Viva Brother’s reinvention as Lovelife is a pop tradition
Twitter, as we know, is a bastion of informed commentators discussing the important matters of the day. Except when it comes to pop music – and Jimmy Carr.
Trending this week were buzz-band Savages, who received a torrent of abuse from Cheryl’s ‘soldiers’ vilifying them for comments they didn’t make in The Telegraph. Soldiers being bile-filled fans of a talent show star attacking a band fronted by an actress for not having a number one.
But the parallels between the two are glaring. Musically both are at the peak of their chosen genres, having earned their stripes in previous bands.
Persona-wise, Cheryl changed from Tweedy to Cole, and back again, just to drop the surname baggage completely. Likewise, bright eyed Camille Berthomier became the black clad nu-noir queen Jehnny Beth.
This personal reinvention is the crux of pop music, and people do it for a reason – being a pop star’s awesome and wannabes will do anything to achieve it, talent shows and crop-cuts included.
Just take David Jones singing about laughing gnomes before realising glitter and Spiders From Mars signed more cheques.
So why shouldn’t the woeful indie band Viva Brother, who split up in a wave of apathy, return as a slick electro-pop group, Lovelife, and hangout in Brooklyn? After all, Brooklyn synth bands were ‘in’ last time I checked.
You wouldn’t have thought so judging by tweets and Facebook comments. The response to Lovelife’s existence has been hateful from the anti-Viva Brother contingent, and mocked by the blogosphere.
Most bands develop and carve their niche in suburban garages, not the media, but Lovelife are the result of public intervention. Viva Brother became toxic through hype, unable to identify who they were at a natural place, so they had to start again.
Reinventions are in musicians’ DNA. It stems from Robert Johnson’s Faustian deal with the devil at the Mississippi crossroads, epitomising how people will do anything to gain attention and the spoils of acclaim.
Our favourite pop stars constantly repackage themselves. Kylie has been on the pop treadmill, a rock chic, murder balladeer and disco diva, and she’s always perfect. Elvis changed from hip swinging rebel to hip hiding establishment mainstay because musicians have to change to survive.
Even Radiohead reinvent themselves every album. Had they released Anyone Can Play Guitar over again, then they would be talked about in the same breath as Shed Seven. And let us not forget New Order were dodgy punks, Warsaw, and the Arctic Monkeys were hip-hop kids.
2012 has already seen a spate of reinventions. 90’s boyband East 17 returned as a soft rock band, Muse declared a dubstep angle to maintain their relevance, and Damon Albarn has a new act seemingly every day.
All Viva Brother have done is avoid the drudgery of mediocre rock, which The Kooks fell into, and sensibly decided hanging with hipsters and wearing black was better than playing half empty gigs at Leeds Cockpit.
Maintaining the drive to succeed, to reach ones ambitions, should be applauded, not mocked. Identifying one’s weaknesses and proactively changing them for success, despite the knockbacks, are qualities a corporate life coach would be proud off.
Chumbawamba summarised this perfectly in their 1997 shitstorm ‘Tubthumping’: “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”. Love it or hate it, it made a cell of anarcho-punks a household name, and gave them a tidy check from the PRS.
Viva Brother’s Lee Newell took this mantra and applied it to his career, the latest in a tradition of pop reinventions. They were slagged off from the start, mocked for not even being as good as Menswe@r. But rather than merely aspiring to play second fiddle to a radio DJ, as Meanswe@r did, Newell kept his desire for fame.
In many ways Newell maybe the ultimate 90s revivalist, just as Paul Weller embodies the 60s. He will do anything to be a pop star, echoing The Word’s I’ll Do Any Thing To Be On TV feature. But rather than snogging a granny he’s wearing black and being aloof.
OK, having listened to Lovelife’s proto-Hurts mediocrity, it may be a case of Bill Hicks’ early 90s routine about when Vanilla Ice meets the devil: “So, you have no talent, but you want to be a star? I think there’s something I can do”, but like Michael Gove after your kids’ future, Newell knows what he wants.
The lure of limos, ladies, and liquor is hard to resist, and we can’t begrudge anyone reaching for it. Lovelife’s music maybe completely turgid, but have you heard the charts lately? Nevertheless, Brooklyn is embracing Lovelife, and they have gigs booked, which is more than can be said for most wannabe pop stars. Where did I put my tickets to The Voice tour?Tagged in: band, britpop, Cheryl, cheryl cole, lovelife, music, rock, Savages, synth, Viva Brother
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