Blast from the Past: these days, most band reunions just can't cut it
An interesting part about living through a decade is that, in hindsight, you have the advantage of now seeing things exactly as they were, despite your lack of insight at the time. What would you tell yourself if you could go back ten years? I’d say, “Lose those fucking frosted tips.”
Now a whole two years removed from the 2000s, I think it is safe to conclude that in terms of music, no other corporate cash-grab was milked as hard as the reunion tour. Look no further than The Who, a band of strolling bones who have been coaxed by the dollar out of retirement more than once in my short life alone.
I could spend hours listing the countless atrocities that the past decade has spawned but I’ll spare myself the pain. Besides, focusing entirely on the horrible reunions would take away from the handful of truly brilliant reunions that took place, like Pavement or the Jesus Lizard. But even in 2012, it is becoming increasingly clear that this trend is far from over.
This past October, after years of bitter denial, the legendary Stone Roses announced a series of festival dates across the UK. Just this week, the most hyped band circa Y2K, At the Drive-In, announced a full-on reunion at this year’s Coachella Festival. So what makes bands with such a bitter history suddenly decide that its time for a reunion?
I’d like to pause for a moment and reflect on the variety of reasons that influence such a decision. Clearly, money plays an enormous factor in the decision to reform a band. But to say that this is wholly taboo would be wrong. It really comes down to what the money is being used for.
In the case of the Stone Roses, the psychedelic-dance legends from the early ‘90s, a reunion is clearly an empty attempt to cash in on their recent popularity renaissance. The success of the three-disc 20th anniversary reissue of their self-titled album in 2009 was an obvious indication that a reunion tour would be a success.
Singer Ian Brown has enjoyed a successful solo career since the end of the band and is currently one of the most recognizable faces in British rock music. The rest of the band has also enjoyed plenty of attention in the British press over the past decade.
On the other hand, the reunion of At the Drive-In seems less self-serving but equally contrived. Mastermind Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has spent the last decade releasing an endless stream of music to an excitable niche market. His output ranges from Grammy-winning to borderline unlistenable, and for the past decade he has released several albums a year as a part of a variety of projects.
Each year since At the Drive-In hung their hats under “indefinite hiatus,” Coachella has offered Rodrigues-Lopez mountains of cash to reform the band. For an artist this prolific, an offer like this would eventually become irresistible. And this seemed to be that year.
Regardless, one of the fundamental characteristics of both of the bands, as well as most of the bands enticed into a reunion, was their youthful energy and innocence. Sometimes it’s simply heartbreaking to have your ideal of a band crushed when you see a bunch fat forty-somethings serving up a poor imitation of their past glory.
Hopefully these two bands, as well as others who care to announce a reunion soon, can pull it together and do the past catalogue justice. As for me, I’ll be staying home and pretending that these bands are still as awesome as the once were