The Knife: Grief and acceptance

Everything exists in flux, like a continuous sine wave of peaks and depressions. We learn to respect the ebb and flow of the business cycle, fashion trends, and glacial periods, accepting the interdependence of life and death. And speaking of death…

The Knife, the Swedish electronic duo, will disband after its last concert in Reykjavik on November 9, dooming another bolded, italicized, and underlined item in my music bucket list to an empty, unchecked box. After releasing what I believe is their best album yet in 2013, The Knife had been experiencing a peak of glory. Quitting now seems like an absurd (and painful) thing to do. But maybe, just maybe, it’s doing the right thing.

Bands die. Deal with it. It might be due to tensions with labels (one of the factors in Death Grip’s recent break up), junkie members (the case with The Sex Pistols), ugly musical differences (The Police), or death itself (The Carpenters and Nirvana). But what annoys me even more than a band break-up is a refusal to do so when appropriate.

It’s like that one relative (or friend) who comes over “just to say hi” and after four hours of small talk, eats all of your precious snacks (which you offered out of politeness), and has you itching all over, thinking of polite ways to ask him or her to GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.

Although it is impossible to pinpoint the appropriate band “lifespan,” tirelessly dragging the remains of that platinum 80’s album around Glastonbury and Lollapalooza is no fun. Take Smashing Pumpkins as an example. Oceania (their most recent studio album of 2012) shows no sound development since Mellon Collie (their most famous work of 1995).

The idea of Smashing Pumpkins as a band has festered, as Billy Corgan is the only original member, and replaying its decades-old hits worldwide seems like an ordeal to him and fans alike. If I’m sick of “1979,” imagine how frustrated Mr. Corgan must feel. The pre-alopecia glory that once made this band so special is not coming back. Metallica, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, and U2 share similar stories.

On the other hand, bands such as Muse, Radiohead, and Daft Punk seem to be doing perfectly fine. Muse keeps releasing fresh, new hits, Radiohead took the music industry by storm after releasing In Rainbows in 2008 (although their latest album, the King of Limbs, sounded a bit stale), and Daft Punk’s new songs still find their way to our playlists and iTunes’ Top Charts. But how much longer can, or should, these bands last?

Thus, while calling it quits at the height of their career might be upsetting news for fans, ending on such a positive note ensures The Knife’s claim in musical history. In an interview with Dazed, Karin Dreijer (the singer) said, “We don’t have any obligations to continue, it should only and always be for fun.” Fifteen years (as the band was founded in 1999) might not seem long, but it was the right amount of time needed to reach a mature sound without ever turning boring.

The Knife is dead, and it has left behind a four album legacy full of eccentricity and glitter. To me, that’s more than enough.