Rock’s rich spinal ta­pes­try: were Brother hav­ing us on all along?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

NOEL GAL­LAGHER tells a story about be­ing in New York with his brother. They saw a poster for a live Spinal Tap show in Carnegie Hall and Liam, a fan of the film, per­suaded Noel to go along with him.

On the night, Spinal Tap had a sup­port act – the folk band A Mighty Wind. Liam com­plained loudly dur­ing A Mighty Wind’s per­for­mance, say­ing he didn’t want to sit through “this folk shit”, he just wanted to see Spinal Tap. Noel pa­tiently ex­plained that A Mighty Wind were the same peo­ple as Spinal Tap, so be quiet and en­joy the dou­ble bill.

Liam was con­fused. So Spinal Tap aren’t a real band? No, Noel replied, they were all com­edy ac­tors. Liam promptly stood up and stalked out of the venue in con­sid­er­able dis­gust.

While there are cer­tain bands out there who say they can’t watch the Spinal Tap film as it’s a bit too close to home for them, it’s un­clear how many peo­ple (apart from Liam Gal­lagher) re­gard them as a real band.

This phe­nom­e­non has just been reversed with the news that Brother are break­ing up. There are quite a few peo­ple who thought that the back-to-in­die-rock ba­sics UK group were sim­ply a po­stironic Brit­pop par­ody band. That they an­nounced they were break­ing up on April Fools’ day didn’t re­ally clear up the con­fu­sion.

Brother emerged two years ago as the “saviours” of gui­tar rock. This par­tic­u­lar species of rock mu­si­cian had been more or less made ex­tinct by pop and r’n’b (apart from the rare sight­ing of The Vac­cines around the busi­ness end of the charts).

They were unashamed Brit­pop re­vival­ists who harked back to those hal­cyon mid-1990s days of Blur vs Oa­sis. At their de­but live show they hero­ically pro­claimed, “If any­one here doesn’t want to see the fu­ture of mu­sic, leave now.” They would, by their own es­ti­ma­tion, have such a rapid tra­jec­tory that they would be head­lin­ing Glas­ton­bury in 2011.

Brother wanted to cre­ate their own genre of mu­sic. “Hope­fully we can cre­ate our own pe­riod of mu­sic that won’t be the same as Brit­pop. We will call it Grit­pop.”

At this stage Spinal Tap alarm bells were ring­ing, es­pe­cially when they fol­lowed up “Grit­pop” with “we want to be rock stars, and we’re not afraid to tell peo­ple. Bands such as Fleet Foxes are aw­ful, even Kings of Leon aren’t rock stars. Who’ve we got left? Pete Do­herty?”

A bona fide Spinal Tap mo­ment ar­rived early on when Brother had to change their name to Viva Brother. Ap­par­ently there al­ready was an Aus­tralian didgeri­doobased “Celtic Tribal” band called Brother. You couldn’t make it up.

Their re­sponse to the forced in­tro­duc­tion of the word “Viva” into their name was: “We’re a fuckin’ good band. Four let­ters isn’t go­ing to change any of that.”

They bravely sol­diered on, and ac­tu­ally got famed pro­ducer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur) to pro­duce their de­but al­bum, Fa­mous First Words. One of the kinder re­views said the al­bum merely amounted to “brass rub­bings of Oa­sis songs”. It went to No 34 in the charts be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing.

But are we all still quite sure about Viva Brother’s au­then­tic­ity? The an­nounce­ment they were break­ing up did come on April Fools’ day, af­ter all.

Has this all been an elab­o­rate hoax for an arty doc­u­men­tary film? Is this Spinal Tap for the Web 2.0 gen­er­a­tion? Let’s take the grassy knoll out of stor­age and start the con­spir­acy the­ory right here.

Piss artists or the real deal? O Brother, who art thou?

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