Unbelievable Truth: a Fan's Eulogy
by Erin Hucke
They were my favorite band. Even when I had passed the age when you have a "favorite band." For my age, and the amount of music I listen to, it seemed kind of silly to be clinging to the "favorite band" system. But, I collected all the b-sides. I had a fan Web site. I even met them once after a show I drove seven hours to see. They were touring as the opening band for Tori Amos. They were really nice about talking to me, even pretended not to notice I was more anxious than a cocker spaniel pumped up on speed. I felt like I was 12 years old. I nervously teased Nigel about his shoes being untied and made him and Jason take goofy fan pictures with me. It was worth the seven-hour drive.
You could say I was something of an überfan. At least my fan ship was based on something. The music was to die for. Clean and complex guitar, bass organ and drum arrangements by Nigel Powell. Tender, heartfelt lyrics by Andy Yorke with a voice so warm it could melt plastic. Bassist and resident shy-guy Jason Moulster fit in the combination somewhere.
Just months prior to their demise, they had released their second album, sorrythankyou. While it is a bit more distant than Almost Here's inviting intimacy, it is more experimental, more adventuresome with thick layers of electronics and beautiful string and organ arrangements. It has delicate lyrics about a war-torn Kosovo and "advice to a lover." Andy stretches his voice more than ever. His voice is solid, with an incredible range, as demonstrated on "I Can't Wait." Overall, the record is just stunning. The band far exceeded any expectations I had set for them.
Unbelievable Truth had been signed to Virgin Records for the release of their debut EP and album. After the recording of their second album, Virgin stalled. Eventually they were dropped during the whole America Online/Time Warner merger, which affected the UK music world just as much as the US system. The band was given the album, no strings attached. They shopped around for a new label, settling on an Oxford independent, Shifty Disco. Sorrythankyou was released in July 2000 and it sold more copies than their major-label debut had. Strange that for such a beautifully complex and emotionally deep album, it got some horrible reviews. The British music press can be pretty brutal. The band toured around England a bit. Their van broke down virtually as much as it started. It seemed like one thing went wrong after another. The labels, the critics, their touring van, the crap sound in the venues. Adversity took its toll on the band, but they overcame everything set in their path.
The band had a Web site Nigel personally updated most everyday with something, new production notes, early demos on MP3. Then the updates stopped for a while, maybe a week and a half. I didn't think much of it. Living in the United States I wasn't privy to the rumors circling England of a break up.
Then one Saturday I checked for an update. An "important announcement" gently informed me it was the end.
Twenty-one years old and realizing I shouldn't be acting like a rabid teenage fan, I just sighed and winced a bit. I tried not to let the break up bother me. I mean, this is pop music we are talking about here. There are bigger problems in the world. But I couldn't help myself. I felt more disappointed than sad. Sorrythankyou had been so promising.
A posthumous single "Advice to a Lover" was scheduled to be released, but Shifty Disco revoked that when they realized there was little chance for a radio hit. A live CD of their last show and some unreleased songs is still planned for the upcoming months.
Somewhere along the line, Andy had lost interest in the music. Maybe it had been right from the beginning. There had been a few times previous where his loyalty to the music faltered. One time just before they were to be signed to a major label in 1993, Andy ran off to Russia where he had studied as an undergrad. No doubt his wariness was due in part by the overshadowing of his brother, Thom from Radiohead, whom many consider a borderline genius in music today. Go ahead, try and live up to that standard. Endure the countless comparisons and comments having only to do with big brother's band. The critics and tagalong fans were relentless.
I couldn't blame Andy for leaving. I felt sorry for the guy. Plus he is going to be working in Russian studies, something that will make him happier than making music for people like me. But I feel worse for the rest of the band. Andy wasn't the entire band, but definitely an integral part. A part that if you took it away, it just couldn't be Unbelievable Truth anymore. And so the band had to end. I think Nigel and Jason knew what they had as a band was special. Maybe Andy saw it too, but it wasn't enough to keep him there.
I guess there will be other bands. Thankfully, I'll still have the music they made. But I don't think I'll ever have another Unbelievable Truth. Another Unbelievable Truth that would be able to affect me the way Jason, Nigel and Andy did. Another Unbelievable Truth that would create the intimate diary pages of songs. Another Unbelievable Truth that would live on as my "favorite band."