Thursday 7 March 2013

Standard Fare and the inevitability of love

It’s inevitable: bands you love always break up or make a bad record. Otherwise it wouldn’t be love.

Standard Fare broke up before they made a record I didn’t love. I thought Standard Fare would be bigger than they were. Maybe because they sounded bigger than the venues they played. Their songs were huge. Even their ballads, formed in tumults that owe as much to natural forces as broken-hearted pain, sounded like they’d lift the roof off the Royal Albert Hall. And I thought that one day they’d get the chance to do that.

I probably thought Standard Fare were bigger than they were: every time I saw them – and I saw them a lot – they played to full houses (and even if sometimes that meant 130 people, there were still far more new faces than the other gigs I go to). They never played a bad show. On a good night – and they were all at least that – you had to feel sorry for the other bands on the bill. They never stood a chance.

When three years ago Standard Fare went to SXSW I was sure they’d break America. The power of their songs has something in common with American radio staples like Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen. Only rawer. Their cover of Bon Jovi’s Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night made a mawkish power ballad sound real and alive.

Of course, real and alive and raw doesn’t sell. I see this now, but the romantic tumult of Standard Fare convinced me that it would sell. It sold me, but then the inevitability of love means you can’t understand why other people don’t share your love.

It seems in the digital age every great band will get discovered. What this misses, though, is the dumb luck needed to make it. Maybe at SXSW the right people didn’t see them and they didn’t get the right press.

What a lot of bands who’ve made it will either tell you or know deep down is that their success was due to dumb luck. All the clocks chimed at the same time or the wind blew the right way. Pulp stuck around so long that eventually they were in the right place at the right time; Lawrence knows that he never was.

At no time in the last four years have Standard Fare chimed at the same time as the general public. It’s not inevitable that if they stuck around as long as, say, Pulp their time would come. The Go-Betweens never came near a hit single in their decade. Sometimes, you have to accept that love is unrequited.

What was it they said? Love Doesn’t Just Stop. Their songs remain. They will be rediscovered often enough until they are known, correctly, as classics.

The inevitability of obsessing over pop music means that one day you’ll find out, and sometimes you’ll be reminded, that, as the Argentine author Guillermo Orsi wrote, “love and death are the only stable couple you’ll ever know”.

And if you see Emma Kupa on Saturday, exactly one week after Standard Fare’s farewell gig, maybe you’ll find out, as someone might say one day, that the second act in pop music life is sometimes better than the first act.

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