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Living With Lineup Changes

With Shia LeBouf, explosions, robots and more explosions, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is guaranteed to be a huge summer blockbuster. But even though we’re pumped for the latest installment in the Transformers franchise”and believe us, we are”we’re almost more intrigued by the soundtrack, which features the first single from Paramore since Josh and Zac Farro left the group in December.

For those who have forgotten (or never cared in the first place), the Farro brothers quit Paramore amid a swirl of controversy at the end of 2010, calling the band a sham, and frontwoman Hayley Williams a manufactured product of a major label. (You can read their full statement on Josh’s blog.) It might seem tough to recover from the kind of bad publicity the Farros saddled the band with, but their new single “Monster” sounds just as raw and Paramore-esque as any of their material when the brothers were still members, and Williams just told BBC Radio 1 that they plan to release a new album in early 2012.

Of course, Paramore are far from the first band to make a triumphant return after a rocky lineup change. Remember a little album called Back in Black? AC/DC made what is to this day the second highest-selling album of all time, and they did it after the untimely death of frontman Bon Scott. Can you even imagine a world without Hells Bells or You Shook Me All Night Long? Scott may have appeared on six AC/DC releases before Back in Black, but his replacement Brian Johnson helped create what is arguably the most iconic record from the Australian rockers. And they’re not the only classic band that’s had to survive personnel messes” Guns and Roses have had an almost constantly rotating lineup since 1985, and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have had more than 20 different lineups since 1964. Courtney Love is no stranger to change; since 1989 she’s remained the only consistent staple of Hole while drummers and bassists have come and gone. Even longtime lead guitarist Eric Erlandson, who was with the group for their first 10 years, declined to be a part of their 2009 reunion and actually tried to keep Love from using the Hole name.

Sometimes bands can do more than just survive a lineup change, using a bit of new blood to actually improve. Take Sid Vicious”the infamous bassist’s name is synonymous with the Sex Pistols despite the fact that he wasn’t even one of the original members of the band. Of course, there are times when a change in the lineup can bring… well, let’s just say “mixed results.” Frontman Michael Hutchence of the Australian rock group INXS died in 1997, and in 2005 his band embarked on a search for a new lead singer on the TV show Rock Star: INXS. But despite the program’s popularity both of the albums recorded with new singer J.D. Fortune earned reviews that were mediocre at best, and many INXS fans thought the show dishonored Hutchence’s memory. (Two Australian radio hosts called the program “broadband urination on Michael Hutchence’s grave.” Ouch.)

And then there are the occasions when a member’s loss is just too great for the group to overcome. Led Zepellin decided to disband in 1980 following the death of legendary drummer John Bonham, despite a surge of  rumors that the rockers were replacing him. In a statement, the group said, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” Nirvana made the same decision after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. While former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has proven to be an outstanding vocalist for the Foo Fighters, replacing a singer who has been hailed as the voice of a generation would have been a tall order.

But it seems like more and more often, bands will lose a member or two and decide to forge ahead. Florida-based punks Against Me! are selling out shows along their current summer tour, even though their lineup looks nothing like the one that started putting out cassette demos in ’97. Several longtime members of Taking Back Sunday have parted ways with the band over the years, yet their self-titled album”out June 28”is one of the most highly anticipated rock releases of the year. In fact, bands like U2, Radiohead or Green Day that have had a consistent lineup through their career are the exception rather than the rule these days. But judging from the work some of these bands have done after weathering massive lineup changes, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.