When I was young I hated reunions, I felt like they were cash-grabs, things only sell-outs would do. I had a hard time thinking of musicians, particularly my musical idols, as people. I had an idea of artistic integrity and I thought that musicians should stick to it (or face my wrath, I guess). But another reason I hated reunions was because I was a fan of (mostly) “classic” rock. And the vast majority of those bands which reunited… well, those reunions went badly. And my favourite band at the time (The Beatles) had never reunited. And the band that took over that role from them (Zeppelin) only reunited for one off concerts every few years. Both “preserved” their legacies.
It’s a lot more culturally acceptable to reunite now – hell it’s practically mandatory. There have been a lot of reunions that have been judged to be “artistically” successful – in addition to being commercially successful which, you have to assume, was the reason for the reunion – in a way that most “classic” rock reunions were not. (I can think of a few successful classic rock reunions, but they were always after brief periods, not decades.) It must be hard for bands to have broken up to not jump on this bandwagon, provided they can stand the site of each other. Nostalgia is one of the great trucks of the internet.
But I don’t know how a reunion can be culturally relevant, especially if it’s been decades. If it’s been a few years, then sure, why not. I can think of more than a few bands that broke up or took a “hiatus” for a few years, only to come back with some of their best work. (Soft Machine, Traffic, King Crimson to name but a few.) But decades is different.
And cultural relevance is the objective isn’t it? At least, I think it is. It is for me, as a judging listener, a listener who cannot turn off his brain. In fact, for me, it’s been cultural transcendence, something that is extremely hard to determine when someone is sitting in the middle of the culture the music is supposedly transcending.
But the older I get, the more I wonder if cultural transcendence really is that important. Sure, it’s important for the historian in me, but is it important for the listener?
I don’t think it’s important for the members of the bands that reunite. Sure, some of them just want to make money. But many of them are probably trying to have fun, trying to recapture the joy they had earlier in their lives. That’s a very human desire.
And so, as I age, I am finding it harder and hard to spit on all reunions, especially now that bands that I like, and who I never got to see, are reuniting and putting out competent product. What’s wrong with something being good, even if it’s not transcendent, or even relevant?
And this record is good. It’s not great, but it’s good. It’s way better than I thought it would be. It reminds me way too much of Tomahawk’s “reunion” record – I can’t help but think of it, sorry – though it’s less interesting.
But the thing that it does well, which I guess the previous two albums didn’t do as well – though I love King for a Day – is that it combines their tendencies into the individual songs, like on Angel Dust, rather than as separate genre pieces. This band does not sound schizophrenic (relatively speaking!) compared to the band that released King for a Day and Album of the Year.
My worst fears are not confirmed. I actually want to keep listening to this.