After the wholly implausible news this week that My Bloody Valentine will shortly be releasing their first album in 21 years, it was tempting to keep an eye out for Halley’s Comet. With a pig in its slipstream. But Kevin Shields has an honest face so let’s take him at his word and get giddy all the same. That amount of procrastination can’t possibly produce a dud, can it? Just look at ‘Chinese Democracy’. Actually, don’t look at ‘Chinese Democracy’.
And speaking of artists who’ve spent entire decades rearranging their sock drawer, there’s also the prospect of a new Fleetwood Mac album, (at least) nine years after ‘Say You Will’. The ‘Mac surface every now and then, but there’s an extra frisson about their comeback this time, what with every shiny-faced band from Best Coast to Haim falling over themselves to declare love for deathless late-70s cocaine classics ‘Rumours’ and ‘Tusk’. Could Buckingham, Nicks and co return the favour and patent a 70s FM sound filtered through the prism of 21st century indie filtered through the prism of 70s FM? How would that even work? Jesus.
Whatever, we’ve got to assume it’s worth the hanging around. If, like me, you check the Internet every day for news of The Avalanches’ second album, you’ll know what a depressing grind it can be waiting for one of your favourite bands to pull their finger out. It’s now nearly 12 years since the Australian sampladelicists released their debut – and so far only – long-player ‘Since I Left You’, and that second set doesn’t get any closer despite reports of Ariel Pink and Danny Brown laying down guest vocals, and occasional (ok, annual) updates about how tough it is to clear all those samples. But those eons of mooching about pretending to record stuff will all be forgotten when it definitely turns up in 2013. Won’t they? Sure they will.
Some artists make a virtue of the long gap. Before Kate Bush went bananas last year and released two albums in six months she made a bid for procrastinatory immortality with a 12-year break between 1993’s ‘The Red Shoes’ and 2005’s ‘Aerial’. And when she finally turned up, had she lost her mojo? Not a bit of it. ‘Aerial’ was her most satisfying work since 1985 classic ‘Hounds Of Love’, blending spooky ballads, lightfooted funk and Rolf Harris to create a double-length tapestry of domestic pop bliss.
The Blue Nile too – they habitually went into stasis for five years before returning with a largely static, but beautiful album. Could their shtick be knocked off in a couple of amphetamine-fuelled weeks? Kraftwerk took 17 years between 1986’s ‘Electric Café’ and 2003’s ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’, keeping their sound so pristine it didn’t even feel dated. Well, they were inventing each phase of electronic music as they went along.
It’s a question of focus, talent and sheer bloodymindedness. Oh, and laziness. That’ll explain Green Gartside of Scritti Politti holing up in a Welsh pub for 11 years to hide from staggering Stateside success before popping up in 1999 with rap/blue-eyed soul crossover ‘Anomie & Bonhomie’, or Portishead taking a similar amount of downtime to eventually come up with the excellent ‘Third’. Then there are the labyrinthine “legal issues” that have thwarted the ‘Loveless’ follow-up. No matter though. We can complain all we like about the endless delays, but from The Stone Roses’ ‘Second Coming’ to Morrissey’s ‘You Are The Quarry’ all these five years-plus sabbaticals have justified the time. Sort of.
It’s not like we had to wait 20 years for an average Beach Boys album, is it?