Will Yuck and Midlake be able to 'do a Pink Floyd'?

Losing a singer doesn't have to mean the end of a band, as numerous prog and metal acts have proved

Remember all the songs on Echo And The Bunnymen's Reverberation? Or how about on the Velvet Underground's Squeeze? And perhaps the Doors' Other Voices? If you don't (and you don't, do you?), it's because they were the albums those bands made after their lead singers had gone – and, not coincidentally, just before those bands ceased to interest anyone much. Today, however, their collective legacy hangs heavy over two forthcoming albums from Midlake and Yuck. Texan band Midlake's new album, Antiphon, was made without their singer and songwriter, Tim Smith, while Glow & Behold by Londoners Yuck was put together after lead vocalist Daniel Blumberg had moved on.

So what are the chances for these two? For a start, it would help if they were heavier. To metal bands, singers are like Premiership footballers: Deep Purple's Ian Gillan can do a season with Black Sabbath and Van Halen can swap between David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar and no one bats an eyelid. It's the same at the hardcore end of punk. Just look at Black Flag: Henry Rollins was the US punk group's fourth vocalist.

Another measure, as practised by electro-rock trio Battles in 2011, is to replace a departed singer with a string of guests, including ones far more illustrious than the one that ditched you. Like, say, Gary Numan. Or there is what we might call The Waters-Collins Manoeuvre. Pink Floyd and Genesis both lost their original frontmen, but they promoted from within and had titanic success. This is the route that Yuck have taken. Their guitarist Max Bloom has taken over vocals and has also led them, rather niftily, from the grunge of their first album to shoegazey, psychedelic pastures new.

Midlake, on the other hand, have stuck to their sound, though they too have given the frontman job to their guitarist Eric Pulido. Sadly, while the playing on Antiphon still has the same spaced-out elegance, the songs just aren't as moving or memorable.

Joy Division's success with Bernard "No Notes" Sumner as singer, following frontman Ian Curtis's suicide, proves that anything is possible. Joy Division are different in one important respect, though. They took a new name – don't make us spell it out for you – a move that few bands would contemplate today in a world of Google ranking and Twitter handles.

There is one more consolation history can provide, though. Pink Floyd's new leadership took a couple of albums to bed in, as did Mercury Rev, between losing a vocalist and creating their 1998 masterpiece, Deserter's Songs. So, if Midlake and Yuck's next efforts don't set the world alight, don't write them off just yet.

Yuck's Glow & Behold (Virgin) is out on 30 Sep; Midlake's Antiphon (Bella Union) is out on 4 Nov


James Medd

The GuardianTramp

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