Matt Reynolds and Joe Duddel consider whether some things really are best left in the past
For: Matt Reynolds
In 2011, a costly and acrimonious divorce for Ian Brown, saw the glorious rebirth of the only good thing to come out of the north in the last thirty years, The Stone Roses. And personally, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
I can already hear the muttered laments of “They’re selling out,” or “these things are best left in the past” spill out from the rooms of hipster teens, with impractical hair and sperm count reducing jeans. But, take these people back to a place they liked in the past. Show them a picture of their first kiss and challenge them to say then that nostalgia is a bad thing.
And that is why band reformations can only be a positive thing. Forget band politics, forget that slightly dodgy fourteenth solo album featuring N-Sync, forget death – we’ve got holograms now. Seeing a band in their reformed state can only be an enriching experience – the songs come to life once more. Seeing them performed live gives an almost meditative platform for self reflection: what those songs meant to you then, what they mean now.
Before I get too nostalgic, let’s track back and think about how plain awesome it is that we have the chance to see bands that we may never have had the opportunity to see? Led Zeppelin’s reunion for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute concert in 2007 brought the pure sex appeal of rock ‘n roll to a generation more used to S Club than Stairway. Millions became reintroduced or introduced to Pink Floyd after their 2005 Live 8 performance. Steps, Rage Against The Machine, The Who, The Sex Pistols and Take That have all returned to pay homage to their fans and the music.
So, what are you afraid of? Embrace the idea of reformation. I’ve already got my piggybank ready for when Lennon and Harrison become immortalised in hologram form.
Against: Joe Duddel
Awful bands should not reform – chiefly because they remain awful. For formerly great bands, the picture is a more subtle one, from which we can extract four key reasons why the past is best left alone.
Firstly, a reformation, as any Protestant will tell you, most often derives from a feeling of otherwise inexorable desperation and dismay at one’s personal situation. These emotions may have worked in the 16th century, but in the music industry creative juice is best sapped from some other source. The Happy Mondays, a case in point, entered the Manchester music scene on a wave of ecstasy and creativity. They left it in 2004 with Shaun Ryder and Bez drowning in the chronic addictions that had dogged them throughout the 90s.
Secondly, the sentiments held in songs produced years or even decades ago do not necessarily hold any relevance or interest in the present day. In fact I’d go further than that – reforming can directly contradict the message or style of a group’s earlier incarnation. When the Sex Pistols reunited to re-record Anarchy in the UK for Guitar Hero, how many people were struck by the potent irony of such a move? It wasn’t even done amidst cries of ‘look at us, we tried to ‘stick it to the man’ 30 years ago, now we’re back for another attempt’. It was more, ‘please, just write me the cheque’. Quite pathetic, really.
Thirdly, when a band reforms it is often with the intention of releasing new material for which their fans have absolutely no interest. So it was that the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2006 work, Zeitgeist, was met with derision from a fanbase that just wanted to hear more of the same. Of course, this clash between an audience desire for continuity and the need of the band to develop is something felt by every group attempting to follow-up an acclaimed success.
Lastly, I would urge all concerned to avoid at their peril the feeling of disappointment when, having splashed out on the over-priced ticket for a reunion tour, you realise that Brian Wilson and co. don’t sound anything like the Beach Boys. Talent diminishes over time. Wittgenstein comes to mind: ‘whereof one cannot sing, thereof one must remain silent’.
The simple truth is that some things are best left as a fond memory.