Grand Unification

Island (2006) Neil F.

Fightstar – Grand Unification cover artwork
Fightstar – Grand Unification — Island, 2006

Sunday March 12th, 2006

An open letter to Charlie Simpson of Fightstar.

Dear Mr. Simpson,

Does the name Skua mean anything to you? Let me jog your memory. Skua is the band that Paul Cattermole left S Club 7 to play in. You know, the one he was in right before he disappeared from view entirely? That one that would mean he was going to be taken seriously? The one that would make him a respectable artist. The nu-metal band that was playing nu-metal right at the height of the post-MI2 soundtrack explosion. The band that no one ever heard, and no one ever cared to hear, because, let's face it, we all knew that the last thing the world needed was another fucking nu-metal band.

Not to infer that what Mr. Cattermole did was original. Far from it. Take a little look through just about every era of popular music, in fact, and you'll always find that one idiot that wants to go off and be taken seriously. And you know, every single time one of these poor misguided fools has walked out on their mass-produced bill-paying outfit, they've all disappeared into oblivion. Except for you, Charlie. Except for you.

And why do you think that is? Do you believe that it's because your music is better than the music any of the others that are just like you made? Surely you don't think that you have some sort of integrity that any of these other bands lacked? Surely, you do realize that it's entirely understandable, right? Predictable, even. You knew that when you walked out on Busted three years ago, or whenever it was that Busted started with the patented brand of bubble-gum-Mickey-Mouse-pseudo-punk-pop for pre-teen girls. Three years later… well fuck, you have a grasp of basic mathematics.

So, those fans have all hit that stupid and awkward sort of age were pseudo-emotional pap like, "Lost like Tears in the Rain" seems deep and meaningful. They've reached that age where they actually believe that the perpetual Palahniuk quotes are cogent philosophy, as opposed to the ersatz-nihilism of some hack. Mostly, they've reached that stage where they want to listen to "good", "real" music, and just don't really where to start. Of course, you know this, don't you? In fact, isn't that exactly why you walked out on Busted when you did? Because you had to know that. Just as these screaming little girls hit their early-teens that Fightstar would be there to fill the musical gap in their angst-filled little lives. You knew that Fightstar would give you at least a shred of longevity that Busted couldn't.

If it wasn't for this, Fightstar would be almost forgivable. Musically, you aren't even that bad. You're the sort of stuff they'd play in purgatory - not that good, but not that bad. You're all those songs you hear once on the radio, but just instantly forget. You are every other band that is still ripping off Refused riffs and regenerating old post-hardcore stereotypes. The ubiquitous part 1 of a song at the start of an album and part 2 at the end. The same quiet/loud formula that has been a staple of rock music since before you were born. See, it's simply the fact that Fightstar is every other band that ever had "emotions" or "anger" or "whatever" and felt the need to sing about it that makes you so odious. Fightstar is every other band that claims Fugazi are their biggest influence. Fightstar is every other band that creates an image, but says image means nothing. Let's face it. Fightstar is every other garage punk band up and down the country. Fightstar is every band that never made it out of their local scene. Or never even made it into their local scene, as it may be.

The difference is that you are the guy with the eyebrows from Busted. And all those nice managers and record company executives that pretend you're an interesting outfit all know what you don't want to admit. That Fightstar aren't important. That they aren't worth the respect you are demanding. Fightstar are just another cash cow to flog to the newly-teenage market of mass-media consumers that knew Busted and don't know where to look for anything better yet.

If your band were terrible, you'd deserve the derision you face less than you do. It's not that you can't play. It's not even that you can't write songs. It's plain and simple - that Fightstar is a cynical musical marketing ploy. Despite what you say, you have to know that. It's not that anyone thinks your band is good. Hell, musical quality isn't even relevant. It's not that people think your "musical progression" from Busted is interesting. It's that Fightstar are easier to sell than any of the other bands that sound just like you, because there is a ready-made market just waiting for you.

That's the problem with Fightstar, Charlie. Not that you are trite and generic. Not that you have awful song titles and a lame Palahniuk obsession. Not even because you've managed to butcher Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" somewhere along the line. Fightstar aren't so hateful because you are the guy with the eyebrows from Busted. You're not even hateful because of the platform over all the other generic, dull and lifeless post-hardcore bands floating around in the basement-show wilderness that being the guy with the eyebrows from Busted has given you. In fact, it's not even about Fightstar, per se. It's the fact that, whether or not you know it or not, you are as manufactured, contrived and mass-marketed as Busted ever would be.

And that's the saddest part of all, Charlie. At least in Busted, you were real. You knew what you were doing wasn't serious. You knew you were a manufactured image to shift units to kids that didn't know any better. At least you knew that it had no intrinsic worth. With Fightstar, you don't seem to. It's almost as if you believe that it is serious. Almost as if you do believe that the music you write has inherent value, truth and honesty. We both know that it doesn't.

At least with Busted, you managed to change to face of pop music. With Fightstar, you'll do nothing except become another one of the many British bands that wants to pretend they're American. It's almost pathetic. Almost laughable, really. Mostly, however, it's sadly predictable. But, as the people from the record company who look and act like you, and who pretend they are your friends, know, predictability sells. Familiarity sells. And famous faces sell. In Fightstar, you've brought all three together, and still claim to have the integrity that you so obviously don't. For someone who left Busted to "stay real", you haven't exactly done the best job, have you?


Neil Ferguson

2.2 / 10Neil F. • March 12, 2006

Fightstar – Grand Unification cover artwork
Fightstar – Grand Unification — Island, 2006

Recently-posted album reviews

Proud Parents

At Home With
Independent (2021)

At Home With Proud Parents caught me a little off guard, right from the start. While the debut showcased a variety of influences, this one is even more toned back and chill, in contrast to some members’ other work with The Hussy. The opening track on this sophomore album, “Cellophane” is more of a folk-punk or cowpunk vibe with some warbled vocals, an acoustic … Read more

Hangman’s Hymnal

Small News Travels Fast in a Bad Town
Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Hangman’s Hymnal is a nice addition to the Snappy Little Numbers roster and every bit as archaic as the title suggests. With a Wild West vibe pervading the songs, they manage to evoke mental images of them holding court in a saloon to perform their seasoned murder folk to a bunch of buzzed delinquents as part of a debaucherous hootenanny … Read more

Jiffy Marx

She’s My Witch / Warning Sign
Snappy Little Numbers (2020)

Jiffy Marx' She’s My Witch / Warning Sign 7″ does not only look like a 45er from the late seventies, but sonically delivers exactly that, i.e. two snappy lil’ pop punk numbers with the band firing on all cylinders. A snappy, fun 7” recorded in a bit more than a day, and sonically an homage and celebration the jangly pop punk … Read more