Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Year in Supergroup News

2009: The year of the Merriweather Post Pavillion, the year of the summer music, the year of the noise pop band, and now, the year of the supergroup....wait, what?

Following in the footsteps of Audioslave (shudder,) the Postal Service (un-shudder,) and Velvet Revolver (shudder,) an epidemic has swept the music community in which artists have become stricken with an inexplicable boredom with their lives and present projects. Rather than stirring some excitement into already existing bands they belong to, however, many have jumped to the conclusion that the only sensible solution is to form another band entirely. Thus, the birth of a modern supergroup: an inferior product of jadedness with one album in the canon and a predestined fate of critical panning. Sometimes, however, the supergroup rises to the occasion and, though not always "super," per se, does manage to make something of value.

This year had an outpouring of supergroups First we had The Dead Weather, featuring the omnipresent Jack White, on drums behind members of the Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age, and the Kills' singer Alison Mosshart in what culminated in a gruff, fuzzy collection of rock songs known as "Horehound."

Then came Tinted Windows, a group most likely formed by hitting Wikipedia's Random Article button until four musicians came up, featuring members from Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Hanson, and Fountains of Wayne. I'll stop talking about them now.

Right around the middle of 2009, David Grohl made good of his word in 2005 and announced another new band, Them Crooked Vultures, in which he would be returning to form from his Nirvana days on the drum kit. Accompanied by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age fame and John Paul Jones of an as-of-yet unknown band named Led Zeppelin, the trio has released as little information about themselves as possible other than snipits of songs on Youtube. The group has announced a tour, however, don't plan on seeing them in the UK--tickets sold out in 12 minutes (without the band ever even releasing a song, mind you.)

Riding the wave of summer music was Discovery, comprised of Wes Miles from Ra Ra Riot and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend. Both hailing from critically acclaimed, orchestral catchy bands, the two have completely shifted their focus on their debut album from XL Recordings, "LP," experimenting with electronic, pop, and R&B influences.

Perhaps the year's best supergroup (so far,) however, has been Monsters of Folk, a pleasantly surprising union between Jim Jones of My Morning Jacket, Connor Oberst of Bright Eyes, and M. Ward: all three giants in the indie community. The band has released their eponymous first album to mostly positive response, incorporating mezmerizing harmony parts wrapped around technically proficient guitars and soaring choruses. Each member gets a say in each song, frequently trading off on the lead vocal parts. Already the group has been tagged as "the decade's Travelling Wilburys," riding on the success of a tour, televised performances, and above all, well-fashioned folk-rock.

But it ain't over 'till it's over. Frontman Thom Yorke of Radiohead has recently announced an as-of-yet untitled new band alongside--get this--Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. The group has already played several surprise concerts in L.A. that Yorke has referred to as "more of rehersals," highlighting the somewhat haphazard attitude of the band. In the same week, the promising nonet (that's nine members, folks) Supercluster was unveiled to the public, featuring members from Of Montreal, Pylon, Deerhunter, and a number of other acts.

Is the supergroup a bad thing? Not necessarily. Several supergroup acts proved my convictions wrong this year, namely Discovery and Monsters of Folk, while early recordings of Supercluster have me enthusiastically anticipating what's to come. At the very core of it, musicians are musicians regardless of fame or lack thereof; star power is the only distinction between a supergroup and a side project. Thus I conclude. Have a super day.

Supercluster- I Got the Answer
The Dead Weather- Hang You From the Heavens

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