With the announcement of their third album of the year and fourth overall, SATURATION III, California’s BROCKHAMPTON have supposedly signalled a premature retirement.
Along with the release date, this Friday (15 December), the album poster contains the quote “THE LAST STUDIO ALBUM BY BROCKHAMPTON” just below the album title.
The eight-person hip-hop collective reached a noticeable peak in popularity following the release of SATURATION II in August, particularly here in Australia.
The album was a feature album on triple j, placed above albums from The War On Drugs, LCD Soundsystem, Mount Kimbie and numerous other excellent albums that dropped around the same time.
If the retirement announcement is merely a tricky marketing ploy, it’s worked wonders. BROCKHAMPTON first shared the artwork on their Twitter, which currently has 21,000 retweets, 1,300 comments and 44,000 likes. This is easily the most activity the band has had on a Twitter post in their two years of action.
Although, if BROCKHAMPTON’s break-up is genuine, it would be a sad and terribly early ending for one of the world’s best up-and-coming acts. But, they won’t be the first to call it quits way too early.
In memorial of the bands that left us way too soon, here’s a look at the most notable premature retirements.
Rage Against the Machine
American rap/metal trailblazers Rage Against the Machine released four albums over the eight years they worked together, but split after front-man Zack de la Rocha quit the band in 2000.
Although the band peaked early with the release of their self-titled debut album in 1992, featuring their biggest hit ‘Killing in the Name’, the retirement was still a shock.
In 1999, the four-piece dropped their third album, The Battle of Los Angeles, which was met with widespread critical acclaim.
However, due to creative and political differences, de la Rocha quit the group shortly after.
“I feel that it is now necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed. It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal.”
The remaining members of the band, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk linked up with Chris Cornell to form Audioslave and found success, but other projects weren’t as successful.
In 2016, Morello, Commerford and Wilk joined forces with Cyprus Hill’s B-Real and Public Enemy’s DJ Lord and Chuck D to create Prophets of Rage, a rock-rap supergroup gone wrong.
To make matters worse, de la Rocha launched a solo career, which has not made anywhere near the same impression that Rage Against the Machine did, and rightly so. It’s not great.
The demise of Joy Division was unexpected and untimely. This was not a break-up, but rather an unpreventable ending.
With the release of their debut album Unknown Pleasures in 1979, the English band basically pushed themselves to the front of a number of bands at the changing face of punk, the beginning of what we now know as post-punk.
With the tragic suicide of front-man Ian Curtis in 1980, just before their sophomore record Closer was released, Joy Division was brought to an abrupt end. It was only really then, following Curtis’ death and the subsequent release of the band’s seminal song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, that Joy Division found popularity.
Although it seemed the quartet were only hitting their straps, the remaining Joy Division members in Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris stayed together to form New Order.
While their early work suggested they were struggling to break free from the ‘recycled Joy Division’ tag, New Order went on to become one of the most influential and trailblazing bands of the ’80s. Combining elements of post-punk with electronic and dance music, New Order’s 1983 single ‘Blue Monday’ is the best selling 12-inch single of all time.
Drum ‘n’ bass group Pendulum are another act who’ve had a unique journey in comparison to other popular bands. While Pendulum haven’t explicitly announced the disbandment of the band, it’s believed most of the six members have moved on.
Pendulum were formed in Perth in 2002 by Rob Swire, Gareth McGrillen, Paul ‘El Hornet’ Harding and adding Ben Mount, Peredur ap Gwynedd and KJ Sawka in 2006. They were at the forefront of the d‘n’b era and became easily the biggest d‘n’b group in Australia. That in itself may be the problem.
D‘n’b made a huge splash in the 2000s, most predominantly in the UK. But by the 2010s, Skrillex had burst on to the scene and dubstep was born, edging d’n’b out to become the more prevalent electronic music genre. This was beginning to rub off on Pendulum.
After the release of Pendulum’s hugely successful third album, Immersion, Swire and McGrillen began working towards an EP for their newly formed side project, Knife Party.
Little did they know at the time, but Knife Party would go on to become one of the biggest dubstep groups around, truly demonstrating Swire and McGrillen’s taste-making skill.
Knife Party’s success all but spelled the end for Pendulum, as Swire said he’d grown sick of Pendulum after being together for 10 years.
There is a slim chance of a Pendulum return, but it appears it would be solely in the form of Rob Swire. Don’t hold your breath.
The Middle East
Now this one is a real head-scratcher. Townsville indie-folk band The Middle East twice retired in just three years of activity, a clear indication they didn’t want to get too caught up in the rock-star life.
After releasing their debut EP, The Recordings of The Middle East, in 2008, The Middle East disbanded immediately, probably not thinking the band would go anywhere.
The seven-piece were directly in the midst of an indie-folk comeback when they put out their debut EP, with artists like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes gaining traction internationally around the same time.
The Middle East’s lush orchestral recordings were snapped up by Spunk Records and the EP was re-released in June and in North America in the subsequent October, with their single ‘Blood’ attracting plenty of praise.
In April 2011, the septet issued their debut full-length, I Want That You Are Always Happy, peaking at number 11 on the Australian Albums Chart.
Before anyone had time to digest the record, the band shocked the Splendour in the Grass audience they were playing for when they announced it would be their “last performance ever.” Talk about going out on top, the band chose the largest Australian festival to split up.
“We don’t feel like playing any more for a whole lot of reasons that I won’t list here and I’m afraid if we continue any longer it would just be a money grab,” a statement from the band read.
It’s hard not to think what could have been from possibly one of Australia’s greatest bands never to be.
Well, this one sort of counts. New York’s LCD Soundsystem, the project of James Murphy, has had a controversial career.
The controversy began in 2010 when Murphy stated that the band’s third record, This Is Happening, would be LCD’s last. Following the release of the album, the band announced that they would play their last show in April 2011 at Madison Square Garden.
There was a huge fuss over LCD’s final show and ensuing retirement. A five-box vinyl edition of their final show was released in 2014, entitled The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden. It was thought their “long goodbye” was completely final.
However, in 2015, only a year after it was thought that LCD were dead and buried with the box-set vinyl collection, Consequence of Sound reported that multiple sources had confirmed the band were reuniting for high-profile music festivals in the US and UK.
While DFA Records, James Murphy’s record label, denied the allegations, the reports turned out to be factual, confirmed by the release of LCD’s new single ‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart’.
As Murphy and his live band-mates began promoting LCD’s fourth record, American Dream, which arrived in September this year, questions arose surrounding the legitimacy of their ‘retirement’. Murphy didn’t handle the inquiries too well either, stating that the split and farewell show at Madison Square Gardens was “a bit larky.”
However, Murphy’s words were mostly forgotten when LCD dropped the long-awaited American Dream, a stunning dance-rock record detailing Murphy’s thoughts, feelings and regrets over a demanding few years.