Putting The Band Back Together


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I blame Take That.  Prior to the rose-tinted reunion of Mr Barlow and co., there really wasn’t much of an appetite – from audiences or artists – for putting the band back together.  After all, nostalgia is a dangerous sentiment to trade in.  Everyone and their mother knows that it’s never the same the second time around - recapturing those former glories is almost impossible, so why bother trying?  Like bottling lightning, you’ll be lucky if you manage to trap even a fraction of what burned so brightly in the first place. So all you’ll end up doing is bathing in the ever-diminishing afterglow, as your fans desperately scream for that B-side from 1992, right?

Well, not quite. Despite Paul Weller’s protestations in a recent NME interview, it would seem that some bands are making it work. Once the inevitable rifts are healed (or at least patched up for the time being), there are even a pocketful of groups who are flourishing.  Whilst I can’t claim to have been overjoyed at the sight of The Spice Girls dancing (in a notably less demanding routine) on top of some London taxis for the Olympic Games closing ceremony, I do admit to experiencing a certain thrill seeing Pink Floyd reunite for Live 8 in 2005. As a young boy growing up in the Brit Pop era, I also found some joy in seeing Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn sharing the stage again as Blur played Glastonbury in 2009. Even Damon cried.

Whilst money will always be an issue – the live scene is big business these days, especially now artists are being squeezed by ever-decreasing record sales – I still believe there are some bands that reunite for the love of the game.  Maybe even for the love of each other. And so this week on the show my Record Of Note comes from Ben Folds Five, the alternative rock trio formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When I was at University (studying law, since you asked! Oh, you didn’t) I saw Ben Folds, Darren Jesse and Robert Sledge play a particularly thrilling and entertaining gig at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.  Piano stools were thrown, balconies were scaled, and the band once cruelly dubbed “punk rock for sissies” worked so beautifully together it seemed obvious that these three men were placed on the earth to play in a band with each other.

Soon after, they delivered their greatest album in “The Unauthorised Biography Of Reinhold Messner” and then promptly split up. Ben Folds released a number of decent solo albums in the years that followed, but the magic of Darren Jesse’s driving drum rhythms and Robert Sledge’s trademark high fuzz-bass runs was notably absent.  All it took was a one-off reunion show in 2008 to sow the seeds that maybe, just maybe, they had more to offer as a band.  And their new album The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind holds the answer, so we’ll investigate on the show tonight ahead of their show at Glasgow’s 02 Academy tomorrow night.

Also on the show we are Live On Arrival with Neil Finn and Friends, and Undercover with Kris Kristofferson, plus a whole host of new and classic songs.  10.05pm on BBC Radio Scotland is the place to be.

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