Rock's rich spinal tapestry: were Brother having us on all along?

 

REVOLVER: BRIAN BOYDon music

On the night, Spinal Tap had a support act – the folk band A Mighty Wind. Liam complained loudly during A Mighty Wind’s performance, saying he didn’t want to sit through “this folk shit”, he just wanted to see Spinal Tap. Noel patiently explained that A Mighty Wind were the same people as Spinal Tap, so be quiet and enjoy the double bill.

Liam was confused. So Spinal Tap aren’t a real band? No, Noel replied, they were all comedy actors. Liam promptly stood up and stalked out of the venue in considerable disgust.

While there are certain bands out there who say they can’t watch the Spinal Tap film as it’s a bit too close to home for them, it’s unclear how many people (apart from Liam Gallagher) regard them as a real band.

This phenomenon has just been reversed with the news that Brother are breaking up. There are quite a few people who thought that the back-to-indie-rock basics UK group were simply a post- ironic Britpop parody band. That they announced they were breaking up on April Fools’ day didn’t really clear up the confusion.

Brother emerged two years ago as the “saviours” of guitar rock. This particular species of rock musician had been more or less made extinct by pop and r’n’b (apart from the rare sighting of The Vaccines around the business end of the charts).

They were unashamed Britpop revivalists who harked back to those halcyon mid-1990s days of Blur vs Oasis. At their debut live show they heroically proclaimed, “If anyone here doesn’t want to see the future of music, leave now.” They would, by their own estimation, have such a rapid trajectory that they would be headlining Glastonbury in 2011.

Brother wanted to create their own genre of music. “Hopefully we can create our own period of music that won’t be the same as Britpop. We will call it Gritpop.”

At this stage Spinal Tap alarm bells were ringing, especially when they followed up “Gritpop” with “we want to be rock stars, and we’re not afraid to tell people. Bands such as Fleet Foxes are awful, even Kings of Leon aren’t rock stars. Who’ve we got left? Pete Doherty?”

A bona fide Spinal Tap moment arrived early on when Brother had to change their name to Viva Brother. Apparently there already was an Australian didgeridoo- based “Celtic Tribal” band called Brother. You couldn’t make it up.

Their response to the forced introduction of the word “Viva” into their name was: “We’re a fuckin’ good band. Four letters isn’t going to change any of that.”

They bravely soldiered on, and actually got famed producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur) to produce their debut album, Famous First Words. One of the kinder reviews said the album merely amounted to “brass rubbings of Oasis songs”. It went to No 34 in the charts before disappearing.

But are we all still quite sure about Viva Brother’s authenticity? The announcement they were breaking up did come on April Fools’ day, after all.

Has this all been an elaborate hoax for an arty documentary film? Is this Spinal Tap for the Web 2.0 generation? Let’s take the grassy knoll out of storage and start the conspiracy theory right here.

MIXED BAG:

To promote his new single, Freedom at 21, Jack White released 1,000 promo copies via helium balloon. They could land anywhere.

Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson are teaming up on a cover version of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain.

bboyd@irishtimes.com