It came as a cruel irony today that midway through our first listen to the godforsaken new Brother record, news landed that The Music were splitting up. As we sat through the dying grunts of Britpop reimagined by four urchins from Slough, it sunk in that one of the most inventive turn-of-the-millenium bands – one of the groups that saved us from those dark days – are no more.
The Music might only be mourned by a select few but their two-night funeral party this summer ought to be packed to the rafters. They were, quite simply, in a class of their own. It’s easy to forget that when Steve Lamacq started championing them we were living in a world of Hives, Vines, and Travis travesties. In 2001 the NME tour featured Amen, Starsailor, JJ72 and Alfie, the latter of which feel like less a band than a vague bad dream. And shortly before The Music’s debut Fierce Panda release ‘Take The Long Road And Walk It’ hit the shops we were featuring proto X-Factor TV show Popstars on the cover. Dark times.
And those early The Music tracks hit like a truncheon to the nethers. Not only ‘Take The Long Road And Walk It’’s baggy-grunge-disco strut or ‘The People’’s big-riffing ballsiness but most of the B-sides too: The Mogwai-goes-tribal ‘The Walls Get Smaller’’s and ‘New Instrumental’’s mesmerising squiggly post-rock among the most memorable.
They might not have been arsed to write proper song names (and when they did they were never much better than the dismal ‘You Might As Well Try To Fuck Me’), but they knew their way around a tune.
And as for their debut – near perfection. At the time NME wrote: “epic is the scale. Frazzled are the incantations. Heavy are the riffs. Ablaze are the lakes of fire burning in the bellies of these preposterously ungainly jams”, which just about summed it up. Raising itself out of a wall-of-noise miasma during ‘The Dance’ and going on to display a technical ability and more importantly a natural groove that belied their shaggy-haired stoner façade, it – along with the singles and b-sides – armed the band with a formidable live show.
I saw them many times, but perhaps the most memorable was on the NME Stage at Reading in the early noughies. I’d hustled onto the site as an Oxfam steward and my only job was to stop people climbing up those ladder tower things. Needless to say two songs in I was down the front while some bloke disappeared up the pole and out onto the roof to the strains of Robert Harvey singing ”what’s it like up there” at the start of ‘Getaway’. They were one of those bands.
Sure, the tracks got progressively less awesome, and Harvey went through a whole drink/drugs/depression phase (about which he was admirably honest and open), but they regained most of their form for a least half of third album ‘Strength In Numbers’. However, they never did quite recapture that early alchemy and that was about it. Perhaps the formula was just too volatile – too unique to produce again and too complicated to develop. Eventually they got left behind. But they’ve left behind more tunes in more brains than Brother will ever hope to.