x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Muse find experimenting musically can save a band

Perhaps the key to longevity is when bands can be forgiven for their not so successful albums and go on to produce more music.

Muse are the aural equivalent of an exclamation mark.

Back with their latest album, The 2nd Law, the successful British trio continue to, despite criticism, produce histrionic music that doesn’t make sense.

Yet considering the millions of albums sold, the latest effort rubs off some of the dirt on the maligned music terms “pompous” or “overproduced”.

It seems the critics have forgotten rock’s great tradition of bands making ambitious leaps.

For many, such advances were necessary to keep the band together.

The Beatles reportedly were close to breaking up in 1967, feeling they were boxed in with what John Lennon described as “making soft music for soft people”. So out came the orchestra and sitars and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remains a high-water mark for all popular music.

Lou Reed put an end to his pop aspirations with Metal Machine Music. The 1975 album remains one of the most notorious rock albums ever produced, with its hour-long set of hissing feedback. Reed was understandably pilloried for the release, with a famous Rolling Stone review labelling it “a lot of stroboscopic sludge”. The album, however, achieved its purpose: saving Reed from his increasing pop image to release further experimental work that was critically acclaimed.

Other classic rock groups have flaunted their experimental side from their first album.

Pink Floyd’s 1967 classic debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn employed all sorts of studio wizardry with off-key organs, echoes and chromatic compositions; a songwriting style willfully at odds with traditional melodic parameters.

The above albums are rightfully hailed for possessing the sheer purpose missing from a long listed of modern bloated failures.

I am sure Axl Rose had some sort of vision when announcing Guns N’ Roses’ next album in 1994.

Fourteen years and US$13 million (Dh48) later, Chinese Democracy remains an aimless record, lost in a vortex of multi-tracks and Rose’s increasingly agitated vocals.

At least Chinese Democracy was an idea badly executed. Because last year’s Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration Lulu was ill-conceived from the outset. Pairing Lou Reed’s spoken-word performance with pummelling grooves from the metal titans could have been conceivable if the lyrics or riff made literal or melodic sense.

At least these groups and singers were forgiven and went on to produce more music.

Perhaps that’s the key for career longevity.

Music lovers have a higher tolerance for artists who try and fail rather than initially please, only to fade away.

The former should be the goal for all musicians, -really.

Saeed Saeed is a reporter for Arts & LIfe

sasaeed@thenational.ae