Back, Not Forth
As the Police reunion tour motorcade slowly makes its way toward North Texas, seemingly lead not by a tour bus but by a giant bulldozer unapologetically scooping up millions of dollars, rock reunions and nostalgia concerts grow as ever more unavoidable precepts of music fandom. Everyone has gone all buck wild over Sting and Co. regrouping (though that enthusiasm waned once we all had to type in our ATM card numbers and shell out several hundred bucks to obtain altitude-sickness-inducing tickets), and it may be a chicken and egg kinda deal, but somehow the Police's reunion has coincided with rock reunions of all types, and this is not a good thing.
It's difficult to admit it's probably the Pixies' fault. Their get-together at Coachella a while back and subsequent tour made a lot of 30-plus-year-olds happy, none happier than the band members themselves, who raked in their share of the nostalgia ducats, but that reunion's success turned Coachella—once a forward-reaching festival of edgy bands—into '80s Fest. More than that, it proved the point that taking advantage of nostalgia is profitable and low-risk. Why should a record company spend hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a band in the hopes that it might spawn a hit single, when a refined product with a pre-made market (35-year-olds who finally have money and who missed Depeche Mode/Psychedelic Furs/New Order the first time around) are already out there?
It's not that the concept of a rock reunion here or there is intrinsically a bad idea. It's just that the backward-facing bandwagon has spawned two negatives for music:
1) It takes the focus off of the now. If indeed it's more cost-effective to force together the combustible elements of former bandmates like so many plutonium particles, why even bother developing new bands? And from a consumer's POV, why risk wasting time and money investigating new bands, or unhyped bands, when it's much easier to catch that group you really dug in high school?
2) It's encouraged the reunions of bands that we really don't need reunited, as exemplified by two shows this week: The Lost '80s Tour starring Animotion, Gene Loves Jezebel, When in Rome and Dramarama at the House of Blues on Friday, June 1; and former Austin stalwarts Soulhat, who play with Patrice Pike the next night at the Granada Theater.
Soulhat. Seriously. Surely the show at the Granada will be jam-packed for the jam rock, and that's cool in an objective way (after all, at this point in the history of local venues, we should support Bozo the freakin' Clown if he packs a house). It's just that... Soulhat? Really? Do we really need the original lineup of a band that peaked in a time when ripped jeans and baggy flannel were de rigueur to get back together? When the type of frat-boy jam band semi-funk that Soulhat produced at the 1994 Sigma Date-a Rape-a mixer or whatever passed for quality songs? Moreover, I defy you to name a single Soulhat song. In fact, I defy you to name the hit singles of each of the bands on the Lost '80s lineup. Note: Googling "Has-been one-hit wonders from the era when I was still a virgin" is cheating.
Hell, I understand nostalgia—Soulhat played my college battle of the bands too, people, and I saw you there at last week's Morrissey show at the Palladium, dancing to "Girlfriend in a Coma." But rock 'n' roll has never been about the past. It's about the here and now, about self-indulgence and lack of foresight or hindsight—or at least, it should be. As great as the Pixies—or Led Zep, or the Smiths, or whoever—were, they belong to an era that has passed. They are golden oldies. And the resurgence in their popularity is responsible for the regrouping of mediocre bands that seemed like a good idea at the time but in retrospect, not so much.
It boils down to this: This week, a bumper crop of local musicians, currently relevant local musicians, will perform, and that's who we should focus on. On Tuesday, June 5, Chomsky's Glen Reynolds, for instance, is releasing his solo record on local label Idol Records, and it is a fucking awesome disc, chock full of odd little vocals and skittering guitars, songs he'll perform at his release party next week in Denton. This is what we should be concentrating on, because 20 years from now, Reynolds' work—locally made, locally released—may or may not stand up, but, Jesus, at least it does in the here and now.
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