If someone told you that, whilst they loved Nando’s they might, on occasion, want to try a cheeky bit of KFC, and even, every now and then, push the boat out, and go Pizza Hut wild- would you hate them for it? Fire them off death threats? Tell them they’ve destroyed your world? When it came to it, would you stab out grammatically bizarre internet comments claiming that they’d turned into a gruesomely lascivious, mincing deviant? Would you question their right to ever eat again?
Ignoring the lunatic fringe who just answered yes- how’s social life in the asylum btw?- I’d like you to go back to the first sentence and replace the words ‘Nando’s’ with ‘rock’, ‘KFC’ with ‘jazz’ and Pizza Hut with ‘dubstep’. CHRIST! Looks a bit different now eh! For some reason we, the world of music fans, take serious issue with our idols changing tack. It breaks our heart and punctures our dreams. Despite the fact that in many, many cases it’s the best move a band could make to evolve and stay relevant, it really, really pisses us off. I suspect it’s due to the amount of sheer space we allot these untouchables in our heart- but really, it’s time we came to terms with that simple fact: sometimes folks just change. So here to help us cope with the inevitable is a list of 10 bands that changed tack- some for definite better, and someone, no doubt, for worse.
Well. We may as well start with the outfit that inspired this article. Until about a month ago, Muse stood for big guitars, massive stadium chorus’s and epic sweeps of song writing. Now- in the eyes of a vocal and fuming section of their fanbase- they’ll be forever known for ‘going dubstep’. The rage and fear the band have provoked with the posting of one track that is , by the bands own admission, inspired in part by Skrillex, has been incredible. Forget the fact that its only one of many new tracks, forget the fact it’s all played on guitars and so ‘real’: In the mind of a Muse loving troll they’ve done the unforgivable. This is the dark side. And it goes ‘wub’. We’d hazard that the 1million plus views for the track in question would suggest that the trolls are going to lose this fight. Watch in years to come as fanboys claim ‘they always loved the new direction’ Just you wait.
The original betrayal. The Judas moment to trump all Judas moments… the playing of an electric guitar. There’s been so much written about ‘Dylan goes electric’ that’s there’s little I can add here, except wonder at the venom produced by a man playing the same instrument, but just louder. It’s kind of like watching a film in HD and moaning that the colours are sharper. What? People do that too?
Here's Dylan pretending he doesn't care that everyone hates his new sound:
Way back before they were Pitchfork readers bestest band ever, Radiohead were seen as a bit of a joke by the press. Written off firstly as posh grunge wannabes, then as one hit wonders after the monstrous success of Creep, debut album Pablo Honey is a pretty standard collection of too many guitar pedals plus whining. The Bends started to suggest that they had a few more tricks up their sleeve, but only really picked up recognition in the UK, but by the time of OK Computer they had achieved absolute worldwide success as a kind of shuffling, lank fringed modern day Pink Floyd. They could have rehashed that album for another decade or so and got fat as jowley sad faced hippos in the process (see: The Cure), but instead decided to follow up with a dense head fuck of ambient textures, free form song structures, chittering drum machines, and obscure, cut up lyrics. Half of the fan base (the stupid half) were appalled with Kid A . The other half recognised it for what it was- a milestone in popular culture, and a fine example of a band finally having a)balls and b) ideas. A basquillion records sold, a couple of rooms full of awards were presented, and the entire world acted like blushing first date teens at the mere mention of their name. It’s fair to say they made a good call.
Ice T decided at some point in the 80s that he just wasn’t pissing off enough of Middle America. Sure some of their kids got down with his New Jack tales of pimps and hos, but what about all those rock fans? How could he sweep them up? There were hordes of teenagers there who wanted to smash shit up but hated hip hop, what to do, what to do? Yep, you got it, he formed a rock band. But not just any rock band. No. He formed a hardcore thrash outfit called Body Count and with them recorded daytime radio favourite Cop Killer. Take that moral majority! Ice T claimed the song was written from the perspective of a victim of police brutality exacting brutal revenge, and memorably told his critics “If you believe that I'm a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut." American authorities displayed their fine grasp on pop music history by banning the record, ensuring it sold millions.
Sometimes being right ain’t easy. Especially if being right means dressing as a lingerie clad tranny , re-imagining a bunch of classics as a narration of your descent into drug addled mania, and completely scuppering your career in the process. Step forward Kevin Rowland. Rowland had got himself into a very special place in the late 90s. The former Dexy’s Midnight Runner had spent the last decade smashed off his gourd on anything he could get his increasingly grubby hands on. When Creation Records boss Alan McGee decided to give Rowland a leg up and another chance at the big time, the singer decided it was time to go through some very public and very personal therapy. He recorded the album My Beauty made entirely of covers of other peoples tracks- with the lyrics rewritten, in many cases bizarrely, to recount his battles with addiction. Just in case people weren’t sure that he was 100% losing the plot, he also took to wearing the make up of a 13 year old heading out to pull in Romford, and the sexy lingerie of a haggard tart. My Beauty infamously sold about 500 copies on its original release, and Rowland had the full bottles of piss treatment at Reading Festival when he tried to introduce his new image to a crowd well known for its sensitivity. BUT, now, 14 years on My Beauty is acknowledged as a deranged classic. As I said, being right ain’t always easy.
Back in the day the Bee Gees were the no-one-gives-a-shit-about-us version of the Beatles. They were bashing out their soft rock for an age, with some minor chart success in the 60s, but were pretty much on the edge of collapse. Then one day, they started messing about recording what they termed blue eyed soul. Some producer guy nonchalantly chucked their music onto the soundtrack of a supposedly small project- Saturday Night Fever. BabaBOOM, quicker than you can say JohnTravoltasDefinitelyNotGay the Bee Gees found themselves at the forefront of an international music revolution – for a music they knew nothing about. Honestly, at the time of Saturday Night Fever they’d never heard of ‘disco music’. But they had heard of making hay while the sun shines, and Bee Gees 1.2 was born as a grooving no-time-for-talkin’ bell bottomed big toothed disco machine. Here they are before, on balance I think I prefer version 1...
Underworld were pretty big shakes in the 90s, and I guess for some of the noughties. They, along with the Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, and Orbital, basically invented the concept of stadium house, which means you can thank them for the existence of Swedish House Mafia. Cheers. But before they were encouraging twats country wide to shout ‘Lager Lager Lager’ they were a dodgy 80s pop act. Listen to this:
Jesus. It took the firing of pretty much all of the band, and the hiring of the young Darren Emerson to mutate from Nik-Kershaw-but-not-as-good to mutant-techno-messiahs. Listen to the difference:
And people say Ecstasy never gave this country anything.
Tom Waits was knocking around for years as a pretty ordinary blues dawg. Sure he had an exceptionally low voice and some good bittersweet lyrics, but a listen to early albums Nighthawks at the Diner or Heartattack and Vine isn’t a gibbering journey into a voodoo B movie Hades populated by sailors, strippers, skeletons and killers, played on instruments made from bones, in hell. On the other hand Swordfishtrombone is. Who knows what happened to Waits in the 80s, but whilst the rest of the world was embracing digital recording techniques, synthesisers and Phil Collins, he was off sipping moonshine and writing free jazz monologues about burning your wife’s house down. History loves a man who sticks to his guns, and now, years later, Waits is rightly seen as a legend, whilst Collins is recognised as a baldy prick.
An early version of todays doing-a-dubstep, Bowie, that eternal musical chameleon has pulled a number of switches throughout his career, and most of them have worked in his favour. Most of them that is, except his attempt to ‘go drum n bass’. In a move most akin to an aging uncle trying to skank to Chase & Status at a local youth club, at some point in the late 90s Dave decided to get in on that crazy ‘drums and bass music’ all the kids were playing. The result was Little Wonder; the sound of a querulous geriatric croaking plaintively over a rejected Pendulum demo. And in case some weirdos out there think that sounds like it might be good, listen for yourself:
The jury’s very much out on this one. Frank Carter v.1 : Tattooed, screaming, Gallows fronting ginger nutjob. Frank Carter v.2: Suited, crooning Pure Love fronting smoothy. Still ginger. A lot of Gallows fans are already scratching their heads at Carter’s new sounds, and time will tell if this is his Bryan Ferry/ Feargal Sharkey moment (ie pop success and mega bucks) or more of a ‘when Keith Flint left the Prodigy to go solo’ affair- remember that? No of course you don’t. Here’s a horrible reminder.