Band Reformations: Holding back the new generation or setting the example?
James Sweeney examines whether or not band reunions are having a negative effect on current music.
Suede’s androgynous frontman Brett Anderson once told listeners to ‘Let the new generation rise.’
This line, spoken on a single back in 1994 may now seem ironic as the band have continued to tour the world since their reunion in 2010, and have recently released a new album. The same people who believe Anderson’s comments are hypocritical must of howled at the irony of The Who rocking out at 2012’s Olympic closing ceremony despite their initial intention to ‘die before they get old.’
Their generation? The Who's performance at the Olympic closing ceremony
Despite the obvious tongue in cheek comments these facts often find themselves attached to, both Suede and The Who have received almost unanimous critical acclaim for their performances in recent years. The Who are still a powerful force live that sell out huge venues across the globe. As for Suede, only the most cynical members of the anti reunion brigade could take a swipe at their comeback which began with an epic reunion show at the Royal Albert Hall (2010) and led to the release of their marvellous 6th album Bloodsports last year.
The general opinion of reunion naysayers is that the coverage received by reuniting bands takes the spotlight away from up and coming acts that could be poised to take the mantle. When you think back to the summers of the last few years which see the likes of The Stone Roses, Pulp and Blur headlining an abundance of major festivals, it may seem that the passing of the torch has been delayed by aged rockers refusing to lay down their battered old guitars.
However, a quick rewind back two decades shows that this is not necessarily the case. When Blur released their second album Modern Life is Rubbish in the summer of 1993, they were trying to claw their way up festival bills that featured the likes of The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, Donovan and Big Star. Despite this, they became household names by the end of 1994 and went on to headline many festivals in the years that followed.
Blur, as well as fellow reunited contemporaries Suede and Pulp are living proof that a band with enough quality can gain notoriety irrespective of the presence of bands from previous eras. Band reunions may be more popular than ever, but they are certainly not unique to this era and have not prevented previous generations of music from prospering. If music is good enough, there will always be a fan base for it.
Blur on their way to stardom at Glastonbury 1992
As well as attracting the now middle aged fan base of their past, many reforming bands are finding that younger generations of music fans are just as fanatical as their original fan base. This is because the majority of modern bands have simply failed to inspire their generation. Many teenagers are finding a lot more connection to the music of The Pixies, Pulp and Pavement than the songs being churned out by some of the current crop of bands whose music simply fails to meet the lofty standards of the past.
The reformation of The Stone Roses is not what kept younger bands off the headline slots at festivals; it was the failure of these bands to capture the public’s imagination that kept them down the bill. The widely believed view that perennial dullards Keane would have likely headlined the 2008 Glastonbury festival had it not been for The Verve’s comeback proves that band reunions are hardly preventing a punk style music revolution.
The real issue that is overshadowed by the big business of band reunions is the lack of fertility in rock n roll over the last five years. Not since the post Libertines generation has there been a class of bands that have inspired ‘the kids’ and this has resulted in an era of nostalgia. We don’t need a decrease in band reunions to improve rock n roll’s future, we need an increase in bands making brilliant music.
This is not to say that there isn’t any quality music being produced at the present moment. Many of the more established acts (Arctic Monkeys,The Cribs, The Horrors) continue to release excellent 3rd, 4th or 5th albums, and the recent material released by acts like Peace, Tame Impala and Savages has shown a great deal of promise.
Coming Up: Peace clawing their way up the bill at Glastonbury 2013
There is no reason why the success of modern music should be influenced by the number of bands reuniting. If a Stone Roses fan wants to enjoy a phenomenal performance from their returning heroes then let them. It’s not about the old guard moving out the way; it’s about today’s bands stepping up to the plate.
Let the new generation rise.