x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A dignified exit

Fans might be sad to say goodbye to The White Stripes and LCD Soundsystem, but it's refreshing to see bands call it a day before they're a spent force.

February has been a tough month so far for many music fans, as a trio of acts have either called it a day or announced a final victory lap.

First up was the announcement that the Detroit garage duo The White Stripes have called time after 13 years, six critically lauded albums, millions in sales and a stadium-commanding fan base.

This was followed by the New York disco punks LCD Soundsystem confirming their long-rumoured demise by announcing an epic final show at Madison Square Garden in April.

Finally, Mike Skinner announced that The Streets' (playing Dubai's Barasti Beach on March 18) fifth album would be the last.

However, despite the initial sadness for their fans, the departure of these bands rather satisfyingly bucks the present trend for influential groups and artists to hang around for too long, losing currency with each lacklustre record or another heritage-listed world tour.

News of the White Stripes' unexpected exit left fans across the blogosphere bemoaning how tantalisingly close the duo were to becoming the biggest modern rock band on the planet.

Websites and blogs, which first floated the rumour of the impending split, initially reported that unresolved tensions between Jack and Meg White lay at the heart of the decision.

But such speculation was swiftly put to rest by The White Stripes' farewell note to fans. In the understated manner typical of their music, the duo pointedly said their decision wasn't due to "artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue".

Instead, they were parting simply to "preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way".

The LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy cited similar reasons.

He said the band's three successful albums were partly due to the group's philosophy of maintaining a limited shelf life.

The built-in expiration date - which we've had since the beginning ... has been part of what made us,'' he told an Australian journalist.

Mike Skinner was more direct as to why he pulled the plug on The Streets after five albums in 10 years. "I haven't really got anything more to do," he told The Guardian.

Bands break up for myriad reasons. Some groups wheel out the well-worn phrase "artistic differences", while other splits strike a sourer and more personal note.

But it's refreshing to see that some bands know when to call it a day.

Last year vintage rockers The Who hit the road once again to promote the 40th anniversary of their live album Live at Leeds. Their 2010 Superbowl performance, particularly Pete Townsend's frail imitation of his iconic windmill arm, was enough for one to hope for some kind of stage malfunction to strike again.

Meanwhile, in January, this scribe suffered the indignity of seeing the punk legend Joan Jett tarnishing what's left of her legacy with a limp performance at an Australian rock festival.

At some stage these artists have to wonder what is the point of it all. There is surely no fun to be had in being upstaged by a backing band of pimply teens.

The Police frontman Sting was canny to this realisation.

He first recognised the band reached their zenith while playing to capacity at New York's behemoth Shea stadium in 1983.

Sting realised they had climbed their Everest, and the acrimonious decision to split followed soon after.

"This is as big as anyone can get," he later recalled.

"I thought all we can do now is keep repeating this success and get diminishing returns."

It was a similar case with Manchester's mod rockers The Jam.

The singer and chief songwriter Paul Weller, to the devastation of his bandmates, decided to end The Jam after deciding the group could not progress any further following its hugely successful sixth album The Gift.

"I feel we achieved all we can together as a group," Weller said when he announced the split.

The longer the group continues, the more frightening the thought of ever ending it, because that is why so many of them carry on until they become meaningless.

We should salute The White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem and The Streets for ending their careers with a note of dignity.

They may well have discovered the secret to posterity lies in not only knowing when to arrive, but when to sing that parting note.