TV On The Radio And The Paradox Of The Mid-Career Band

November 13, 2014 6:01 PM

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Pity the mid-career artist, stuck in the long middle distance of working things out. Youth is honey, redolent of novelty, physical charm and energetic self-absorption. Veteran status, while still dangerously marginal, at least affords deference, since few in our culture expect creative lives to last as long as life itself. Young artists run on guts and glamour, while older ones may find themselves motivated by the respect they've finally received. But in the middle, things get murky. The long haul of perfecting an aesthetic can turn repetitive and feel fruitless. Material needs — paying rent, raising families — feel more pressing. Artists lucky enough to have an audience often find those fans drifting, a little bored, thinking they know what to expect. The temptation to give in to inertia vies with the worry that promise is turning into waste.

This existential moment has felled many a great rock band. The foundational groups of the classic rock era produced great masses of work and often burned out after less than a decade, or continued in pieces, the way The Who or even The Rolling Stones did, with key members lost to misadventure. Over ...

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