Every up-and-coming band must equally dream of and dread the hyperbole that comes from a certain type of music writer.
On the one hand, it's amazing to be told you're going to be the band that defines a generation or will change the lives of everyone who hears your music; on the other, well how on earth does anyone live up to that kind of wild claim? Here are 10 bands from the indie hothouse of the noughties that tried valiantly, and, for reasons that were often not under their control, didn't quite hit that impossible mark.
1. The Bravery
It's curious that The Bravery are most often remembered as being some kind of glorious failure, just because they didn't translate the success of their breakout song An Honest Mistake into Killers-sized stadium enormity. Pop music thrives on great singles, and this buzziest of New York buzzbands did what they came to do, winning the BBC Sound of 2005 poll (beating the more critically adored Bloc Party) along the way.
In their debut feature in the Guardian, Laura Barton summed up their peak hype moment like this: "The Bravery are already steeped in a mythology of Dionysian proportions. They claim, for instance, to have slept with representatives from every major record company in the UK. And they allege that when they found themselves the subject of a fierce bidding war last autumn, they signed with the label that offered them a bottle of whiskey, copious cigarettes and a packet of condoms."
And while An Honest Mistake was riding high in the Top 10, that all appeared justified. Sadly, their subsequent singles struggled to match it for impact, and the buzz vanished as quickly as that bottle of whiskey down five eager throats. Having recorded two more albums they split in 2014, with frontman Sam Endicott going on to co-write songs for Shakira (She Wolf) and Christina Aguilera (Monday Morning).
2. Viva Brother
Of all the bands on this list, Viva Brother were the most culpable in their own hype. Believing that the way to get ahead in the indie slump of 2010 was some kind of return to Liam Gallagher-style strut and self-belief, singer Lee Newell could be found saying (at the band's first gig, no less) "If anybody here doesn’t want to see the future of music, leave now." And the band received a wave of online attention by filming their own calling card video in the mean streets of their native Slough. An NME cover came soon after.
Perhaps the world wasn't quite ready for a return to Britpop principles (they called it "gritpop"). Critics were quick to criticise their debut album Famous First Words for being a bit derivative. This came after the band had to change their name from Brother to the over-egged Viva Brother, as the Guardian reported, and they suddenly started to look a bit vulnerable. They split in 2012, then reformed as the synthpop group Lovelife, and then reformed again as Viva Brother in 2017.
3. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong
Much like Arctic Monkeys, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong really is a name that defies criticism, and that's just as well, because once the gilt had worn off the praise for their debut single Lucio Starts Fires in 2007, and their placing in the BBC's Sound of 2008 poll, and the band had finished their NME Awards tour with The Cribs, criticism is what they got. Part of the problem was a failure to capitalise on all this attention with an album. With the music press running joke tickers to count down the days since the album was due out, promo copies were sent out in August 2008. Reviews were fair (NME gave it 8/10) but then the band scrapped it, announcing that it no longer represented their new sound. They split up just over a year later.
Since then, three of the band have found critical success with the psychedelic band TOY, and drummer James Craig now plays in One Night Only. Under his real name Joe Van Moyland, Joe Lean has gone back to acting, his most notable recent appearance being in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as an unnamed temporary command center resistance pilot.
Should future music journalism students wish to examine the lexicography of hype, the text of an NME news story about Welsh post-punkers Terris will provide everything they will need. All the greats are here, courtesy of Ted Kessler: "Terris are the best new band in the UK" (they were on the cover that week); "they talk it like they walk it" (bit gobby at times); their debut EP is "explosive", and they are nothing less than "a 21st Century Joy Division, fronted by a young, totally wired, Welsh Tom Waits, strapped to the front of a speeding train with no brakes."
Scary stuff. But when their debut album Learning To Let Go was released, other people claimed to hear less thrilling noises, with Yahoo Music even calling it "underflavoured, bland stodge". And despite the subsequent 8/10 score from NME, album sales were slight, and the band split shortly afterwards.
5. The Dead 60s
The story of The Dead 60s is also the story of The Ordinary Boys and any other post-millennium band who seeks to restore the spirit of ska to indie rock while wearing expensive sportswear and suedehead cuts. An early splash, a lot of potential, and then a slow fade. In the case of The Dead 60s, their name came out of frustration that everyone from their hometown of Liverpool wanted to sound "dead sixties", while their form of retro rock came from a later era.
For a 2015 NME feature, drummer Bryan Johnson said the band ran into record company trouble and had to give up their dreams fairly early on: “We burnt out with debts of £1 million and an unreleased second album – typical story! We split in 2008 and by that point we’d lost our collective energy so decided to pursue other projects. These days, I’m the director of artist services at Spotify."
6. The Twang
Some bands implode when the intense stare of the music press has moved onto someone else, and others dig in and keep working. Reverend and the Makers, The Courteeners, these are bands who won and lost press favour with remarkable speed, then shrugged and got on with the business of winning over new fans. The Twang are of that breed. Hailed as a return to the early-90s indie dance sound of Happy Mondays and Flowered Up, the band were on the cover of NME in 2007, had a BBC Radio 1 documentary and won an NME newcomers award in the same year. James Jam in NME praised "the undisputable heart that beat[s] at the epicentre of their brilliant, hook-laden songs".
After a Top 10 single (Either Way) and a Top 10 album (I Love It When I Feel Like This), the band started to slip from view, but they kept on grafting. Second album Jewellery Quarter got to No.20, and their third and fourth albums both nudged the Top 50, proving that there was some substance to the NME's initial excitement. In 2017 they played 10th anniversary shows for their debut and released their fifth album Subscription, suggesting that, for them at least, this is a way of life.
7. WU LYF
Hype can also be about suggestion and insinuation, and when a band refuses to have much to do with the press, this can fuel the idea that they're an enigmatic gang of supernatural beings, rather than, say, shy indie kids with a fear of putting a foot wrong. WU LYF styled their music as "heavy pop", claimed to be a music collective rather than a boring old band, had a glowing monolith on stage, and spoke directly to their fans using social media and the internet. Their debut album Go Tell Fire to the Mountain was well received, but there was also an air of slight disappointment, with the hope of magic being replaced with the realisation that it could only ever be capable indie rock. The band split suddenly in 2012, to the surprise of fans and music writers alike.
Looking back on the band last year, singer Ellery Roberts told Dazed: "The whole mystery of WU LYF was the unspoken space for people to imagine what was going on... The band had this initial period of genuine, pure pursuit. But then you go on the road and we were 19-21. There's a two-year period of all of this happening. Your eyes are opened to a lot of the world and you can see that a lot things aren’t right, thus I decided I need to fundamentally get things right with myself."
8. Test Icicles
Nothing makes a Real Music Fan bristle like reading about a scene band. A scene band that's unlikely to stand the fabled test of time, whose music merely represents the apex of a thing that is going on in the trendy clubs of London town, where young people are having fun. And if they've got a daft name and no interest in writing what Noel Gallagher would doubtless call a proper chorus, that's the worst of all.
Test Icicles are the perfect example of that band. Feted in 2005 for being day-glo and clever and rowdy new rave stars with too many ideas (that were probably in-jokes really), they appeared to be all flash and no bulb, and their split in 2006 was seen as just another eccentric thing they had decided to do. The big surprise, given such a bratty start, was the extent to which Dev Hynes turned out to be a mature, capable songwriter with proper choruses - as Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange, and writing songs for Solange, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Carly Rae Jepson. But even he grew weary of the tone of discourse around his old band. He told Cherwell: "Everyone over-analysed us. Even when we said we weren’t gonna do it any more, people kept trying to analyse why."
9. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Remember when it was a thrilling idea that a band could gain international notoriety from releasing tracks on the internet? New York's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were one of the first to generate their own hype - which was then amplified by music press hype - for their timely mix of dance and rock. In 2005, the NME said this: "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have a rotten name, a singer who sounds like he’s gargling margaritas at a David Byrne convention, and look as though they’ve spent the last 10 years on the set of High Fidelity. Cue record exec in that old Kit-Kat ad: they’ll go a long way!"
And in a sense they did, it's just more of a downward slope than the NME had in mind. The band released a self-titled album that got to No.26, David Bowie and David Byrne were spotted at their gigs and they had all the makings of a less-snarky LCD Soundsystem. However, attention started to dwindle around their second album Some Loud Thunder in 2007, and they took a break from 2009 to 2011. On their return, band members started to leave until only frontman Alec Ounsworth was left.
10. The Others
On paper, this lot looked like they might have what it takes. Signed by Alan McGee - the man who discovered Oasis - and feted for great things. Singer Dominic Masters was a friend of Pete Doherty's and even wrote the song Stan Bowles about him. In the post-Libertines indie free-for-all The Others made a name for themselves performing "guerrilla gigs" in unlikely places - a tube carriage, the dodgems at Reading + Leeds festival - and building up an intense relationship with a hardcore group of fans called 853 Kamikaze Stage-Diving Division.
Things seemed to come a little unstuck when their debut album The Others came out in 2005. Not as jam-packed with hits as some reviewers would have liked (Q magazine would go on to describe it as one of the worst albums ever made) it accidentally drew a line under the Albion-dazzled Doherty conga, and the band struggled to maintain attention. They've kept at it, and released two albums since, the second of which - Songs for the Disillusioned - was given away for free in 2013, proving that the old guerrilla spirit is still strong.