What Became of the Likely Lads?

A quick look at the sport pages during the internationals and there is always an editorial claiming how Englands golden generation of the likes of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard have criminally underperformed. Blessed with talents a nation only wish for, the national team has a trophy cabinet outrageously empty. Just like sport, British music also has had such Golden Generations. The progressive rock era of the 70’s with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Queen, the Britpop scene of the nighties with the likes of Blur and Oasis: there are many examples. But, also like sport, not all generations live up to their potential.

Turn the clock back to 2003. Many undergraduates would have been in their early/middle teens, troubled with sats / the delights of teenage skin / drinking Barcardi Breezers and a time where many start to fully immerse themselves in music. This certainly applied to myself and I was absorbed into a collection of bands emerging on the scene at the time. With roots in post-hardcore and alternative rock, this generation which Kerrang! entitled “the Golden Generation” were set to explode.

Million Dead, Reuben, Yourcodenameis: Milo and Hundred Reasons to name but a few released stunning debuts, to great acclaim. They dominated alternative tv, were championed on Radio 1 shows, by presenters like Steve Lamacq, and they covered the front covers of the likes of Kerrang! and Rock Sound. But something wasn’t quite right. The bands always played relatively small venues, anyone that did try and fill a bigger one was often left with half-filled venues and an unhappy label. The charts were rarely treated to the delights of any of the bands, any success was always moderate, even Lostprophets massive Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja which seemed to be being played everywhere at the time was limited to a paltry 41st in the singles chart.

What I want to address is what happened to this Golden Generation? The common theme for most is capitulation, whilst some (a cynical person like myself may believe) completely altered their direction to achieve success.

**Reuben – Racecar is Racecar Backwards, June 2004**

When I first heard ‘Freddy Kruger’, I was instantly hooked to Reuben. An intelligent mix of metal and post-hardcore, layered with Jamie Lenman’s burly vocals, Reuben had it all. Racecar is Racecar backwards received much acclaim, nominated Kerrang!’s best newcomer and received some moderate chart success with ‘Moving to Blackwater’.

_What happened to them?_

Second album, Very Fast, Very Dangerous, saw a distinct change in style for the band, ditching the more popular fast paced sound and moving more to the metal genre. Cities On Fire , Reuben’s third release and perhaps their most accomplished, received rave reviews (receiving 9/10 from Rocksound, 4/5 from Kerrang! and Q) but was released to obscurity. 2008 and the band went on indefinite hiatus.

**Hell is for Heroes – The Neon Handshake, March 2003**

Hell is For Heroes looked set to make it big. Renowned for their impressive live performances, a record contract with music industry behemoth EMI and a tour with the ‘it’ band of 2003 (Feeder), they had a formidable package. They had two popular singles in ‘Nightvision’ and ‘You Drove Me to It’ and released their debut album to great acclaim (NB – It reached number 16 in the album chart).

_What happened to them?_

The band was dropped by record label EMI as they believed their second album in progress did not offer a “broad enough appeal”. The band then embarked on a downward spiral. Gone were the videos, publicity and media fanfare. The singles preceding the second album (Models for the Programme) were even hand-made by the band. Their self-titled third album did raise some hopes of a comeback to the mainstream, but again commercially flopped. The band went on hiatus in 2007 to pursue other projects.

**Million Dead – A Song to Ruin, September 2003**

Perhaps one of the greatest post-hardcore albums of all time? A Song to Ruin certainly seemed that way to a lot of people at the time. Well known for their ferocious live shows, the band were soon receiving high profile endorsements from the likes of Zane Lowe, John Peel and Steve Lamacq. ‘Breaking the Back’ and ‘I am the Party’ received notable airplay.

_What happened to them?_

In 2004 Rock Sound predicted Million Dead would be ‘the’ band of 2005. Second album Harmony No Harmony was released to highly-rated reviews, much hype and lived up to the expectations from the first album, but crucially for Million Dead they did not produce them the success or fanbase their music so richly deserved. Internal divisions lead the band to its split in 2005. Lead singer Frank Turner has since found success in folk/acoustic music.

**FFaF – Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation, October 2003**

Funeral for a Friend exploded onto the scene in 2003: Their debut album spawned three top 20 singles in ‘Juneau’ (19), ‘She Drove Me to Daytime Television’ (#20) and ‘Escape Artists Never Die’ (#19). Perhaps the most successful band from the generation at that time, they were very much made the face for the era.

_What happened to them?_

Second album Hours saw a distinct change in sound, favouring a more popular, punky sound evident in tracks such as ‘Streetcar’ and ‘Monsters’. Third release Tales Don’t Tell Themselves wasn’t a great album by any means. Both were released on the back of FFaF’s inclusion on the US Warped tour – seemingly this had an influence of their sound.

Their new album, out on October 13th represents FFaF’s first album on their own label, a decision which lead singer Matt claims was essential as old label Atlantic were trying to impact on not only softening their sound but were even “dumbing down their lyrics”. Memory and Humanity will be the real test to see if FFaF have captured this golden age of British music and finally built on it.

**Biffy Clyro – Blackened Sky, March 2002**

Biffy Clyro were kings of the underground for years. The releases of Blackened Sky and Vertigo of Bliss meant the band got stuck in between obscurity and the mainstream, just like the other bands examined. ‘Glitter and Trauma’ and ‘My Recovery Injection’ were key to this as they were both championed by Zane Lowe and his compatriots at MTV 2.

_What happened to them?_

A success story for the Golden Generation. After relentless touring (and by relentless I mean Biffy Clyro would often do 2 gigs in a night) Biffy have now cracked the mainstream (I even distinctly remember Biffy once being played at Top B last year!) Their sound has changed and evolved but not in an obvious “lets sound like Green Day and make millions way”. They’ve matured and Puzzle is a testament to their hard work and is the remaining flicker of brilliance left from this so-called ‘Golden Era’.


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