So last week we looked at lead singers becoming solo starts, but what happens when one of the “other guys” gives it a go?
Lots of us think we could be singers, we can sort of hit a note, at least as much as Lou Reed could. We’ve got the moves down, a hip shimmy here, a microphone grab there, we certainly wouldn’t look as daft as Mick Jagger did at Glastonbury last year. We’ve got the looks, well on a good day, with the right lighting, and hey the guy from The Enemy was a frontman and he certainly wasn’t a looker!
Sadly though there might just be more to it than that, there is a certain coming together of talent, bravado, looks and personality required that if we are honest with ourselves, we just don’t have. So what makes every drummer, bassist and tambourine player think they can go solo?
There’s a host of examples of when it didn’t work! Johnny Marr’s an amazing guitarist, but did you hear his solo album? It surely bored even him to tears. Suede were great, and he is an amazing producer, but come on Bernard Butler, you as the frontman? That’s an even worse idea than the three McAlmont and Butler albums. Finally, I’m going to be controversial here as well and say Dave Grohl, whilst everyone may love you, sit down you’re only the fucking drummer!
Better examples are harder to track down, but they aren’t unheard of. Albert Hammond Jr stepped up quite nicely from guitarist, in what is essentially Julian Casablancas’ band, to singer-songwriter. Graham Coxon might have played the shy-nerd to Damon’s, flamboyant (if slightly annoying) front-man, but he slipped surprisingly well into the guise of a solo superstar. On top of that, arguably most surprisingly brilliant of all was Phil Selway, whilst playing the roll of the slightly frightening looking drummer in Radiohead,he may never have looked like the creative one, but his brilliant solo album Familial saw him go all alt-country with members of Wilco to shockingly brilliant effects.
So it can work, it doesn’t mean it will, but it does mean we can all keep dreaming! We might still get to strut around the pyramid stage making a tit of ourselves after all!
PETER MATTHEW BAUER
Peter Matthew Bauer was the bass player in The Walkmen. Rather wonderfully his press release refers to the other players in the band as “dirtbag greasers from Fishtown, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.” The record features both Hamilton Leithauser and Matt Barrick of The Walkmen in some capacity, as well as Quentin Stoltzfus, Chris Colbert and Matt Oliver.
A huge variety of musical instruments and styles, taking influences from all over the world, yet setting them to his own view point. Indeed it sounds like a bit of a montage of all the best bits of American indie music of the last 10 years, and there is even a touch of Bruce Springsteen’s influence throughout.
It’s quite a tough one to pin down. It’s something of a travelling record and as you’d guess from the album title, Liberation, there’s a sense of freedom to it. That said it was recorded in the Port Richmond area of Philadelphia. An area that appears to be largely known for it’s very large Polish and Polish American communities.
Well unsurprisingly as Bauer was playing with The Walkmen for 13 years, he’s not had much time for solo work. His debut solo album Liberation! came out this week. Though the influences on it stretch all the way back to his childhood.
Because it’s a fascinating album! There’s a great sense of it being a journey both internally and externally. A fascinating snap shot of his youth growing up in Ashrams, his experiences with religion and most importantly his knowledge of spirituality in it’s many forms, that sense of understanding shines out throughout. Musically it’s a shuffling, subtle beauty, taking in the multi-faceted routes of the American indie scene. There are shades of the widescreen Americana of The War On Drugs on Scientology Airplane Conversation and Philadelphia Raga, whilst the title track recalls Vampire Weekend at their most joyous. Elsewhere the Eastern influence punctuates much of the music, Istanbul Field Recordings, sets a melancholic piano that’s very much the sound of The Walkmen, to a thoroughly arabic backing, to wonderful effect.
For all the overarching themes and talking pieces, it’s somewhat disappointing that the lyrics don’t carry the point a little more succinctly. Though the music is so wonderfully emotive in it’s own right that it’s rendered little more than a minor grumble.
Liberation! is out now in the Uk on Memphis Industries. It’s available in the states on June 24th on Mexican Summer.