Here's the biggest news of the year, if you're me or Michael Marotta or one of maybe three other idiots in the world who'd actually care: Marion is reforming. Yes, the Johnny Marr-produced and Morrissey-approved heirs to the Manchester indie throne, compared in their early days to Joy Division, return battered but determined after one of indie's great hard-luck tales.
Their debut album, 1995's This World and Body, reached the UK top 10 thanks to moderate hype and Britpop hysteria. It wasn't a bad album; in fact, it holds up as one of the few Britpop records that doesn't sound entirely comical when listened to today. They opened for Radiohead and Morrissey, and even managed to sell out a little bit — before it was cool, mind you — by getting the single "Smile" in a Citroën commercial.
The momentum didn't last. After the band toured their first album for three years, their label, London Records, was impatient for another hit. They meddled with the band's affairs considerably during the recording of the follow-up. The result was 1998's The Program, which was unloved by London and released with no promotion; it charted somewhere just outside the top 10,000. Marion was dropped, and split up.
(YouTube adventurers ought dig up The Program's lead single, "Miyako Hideaway." Written with Johnny Marr, it was about as close as any British band got to a good single in 1998 — people were all confused after Britpop died, and fucking Gomez won the Mercury Prize.)
Singer Jaime Harding coped with his band's implosion in the traditional rock style: by doing a fantastical amount of horse. In 2000, he was arrested for stealing garden ornaments — let's just say lawn gnomes, because that's the legend — and pawning them for £35 of smack money.
After this, nothing was heard of Marion until a 2006 reunion; some sold-out live shows and minor press coverage ensued, but things hit a snag when the bassist fell down and broke his neck. The next week, Jaime Harding's blood curdled up on account of all the heroin. He required open-heart surgery, and was hospitalized for most of the next year. They lined up a gig or two in late 2008 — opening for Puressence, of all the ignominy — but then Harding nearly died of shame ("pneumonia") and all the shows were cancelled.
(Things actually went quite well throughout for guitarist Phil Cunningham, who picked up a slot as a live guitarist for New Order. He became a full-fledged member in 2005, filling the vacancy left by Gillian Gilbert. Though New Order split after Cunningham had recorded just one record with them, he continued in Bernard Sumner's post-New Order band, Bad Lieutenant. Not exactly the loftiest height of stardom, but at least he kept his hands off the lawn ornaments.)
Harding is in better health these days, and he's managed to attract most of Marion's original lineup for this second reunion. In a statement on the band's official site, he sounds peppy and pugnacious: "If you (like me) need that Marion fix of style, glamour, and violently beautiful songs, then we should meet soon on a dark night and I will tell you my story. You can tell all the doubters who listen to today's bland and passionless music 'I TOLD YOU SO!!!! Marion are tops!!!' "