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Article: We Hardly Knew Them

Band break-ups

We Hardly Knew Them

I hate to see a good band go. It sucks when they're big players, like the end of R.E.M. or Rilo Kiley, but it's even worse when a band break ups on the cusp of breaking out. At best, we get an album, maybe a few EPs, to remind us of the potential and nothing more. These are the bands that will come up when I set my iTunes to shuffle and think, “They really could have had something.” Big enough to be missed, but too small to warrant a reunion. These are the bands that split before their time. Harlem Shakes could have been huge. I say this because whenever I play  “Strictly Game” or “Sunlight,” for someone two songs from their only album, the listener wants more almost without fail. It was high energy, emotive substance with lyrics and melodies that begged you to sing along. That's because they aimed to stuff their songs with wall-to-wall hooks, which isn't everybody's idea of perfect music, but it was massively accessible and fun. They toured big on the album, selling out venues, but all that goodness was for naught as they eventually mysteriously broke up. The lack of reported reason usually steers towards internal friction. The Sound Team song that made waves in music fans was “Movie Monster,” the title track of their album, which sounds a bit like a darker, more textured and downtempo Interpol. A distorted bass synth fills the foreground, overpowering even the vocals, which is a uniqueness that sticks with you. But it's not representative of their sound as a whole, and if we're reading into the creative differences that contributed to their break up, maybe the different directions of their album was a sign of their tension. Still, they broke up in an interesting fashion: A couple of guys dropped out to pursue their education, they had a big tussle with their label over pricing, and then released all their songs for free and digitally soon after calling it quits. Finally, when I think of victims of the music blogosphere, I think of Voxtrot. They had a string of highly buzzed about EPs full of great lyrics laid on top of a traditional guitar-driven sound that was completely satisfying. They got what any indie band wants before the release of their first album - a strong fanbase, blogger hype and comparisons to The Smiths. But when their first full-length arrived, it was as if they suffered from early-onset sophomore slump. They pushed forward on their sound and aimed for an evolution that may not have yet been in their grasp. It's always tough to be raised up and then unceremoniously dropped. There were hopes of retooling, maybe a more back to basics approach, but the story is the same here as on all the others. Voxtrot lives on in a single self-titled album, a handful of EPs, and the lead singer's solo project.

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