singles (which you can still order) on Young And Lost Records, and played the inaugural Underage Festival.
In place of the gothic baritone he employs now, frontman Harry McVeigh adopted a Kapranos-style, new-wave squawk. You can hear how the band used to sound on Fear Of Flying’s Last.FM profile.
Below you can watch a video for their single ‘Three’s A Crowd’. Spiky, youthful and frantic, it’s about as far from the expansive, slow-build majesty of ‘Death’ as it’s possible to get.
People tend to be sniffy about bands who reinvent themselves in this manner, as if it represents a lack of conviction, or a surfeit of calculated careerism. I disagree. Surely it’s better for everyone if bands learn from their mistakes?
Does anyone think any less of Blur for the fact they started out as amateurish shoegazers Seymour? Does Brandon Flowers’ time in mediocre Sonic Youth-a-likes The Blush Response make the songs of The Killers any less valid?
Indeed, you wonder how many other middling, landfill-indie bands right now might benefit from a radical sonic makeover, rather than stubbornly ploughing ahead in the name of ‘authenticity’.
Fear Of Flying, ‘Three’s A Crowd’