What makes a band a band?

I love the band Pop Will Eat Itself. Always have, always will. Their 1989 album ‘This is the day.. This is the hour.. This is This’ was the first album I ever bought with an ‘explicit content’ warning sticker on it; I can remember walking up to the counter and not actually knowing whether or not the shop would sell it to me as I was under 18. It felt like contraband, and, God, I loved that album. Within a week of owning it I knew every word.

The years went by, and I went to see PWEI a whole bunch of times. By the time I saw them in 1996, it was clear that something wasn’t quite right anymore. Founder member Graham Crabb had quit, and one night in Hammersmith I saw the remaining members play the shortest set I’d ever seen them play, heavy on new material which sounded like it was lacking inspiration. For the first time, they didn’t look like were enjoying themselves, and I wasn’t very surprised when the band called it a day not long after.

In 2005, the band played a series of reunion gigs with all members, including Graham. The gig I saw in Shepherd’s Bush was possibly the best I’d ever seen them; they sounded fantastic. It was one of those gigs where you can buy a CD as soon as the set is over, and I still play that CD pretty regularly. It’s a pretty perfect memory. There were various suggestions afterwards that the band were working on a new album. Little taster snippets were put online and sounded good, but it soon became apparent that the project wasn’t really going to fly after all due to scheduling commitments.

All of this led to the creation of a band called VileEvils, from the ashes of the PWEI reunion. They were pretty damn good too, and I ended up doing a video for their single NoFear (leaning fairly heavily on unused material from the shoots for TrashHouse and KillerKiller). Here it is:

VileEvils were due to release their first album at towards the end of this month, but.. Suddenly, a press release. One that starts like this..

dPulse Recordings has announced today the opening of a new chapter in the storied legacy of Pop Will Eat Itself – one of the most influential names in the history of electronic rock music – as Graham Crabb, the band’s principal songwriter and co-lead vocalist, ramps up with a new era for the PWEI legacy.

With a string of Top 40 UK and US hits, Pop Will Eat Itself rose to prominence fueled by Crabb-penned tunes such as ‘There Is No Love Between Us Anymore’, ‘Bulletproof’, ‘RSVP’, ‘Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies’ and many, many others.

With the new Pop Will Eat Itself single ‘Axe of Men (2010)’ currently making its rounds on DJ and radio promo worldwide, Crabb and PWEI will release a new album in summer 2010. That album will include tracks originally planned for the now-cancelled Vile Evils album Vive Le Vile Evil, which was scheduled for release by dPulse Recordings 23 March.

With news of this announcement, Graham Crabb and long-time collaborator and PWEI member Adam Mole have mutually and amicably disbanded their project Vile Evils, effective immediately.

There’s more at http://pwei.info if you’re curious.

So, this summer I’m going to get to go and see PWEI, except that there won’t be a single person on the stage who was also on the stage at that Hammermith gig in 1996. Soooo.. What makes a band a band?

Another of my favourite 90s bands, Carter USM, also amicably disbanded in the late 90s. Many years later, they played a series of gigs under the banner “Who’s The Daddy Now?”, the encores of which consisted of both founder members of Carter USM (Jim Bob and Fruitbat) onstage, playing Carter USM songs. They billed themselves as the only covers band to contain all the original members. So was that Carter USM? Or not Carter USM?

(Incidentally, I also directed a video for one of Jim Bob’s solo singles, which is below if you haven’t already seen it..)

Is a band a statement of intent? A specific collection of human beings? Presumably like the 2010 version of PWEI, the versions of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins currently touring both only have one member in common with their previous incarnations. The current line-up of The Wonder Stuff also caused quite a bit of controversy when first unveiled, but that’s a whole other story.

I love music an awful lot, and I’ll support the new version of PWEI just as I supported the old one. In fact, I’m rather excited at going to see them. I’ve just never quite been able to shift this question as to what makes a band from my mind.. Maybe the Sugababes will provide us all with an answer, as they argue it out in court.

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