The most unlikely of album releases

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I’ll be honest with you. I don’t really know how to write this, how long it’s going to be or how much of it will make sense. I know what I want to say but I don’t know how to say it without sounding too naïve, childish, young. It’s difficult because I’m not sure how I feel about it myself and as has been pointed out to me, I didn’t go through it so can’t have that strong emotions regarding it. I can’t imagine how the direct participants in it felt. I can’t begin to imagine the lows they felt, the feeling that their world had been taken from underneath them and turned upside down, that their dreams had been cancelled, that all their hard work over many years was all for nothing. I can’t imagine being huge names in music one day, then being nobodies the next.

Maybe the best place to start would be with the facts. There was a band, hailing from Pontypridd in Wales (funnily enough, the same town as Tom Jones) who called themselves Lostprophets. They were an alternative metal band, heavier and darker than most stuff I liked but, in my experience, not heavy or dark enough to be considered a band that anyone above the age of 15 should like. Not something I agree with, but a view held by many. Anyway, enough of that, they released 5 successful albums and were creating a legacy for themselves in music and Wales. It all ended when, on the 19th December 2012, their lead singer, Ian Watkins, was arrested for child sex offences.

I had been a Lostprophets fan for quite a while, ever since A Town Called Hypocrisy – so all the way through 3 albums, and I had bought their previous 2 as well. At the time, and indeed for quite a while afterwards, they were my second most played band on last.fm. I had their poster on my wall back home. It was fair to say that they were one of my favourite bands. On the 8th November, so about a month before the allegations emerged, I saw them live at Manchester Apollo and quite frankly, I was blown away by how good they were. It had reignited my love for them. They only played 6 more gigs as a band.

For most people, Lp weren’t a 6-piece band – they were a one man one. If anyone could name any of them it would, even before Dec 2012, have been Ian Watkins. The other 5 were fairly anonymous, living in the shadow of a front man who was very good at being one. Very few people would know who Lee Gaze, Stuart Richardson, Mike Lewis, Jamie Oliver and Luke Johnson are, let alone recognise them in a promotional picture. It was immensely unfair on all of them, who all had more talent than Watkins had anyway. If there is one thing I remember from the gig I went to, it was being seriously impressed by guitarist Gaze’s skill.

Most people wouldn’t know that they were on the verge of splitting up anyway, that Watkins had become impossible to work with and at least one member, Gaze, has confirmed that he found the music they were making inappropriate for 30-odd year olds. Gaze and Richardson refuse to listen to the music they made together, in fact Richardson has smashed their platinum disc received for Liberation Transmission. All of the members have children; all of them would have felt the betrayal and deception as parents let alone band-mates, even friends. All of them refuse to be seen as victims, they all say the real victims are the families involved with the actual abuse and they are spot on there.

For almost a year we heard nothing, before they confirmed that Lostprophets were officially over as a band (it didn’t really come as a shock!). I follow them all on twitter as they apparently went their separate ways. Gaze focused on his love for coffee, Oliver decided to print some of his paintings (interesting side note: Jamie only came into the band because they couldn’t afford to take an extra member on tour in their early days yet wanted a photographer so he learnt the turntables) and Lewis became the manager of some smaller bands in America. Then, in April 2014, rumours began to grow that the band were back in the studio.

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No Devotion, made up of Lostprophets’ 5 members as well as former Thursday lead singer Geoff Rickly, debuted their first single on the 1st July. It was nothing like the Lp members had done before, being more mainstream rock and less like it was made for teenagers. There was a sigh of relief amongst the fan base, who had been through hell for almost two years, here we were finally re-embracing 5 musicians who had done nothing wrong except choose their friends badly yet were being tainted by association. It was yesterday, quite a while after Stay’s release, that their debut album, Permanence, was released.

Here’s the thing. Technically, I’m going to class this as a review yet I’m not going to review a single track. The reason? I will never judge Permanence on whether I find the music good or not, it’s worth more than that. It’s the album that I, the whole of the fan base, the whole of the music industry, never thought would be made. I can’t listen to Lostprophets now, every now and then I try again but find it too difficult, but at least I have some music, more than that a record, which I can listen to made by the good guys of Lp, the men worth being so in love with Lostprophets in my teenage years.

If No Devotion release nothing else in their career, at least the five of them (Johnson has since left) will always have their contributions to this record. It won’t be as commercially successful as the stuff they did before but it was unquestionably mean infinitely more to them personally. They sunk to the bottom but kept their heads up and managed to rise again. There is no question that Ian Watkins is a horrible human being that deserves to rot in jail. He tainted all of their names; he made the music they had made for years worthless. He ruined many lives, not just these 5 men but all the families who he abused. While I hope they have turned their lives around, this record proves that the members of No Devotion have.

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