Recently my brother and I were talking about his band and some of the troubles they have had forging a unified idea of what kind of band they would be and managing expectations about success, playing out and ‘ownership’. Anytime you talk to someone who is in a real band, they will talk some about the music and the sound, but push a little more and you will uncover some hard-felt anxieties and hurt feelings about serious issues like who comes late to rehearsal and who lugs the most band equipment.
See, as I told my brother, most bands fail. And they don’t fail because of lack of success (although that will almost always happen) but they fail because they are based on human relationships and uneven expectations. Just as romantic relationships thrive on desire and sex but founder on garbage day and dishes, so too the most beautiful harmonies are shattered by the mundane details of schedules, personality tics, and whose turn it is to wake up the drummer.
When I was talking to my brother I was wistfully thinking of the old days when my high school band used to practice at our house. Because the basement was also the province of too many cats, we had to clean vigilantly to keep the piss smell at bay and the equipment free of fur. Because we were teenagers and high school students, we rarely had time when together to clean. So, typically, I cleaned alone. (Boo fucking hoo, right?)
While cleaning, I used to make use of the PA to blast my favorite albums and whatever song I was into. For a while, the song “Sucked Out” by Superdrag was in heavy rotation.
This song is almost a perfect synthesis of alt-rock and pop that happened in the late 1990s (other examples include Third Eye Blind’s big hits, Harvey Wallbanger’s “Flag Pole Sitta” and several early Weezer tracks). It is melodic is fun; we find the classic alternation between loud and soft (going soft on the chorus) with a heavy and memorable bassline.
Now, while the band was largely a one-hit wonder and the song was faddish, there may be more of a reason that it struck me as perfectly apt in those days. For one, the lyrics are really about a feeling of disenchantment with the music business itself.
Could it bring somebody down
If I never made a sound again?
In your eyes you’ve already spread my thighs
And you’re rocking to the next big thing
Kissing the bride,
45 minutes a side
This was my dream
Played out a rocking routine
Who sucked out the feeling?
The song resonated with me, I think, because I was looking for a way out of the band and on with my life. Like any relationship, sometimes a band turns out to run on its own internal logic, you work it because you have worked it and you have built your identity around it. Sometimes, you just need a clean break to start again. I didn’t get a clean break, but I did dislocate my shoulder and the band went out not with a bang but a whimper.
Superdrag? They broke up and got back together again. Sometimes your first love just keeps coming back.