From Steven Tyler to Régine Chassagne, five artists who shouldn’t go solo

From Steven Tyler to Régine Chassagne, five artists who shouldn’t go solo (photo)

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Yesterday, Thurston Moore released Demolished Thoughts, his fourth and inarguably best solo album in the three decades since he co-founded Sonic Youth. Unlike his previous song-oriented solo works, Demolished Thoughts finds its sound–lush, lonely, Beck Hansen-assisted rock, retextured with acoustics–and sticks with it from start to finish. After one of the most enviable and inspiring careers in indie rock, Moore continues to reinvent his image and offerings with unexpected approaches.

But it doesn’t work for everyone; in fact, everyone probably shouldn’t try it. Below, we look at five bandleaders who have yet to make a solo album, and why we hope it stays that way.

Steven Tyler: Several years ago, Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollard released an infamous collection called Relaxation of the Asshole, a best-of culled from the worst of his drunken banter. Even if you dislike his band, it’s sort of an essential one-time listen. That’s about the best I’d hope for with a Steven Tyler album–a collage of his best moments in interviews, drawing heavily from his various exclamations and John Madden-like commentary on American Idol. (Go Scotty, right?) After all, Tyler has been writing and recording for nearly four decades, and his first solo quasi-hit, “(It) Feels So Good,” was released earlier this month. Prominently featuring dobro, acoustic guitar and an electric guitar solo that really makes us wonder where Joe Perry went, it’s a terribly inauspicious debut. Keep quipping, dude. Let the kids do the singing.

Chad Hugo: If the half of the band N.E.R.D. and the production team Neptunes that isn’t Pharrell Williams could tap the right record collection, his solo album–or at least a record released as Chad Hugo, with help from a few big-name friends–might actually work. With the sort of top-rate gear at dude’s disposal, think Toro y Moi with more gumption and production value. The more interesting possibility for the multi-instrumentalist, though, might be beat-based soundscapes built from drum samples and the keyboard, saxophone and guitar he apparently plays. I’m thinking the elemental post-classical music of Eluvium updated with bombast.

Please note, though, that interesting doesn’t always mean good: The combination of drifting soundscapes and idle electronic beats mostly seems like a good idea on paper. It often sounds less interesting than whatever instrumentals they’re playing down at the corner grocery these days.

Régine Chassagne: Honestly, our hopeful solo embargo applies to most of the prominent members of The Arcade Fire, including Win Butler. But Régine Chassagne reminds us of a championship football squad’s special teams outfit: She’s the master of her domain, rather that means reinventing Cyndi Lauper or standing at the helm of her band’s inexhaustible bombast. But you’d never let former Packers sprinter Desmond Howard run quarterback or play middle linebacker just because he’s good at punt returns, right? Chassagne’s zealous delivery and emphatic, occasional drumming are an essential component of The Arcade Fire’s power and popularity; but spread over an album, her lack of subtlety and dynamics might manage a migraine.

Colin Meloy: The Decemberists frontman actually has four solo collections to his name–a live record and three discs of songs by Sam Cooke, Shirley Collins and Morrissey. Cut from the context of his lush rock band, those records emphasize just how unabashedly he sings with that nasally creak of his. While it’s hard to get too riled as someone sings “Bring it on Home to Me” or “Jack the Ripper,” the thought of Meloy belting out his own vacuous attempts at being both literary and clever with no band to hide the bleat is just too much to stand. At least for me, most Decemberists records invoke the thought, “Dude, please shut the fuck up”; if Meloy’s singing by himself, mustering eloquence even that elementary might be impossible.

Robbie Robertson: Oh, yeah. Well, damn. Can’t save ’em all.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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