in brief : in praise of minor artists.
there's not a major artist in music history that i haven't heard. that is not a boast : it's a lament. such realizations are always a source of despair for me.
thank the heavens for minor artists, for one-off acts. when one looks to the past, it is always w/ the aid of someone else, it can never, it should go w/o saying, be experienced directly, it is always mediated. it is always, then, w/ rock history as one's guide. as well-intentioned as rock history often is, it tends, by necessity, to reduce, the larger picture is sacrificed in the name of clarity and epoch-trimming. (this is all beginning to sound a bit marxist, but bear w/ me.)
i don't even remember how i stumbled across the lotus eaters. they released one album in 1984 on a small label before breaking up (only to reunite fourteen years later, but that's none of our concern right now). they were, i understand, classified as a new romantic band, but, even in eyeliner and thong underwear, simon lebon could wipe the mat w/ a fellow who sounds like lead-eater peter coyle, and billy mackenzie clearly flounces the epaulets off of him. coyle and his band seem closer in sentiment to the likes of morrissey, but the band's synthesizers clearly mark them out for a good hanging in the town square.
the lotus eaters, then, were clearly a band out of time, but also a band ahead of their time. bobby wratten, if he'd even heard of the band, seems to have borrowed his upper register from coyle, whereas coldplay seems to have taken the rest. "out on your own" is like a warm hand on one's shoulder; its drums could have come from an adam ant record, its guitars know their place, andits ingenious keyboard lines seem to know where you keep your secret hopes and somehow manage to make them seem w/in reach. it's the rare song that reminds you how noble an emotion sadness is; that it's an emotion worth experiencing despite the cost.
despair, too, is worth experiencing, esp. if it drives the listener to seek out bands like the lotus eaters. they received v. little column width, and unless you lived through the times--and even if you did--you're unlikely to remember them. i think over the years that i've been actively listening to music and the arcana that's accumulated on mixtapes and my ipod over the years, i.e. stuff i try to post here. how much richer music history seems when it represents lived experience! and how much richer one's life is b/c of music, music by both the legends and the never-weres.