10 bands tipped for greatness who never quite made it
The music industry can be a cruel and fickle business. For every act that hits the big time there are 100 others just as deserving who could’ve easily taken their place. It’s impossible to truly distill that golden ratio of courage and charisma, skill and sheer luck that it takes to get yourself in front of an interested audience, captivate them, then harness that interest into meaningful forward momentum. Even when you’ve managed that – having come through the sometimes years long purgatory of toilet stops and basement squats to a place with real light on the horizon – it can all slip so quickly away as soon as one piece wiggles out of place.
Some burn out. Some simply fade away. Some just get lost in the tangle of hype and expectation. And some find their wings made of wax just as they’re flying close to the sun. Those mercurial twists of fate are unquestionably agonising for the musicians involved, but we as fans are also deprived of seeing an act reaching their full stadium-straddling potential. Looking back over the past couple of decades, we can’t help but sift through the wreckage that’s fallen by the wayside with a mixture of nostalgia, bemusement and sadness.
Every act on this list comes with a thousand what ifs…
When Chicagoan quintet The Audition emerged with the snap, crackle and pop-punk goodness of debut EP All In Your Head and promptly signed to Victory Records, big things were expected. A full length – 2005’s Controversy Loves Company – promptly followed, delivering (artistically, at least) on their promise as an outfit somewhere between Taking Back Sunday’s heartfelt cool and the more tongue-in-cheek angstiness of their Illinois brethren in Fall Out Boy. 2008’s second LP Champion honed this further still, with singles like Warm Me Up showcasing a swaggering maturity, but it would end up as the apex of their arc. 2009’s quirkily named Self-Titled Album and 2010’s Great Danger attempted to strike while the iron was hot, but were unfortunately able to build on the platform. The band reunited for Slam Dunk in 2018, but have yet to make their next move…
The short, shady existence of Leamington Spa punks Sharks still mystifies those of us who saw so much promise. Bringing together the attitude and energy of classic acts like The Clash or Black Flag with the shapeshifting darkness of Joy Division and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, they had the aesthetic, mystery and unquantifiable cool that felt like they were guaranteed to move on to bigger, potentially mainstream-straddling success. Three EPs (collected in The Joys Of Living compilation) appeared between 2008 and 2010, while 2012’s No Gods and 2013’s Selfhood LPs seemed like the logical next steps towards stardom. After a tour in that spring, however, July 4, 2013 saw them announce heartbreakingly that they had “decided to end [their] journey as Sharks…” To quote their own track It All Relates, “Rock‘n’roll needs tragedy, so if theses bones collide, well at least we tried…”
One Minute Silence
Amongst the wave of sheer weirdness that was nu-metal it often felt like anything was possible. For a sparkling second, that anything even included the thought that London misfits One Minute Silence (featuring a vocalist – Brian ‘Yap’ Barry – from Tipperary and a rhythm-section – drummer Martin Davies, bassist Glenn Diani – from Gibraltar) could take their place alongside the Limp Bizkits and Korns of the world. Their three albums, 1998’s Available in All Colours, 2000’s Buy Now… Saved Later and 2003’s One Lie Fits all, weren’t short on quality, either, but didn’t manage to make an indelible enough impact to hold on after the subgenre bubble burst. 2011’s reunion (still ongoing) and 2013 EP Fragmented Armageddon re-emphasised the brilliant weirdness on which most of metal is missing.
Shoegaze isn’t a genre often associated with burning bright and fast, but London collective My Vitriol – their name a clever-clever reference to Graeme Greene’s Brighton Rock – seemed to pack a whole arc into the space between their 1999 formation and 2002 hiatus. 2001’s debut LP Finelines even managed to produce three UK Top 40 singles – Always Your Way, Grounded, Moodswings/The Gentle Art Of Choking – but when frontman Som Wardner announced a hiatus at K!’s October 2002 Weekender it signalled a speedbump from which they would never reascend the heights. Brilliant new music in 2007 EPs A Pyrric Victort and War Of The Worlds, and 2016’s long overdue long-player The Secret Sessions has maintained a smaller hardcore fanbase nonetheless.
For many fans, Breed 77 felt linked to One Minute Silence as another nu-metal curio that might – just might – find a hook on which they could snare themselves a ticket to the big time. With the benefit of retrospect, the Gibraltarians’ fustion of alt-metal and flamenco influences was an appealing, intriguing sound that deservedly won 1998’s K! Award for Best Unsigned Band and 1999’s for Best New Band outright. Unfortunately, by the time they were readying their self-titled debut LP metal was already headed in a new direction. A faithful UK fanbase endured all the same, with a further five LPs making their mark and riotous shows up and down the country living long in the memory. Their last show together on 10 September in Gibraltar saw the classic line-up come back together for a one-off anniversary celebration of the Gibraltar Referendum, plus ex-members Danny Felice and Stuart Cavilla battle on with The Heretic Order, but it’s unclear when – or, indeed, if – a next move will follow…
Towers Of London
The Sex Pistols were a one-off. That of-its-time individuality was a large part of the point of 1977 punk. Credit, then, to Towers Of London for having managed to get over the first hurdle and even having looked like they might have been any kind of success in the first place. A large part of that came down to the in-yer-face yet tongue-in-cheek charisma of frontman Donny Tourette. Somehow blagging their way onto the Download and Reading & Leeds line-ups in 2005, it felt as if they might actually break through, and even landed support slots with The Pogues and New York Dolls that leant the band some sort of legitimacy. That felt undermined, however, by celebrity chasing manoeuvres like their 10-part Bravo TV show The Towers Of London and Danny’s appearance on the 2007 edition of Celebrity Big Brother. Despite numerous fall-outs and even more than their fair share of ridicule, the band is still on the go. The moment, however, has long passed…
It still feels like a mystery that Canadian mob KiTTiE never managed to reach the big time. Marrying riot-grrrl attitude, alt.rock aesthetics and nu-metal bombast, 2000’s debut LP Spit and 2001’s Oracle felt like a perfect antidote to the testosterone overload that was most of nu-metal. The quickfire departures of founding guitarist Fallon Bowman and bassist Talena Atfield just as they were on the cusp of stardom did much to destabilise the base they had built, however. And the latent chauvinism of the scene onto which they were emerging made for often uncertain receptions for their all-female assault that hobbled ongoing momentum. Frontwoman Morgan Lander fought on, with another four (generally excellent) LPs, but the death of long-term bassist Trish Doan in 2017 looks like it might be the bottom line of their fascinating, occasionally still-inspiring story.
The Academy Is...
It might seem a bit harsh to refer to a band with tens of millions of YouTube views and streams as might’ve-beens, but the potential for The Academy Is… felt so massive at a point that we can’t help but wonder about the potential missed. Having signed with Fueled By Ramen and dropped their debut Almost Here, it looked like they were on the fast-track to the stars with 2007’s Santi and 2008’s Fast Times At Barrington High carrying them further and further up the pop-punk pecking order and heavyweight friends in Fall Out Boy and blink-182 singing their praises. In 2011, however, artistic differences and enduring line-up instability conspired to finally snuff out that bright-burning spark and the band announced their disbandment to pursue other artistic endeavours. A fleeting 2015 reunion gave fans hope that it might be rekindled, but nothing more permanent has ever materialised.
Perhaps it feels a little harsh to label Bristolian horror-punks Ashestoangels as a band who’ve missed the boat already. They have, after all, just completed a UK co-headline tour with Griever and are very much an ongoing concern. The ‘New Grave’ movement of which they were leaders, though, has most certainly subsided back into the rotting depths from whence it came. With five studio albums in their back pockets – 2016’s How To Bleed and 2018’s A Trauma Shared chief among them – these ghouls certainly have the artillery to make a case for their own landmark importance in the ever-evolving Brit-rock scene. Whether they have the verve to re-materialise following some Creeper-alike reinvention to maintain relevance and forward-momentum, however, is another matter entirely…
Finally, a band who went right to the very cusp of megastardom… The Los Angeles pop-rockers led by singer Mason Musso had the whole world at their feet at a time. Signing to Columbia Records in 2006 and dropping their self-titled 2007 debut, it looked like they were well on their way. Hell, the lead-single to that record – Shake It – has 91 million views on YouTube as of writing. Fame has a way of going to people’s heads, however, and by 2010, unresolvable differences between Mason and co-founding bassist/guitarist Trace Cyrus forced them into hiatus. Although Metro Station returned – minus Trace – as soon as 2011, and another LP – 2015’s Savior – followed, momentum and the creative spark at the heart of proceedings had long-since been lost, leading to the band being permanently boarded-up in 2017. A lesson for everyone that no matter how vast your potential, nothing is guaranteed.
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