Keep The Faith

Biffy_Clyro_band[1]

No, this is not a review of the classic Bon Jovi album from the 90’s.  I’m saving that for a rainy day.  Perhaps for next month’s Sunday Supplement on Songbytoad??!!  This is the story of artists who never know when to give up.  Who keep believing and dreaming and who have had their hard work and dreams rewarded and deservedly so.  Artists who I admire for the very reason that they keep me filled with hope and belief that anything is possible.

Music is kind of like that though.  Sometimes, bands come from nowhere.  Success comes really easily to them.  Their first album instantly makes them household names or takes them to a level most artists can only dream of.  This gives them the platform to go on to bigger and better things.  The flip side to this instant success, of course, is the pressure to maintain a standard.  To raise the levels of performance, to maintain record sales and build a successful career from the initial flurry of media and public attention.  Of course, many, many fail.  Others build successful careers off just a couple of albums, milking this success forever more.  I’m not naming any names but we all know who I’m talking about.

Anyways, this post is about bands that didn’t have instant success.  Who released 2 or 3 albums before they actually had any sort of real success.  Who worked and worked and worked and worked and worked and just kept working, believing and, I guess, hoping.  And who ultimately were rewarded for their hard work. 

Elbow.  When Asleep in the Back was released I was absolutely certain that this band were going to be massive.  I just didn’t realise it would take them until their 4th album to achieve the success that they deserved.  I still don’t think that it should have taken this long.  My love of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ has grown considerably since I was on holiday earlier this year in Melrose and it was the soundtrack of the week.  That said, I would still rate Asleep in the Back as their best album and my favourite of their records for sure.  And I do think that if there was an album that should have won them the Mercury Music Prize then it should have been that.  But let’s take Elbow as the perfect example of working hard, focusing solely on the music and growing as a band to the point that they could no longer be ignored.  Building a fanbase.  A dedicated fanbase, bordering on the fanatical, that forced them into the thoughts of others. 

Biffy Clyro. If there is one band who define hard work then it’s these guys.  I just bought their new album and have listened to it on repeat all day.  Let me tell you.  It’s brilliant.  I love it.  There will be an album review to follow later in the week once I digest it a little more.  But lets think about this.  When I first heard Biffy on Radio Scotland Simon Neil worked behind the bar in some pub in Glasgow.  He was in the same position as some of my friends now, and me.  In a band, longing for success, hoping for a career just performing his songs and writing music.  They built a fanbase through hard work and effort.  They had the support of a wicked independent label of course who obviously allowed them freedom to write and create and release their music.  Then all of a sudden, album number 4 ‘Puzzles’ arrived and took them to a whole new level of success.  Since then they have gone from strength to strength.   I was worried that they were going to be 1 major album wonders but the new album has dispelled my fears for sure.  And out of all the bands who have had to work to get to where they are now, I am most pleased for them simply because they produce the kind of music that I never thought could cross over from alternative to mainstream with such success. 

Idlewild. I guess this is a strange one because most people would argue that Idlewild are on the way down.  I guess that could be seen as being true.  But then I would look at it this way.  It took until their 3rd album for any sort of real attention and until their 4th release before they became real mainstream hits with ‘The Remote Part’.  Sure, since then their demise has been noticeable, but with the release of’ ‘Post Electric Blues’ I would argue that Idlewild have raised their profile again and produced something that deserves a lot of praise and respect.  It’s a wonderful never say die attitude.  Recording the album themselves and then finding a label to release it was a brave move and one that I think they should be praised for.  Especailly as it was released to real fans prior to any label involvement.   With Roddy Woomble’s amazingly successful forays into the world of Scottish folk music I would argue that Idlewild are still one of Scotland’s most important bands.  They took a long time to get noticed on a large scale and despite all the knockers and doubters they are still producing quality music in 2009.  Much respect.

Broken Records. Why on earth have I chosen these guys I hear you say?  Well, it’s simple really.  These guys have had so much attention from the media, so much hype from the Edinburgh music press, so much weight placed on their very inexperienced shoulders.   Their debut album was good.  I liked it.  But it didn’t live up to my or many other peoples expectations.  It hasn’t, so far, brought them the instant success which people thought and claimed that it would.  However, I have absolutely no doubt that they are going to get there.  That in 1 or 2 albums time they are going to become houesehold names.   Going to be a band playing headline sets at big festivals.  Going to be a band that when I write about I have only positive things to say about them.  I certainly hope this prophecy comes true.  I know they are hard working, and I hope that their hard work and determination pays off and they find themselves making a living from playing the music they love.

There are others of course, Snow Patrol being a prime example.  Though I don’t like their music anymore, Final Straw was apparently their last attempt to make it as a band.  It just shows you how fine the line between breaking up and making it big is.   Anyways, not sure what the point of this post was other than I love the new Biffy record and it made me think about the Kays, about why we do this crazy thing called being in a band and about hope.  Ultimately it’s all about hope.  I just wanted to highlight some of my favourite bands who give me that hope and keep me believing that anything is possible.

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19 thoughts on “Keep The Faith

  1. ‘Asleep in the Back’ is probably one of my favourite albums of anyone ever, and though Elbow have been excellent since, i’m not sure they’ll ever be able to match that record. I don’t want them to stop though!

    The song “Asleep in the Back” is absolutely beautiful, the brass swells on the chorus get me every time. And “Scattered Black and Whites”!

  2. Why are you in shock Tom? The new album is great. Really love it. And I’ve always liked them. Early albums are great too. Not sure I agree with your Muse comment. But for the record, I admire Muse too. There’s something great about their overblown pomp.

  3. These bands were all full-time musicians early on in their careers though were they not? While they might not have become ‘proper’ famous until their later releases they were still able to make a living out of music, even if they weren’t getting rich, headlining festivals or having big chart hits.

    Take the example of Pulp for instance. Jarvis Cocker started Pulp in 1979 (1970fucking9!!!) but wasn’t able to become a full-time musician (i.e only making a living from being in a band) until His and Hers was released in 1994. Until then in fact he was either a student, on the dole and living in squats, or working part-time for friends. Even more astoundingly, Different Class wasn’t released until 1995 when he was about 32. That’s bloody old by Pop Music’s standards and shows an incredible amount of determination and self-belief, in the face of almost overwhelming adversity.

    By these standards, the bands you have mentioned (Biffy Clyro, who have worked bloody hard, excluded) have had a relatively easy ride, and became ‘successful enough’ to keep going after their first album.

  4. Mmmm, not sure I agree with you mate. From what I know about Elbow, my friend met them in the USA and spoke to them and they really struggled to “make a living” from their early albums. They managed, but only just. I think the same could apply to Idlewild on the back of their first 2 albums. And it definitely applys to Biffy.

    As for Broken Records, well they still work inbetween tours and I believe Frightened Rabbit had to as well until recently.

    I guess my point was people have to work hard to get to where they want. Obviously Jarvis did too. So Pulp fit well with the post. And I’m 30. SO maybe the Kays can do something within the next 2 years!?

  5. I SOOO agree with you about Biffy, but; even if artists only just manage to make a living from music, that’s still making a living out of music. It’s not having a full-time job/being unemployed and still trying to make it as a band.

    Fair play to Broken Records and Frightened Rabbit for taking a chance and for working hard when they still have to work part-time, but I think that’s largely expected these days. It’s not the same as Jarvis though, for whom it took well over ten years to have the same success that those two bands are having now.

    Having quickly wikipedia-ed Elbow, I was probably not giving them the credit they deserved! However, if I had an album with the kind of sales and success that Asleep In The Back had for my first proper album release, I reckon I’d be pleased enough with that, considering that it would allow me to write, tour and record full-time, regardless of how much success it actually deserved.

  6. But Biffy were on Beggars Banquet for their first 3 albums and Idlewild were on Food for their first 3. They did have support sure, but not massive I wouldn’t have thought. Like Frightened Rabbit and Broken Records now. I’m sure they had to go through the hardships also.

    I think you have to remember that Idlewild’s new album was funded by their fans as they had no label. Once it was done they managed to get a label to release it. And I think they’ll be bigger than they have been for a while off the back of it.

    I’m not taking anything away from Jarvis or Pulp either. He obviously stuck at it and fair play to him, he deserves everything he got for keeping the faith.

    And I agree. I would be pleased with the sales Asleep in the Back had. But even with those sales and a great 2 follow ups, they were still not guaranteed to be making music forever until The Seldom Seen Kid dropped and won them that Mercury. It kind of hits home how difficult it is to make it in music. Don’t you think?

  7. Yes, I think the experience of all these bands shows how hard it is to make a life in music, but we’re talking about “artists who never know when to give up. Who keep believing and dreaming and who have had their hard work and dreams rewarded and deservedly so.” Your words!!!

    My point was that stories like Jarvis’ trump all the bands you gave as examples. These bands were successful and popular enough to have their options renewed by their labels (although Elbow had major problems with their ‘lost’ debut) and there was therefore enough of a reason to keep going: enough people liked them and they made enough money to keep going until they got proper successful- Seldom Seen Kid and Remote Part being Elbow’s and Idlewild’s respective tipping points into mainstream commercial success.

    I feel like we’re on an SbT thread!

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