“It's my belief that history is a wheel. ‘Inconsistency is my very essence’ - says the wheel – ‘Rise up on my spokes if you like, but don't complain when you are cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it is also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away’.”
The life cycle rolls on…
It’s funeral season, and another band dies in the summer of our discotheque. These are dark times for music; even pretending the emperor’s new day-glo wardrobe isn’t a walking obscenity is becoming an increasing challenge. ‘Nu-rave’ may be all well and good every other Friday night, but if you think anything of substance is being created you’re dancing in the dark. But every band the cited as ‘the problem’ is not the problem. The Twang are not the problem. New Young Pony Club are not the problem. Hadouken! are not the fucking problem. For every pair of starry eyes ‘neath an angled cap there are a legion of sweaty, middle-browed suits keeping them on top and the genuine music down to us bottom feeders.
But back when I was 14, for a few fleeting months, I think The Cooper Temple Clause did mean something to me. Talking to them outside a cancelled gig, receiving a free 7” in the post, waiting for ‘Who Needs Enemies’ to come on Top of the Pops; all were welcome distractions to my kitchen sink adolescence. As a result, as much as I would love to hack out a dewy eyed think-piece about a mid-level band who struggled with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom, I simply can’t. Looking back, the opening track of their debut album contains more musical progression, more ideas, than the entire careers of any number of degenerate corporate reactionaries. I mean, who needs enemies when you’ve U2? This coupled with lots of hairspray and a pneumatic drill of a voice… you’ll remember that for two fleeting albums we had a rare, brilliant band.
But if their first two albums were firmly positioned on the leading edge of modern music, Make This Your Own saw them overbalance, some parts more John Cooper Clark than Cooper Temple Clause. Every band has every right to mainstream daydream, but not when it compromises the very essence that made them special in the first place. Looking back, the gonzo-rock of the first two albums was their essence – I wouldn’t recommend haystack haircuts, continual predetermined psychosis or a Gallagher-esque vocal twang to anyone, but it had worked for the Coopers. Make This Your Own failed on a higher plane than just the music; it lacked the heart, the soul, the raison d'être that defined them previously. As acid tests go, it was a bad trip.
Anyway, I can’t recall much of what happened in their presence. I shadowed them through the twilight shift of an afternoon Xfm session, despite numerous numbing hangovers and a crushingly pyrrhic atmosphere. Wandering the corridors of power was more Kafka than Kerouac, restrained and joyless by equal turns. Everything felt wrong, from the Stereophonics gold discs to Johnny Vaughan’s voice as elevator prompt, and dare I say it, the music itself. As they played through a glass screen to gawky competition ‘winners’ hovering over the free Stella and a few thousand listeners criminally not tuned to Rinse FM, the Coopers were, in my mind at least, finally caged. It was nauseating to see rock and roll in such an environment; to see a band poised with their instruments waiting for a Keane record to finish.
It’s of no real importance now why the band split. I’ve a full taped interview with them recorded before their final London gig, talking about their future, records they’ll never make, gigs they’ll never play, but past glories and future mores now seem irrelevant. For the record, they spoke humbly and honestly about their existence in a moderately successful band. They seem to know their football. They would have toured Japan, which “is kinda like _Lost in Translation”, sallied forth round the obligatory summer festivals, and played the oft-ignored never regions of continental Europe. They were proud of their album. Which I then suggested was, after the scorched earth, slash and burn heroics of their first records, a retreat; an attempt to retrace steps and realign with 2007, with conventional melody and structure. The _“furthest thing from their minds” apparently, an “outflank rather than retreat”. If you want an exact reason for their split, maybe a schedule of serenading a potential Richard Bacon and fielding questions over their musical integrity from a cocky youth whilst he drinks their lager is sufficient. Earlier, and with my dictaphone switched off, I asked Tom how long they could keep going for, how long before their life becomes The Cooper Temple Clause. I can’t remember his answer.
Normally I can’t watch established bands without thinking each weary plod through the classics is their funeral march, a strung-out 15-date wake of butchering songs written when they were young, dumb and beautiful. Credit to the Coopers then; they sounded mature without appearing so. The newer songs made more sense live than on record, their blissful downbeat the necessary ying to the yanged-out white-heat of the first albums, but it’s still like watching a different band. Perhaps somewhere between the two was where The Cooper Temple Clause actually split, between order and complete chaos – one blissfully straining at the leash in all directions at once, and the other content with its own existence. Yet this didn’t detract from an amazing gig. The indiscriminate rage and pure violence of ‘Blind Pilots’ or ‘Been Training Dogs’ still knock the spots off today’s rock and roll youths, and as the final echoes of ‘Panzer Attack’, and effectively the band themselves, faded into the ether it all made perfect sense again.
Nostalgia is for the weak, and in a way I’m glad they split up on their own terms, leaving a beautiful corpse. The Cooper Temple Clause are dead. Long live the Cooper Temple Clause…