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Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away

Is anyone else weirded out by the sheer quantity of old bands reuniting lately? Just asking.

Time was, aging new wavers/metallers/punks graciously retired into alcoholism, film scoring, roots music, dentistry or coffins in the ground, and vacated spots on the arena and club stages of America for younger bands to fill. No more.

Granted, we’re all long accustomed to mainstream acts having comeback/nostalgia concerts; Elvis probably did it best in that leather suit on TV. But around the time the Pixies barrier was broken at Coachella ’04 (and let’s not forget X, the Stooges, et al.), the indie/punk reunion bandwagon was officially fired up. Meanwhile, The Wedding Singer, somehow, had already paved the way for the synth-pop revival. And so today, in addition to paying too much to see shameless perennial road hogs like the Stones or Kiss, we can also pay too much to see bands we thought could never get old, either because they were too cool or they were robots.

And because of the general ’80s-nostalgia trip in the culture at large — which will soon have lasted longer than the actual ’80s — any band that was merely alive in that decade now has a shot at a lucrative touring career. Bands that were already sort of revival acts in the ’80s can tour arenas forever (Hello, Kraftwerk!). Bands that never broke up in the first place can now have reunions (Greetings, Bon Jovi!). Band members who mostly just hated each other and got tired for a while can now act like they broke up, just to have a revival. (Mötley Crüe, Duran Duran anyone?)

You can see the breakup/nostalgia machine at work in contemporary pop as well: The Backstreet Boys, who may turn out to be the all-time masters of the comeback, opened one of their first singles with the line “Backstreet’s back, all right!” And those Destiny’s Child girls are no fools. They know that breaking up this year is the best thing they can do to sell tickets for their “Manifest Destiny” world tour in 2007.

In fact, I am certain that right now, in garages across America, bands are being formed for the sole purpose of breaking up.

Mortality is no obstacle for the reunion machine either: Thanks to modern holographic technology, bands who achieved legend status due to the untimely death of their lead singer can now tour (the Doors, Queen, INXS, the Germs et al.). This technology, of course, has also enhanced bands with merely disgruntled members (Journey, Guns N’ Roses, Missing Persons, the Specials, et al.) and dead non-singers (the New York Dolls).

And then you have your de facto revival bands built from spare parts: Velvet Revolver, Audioslave, what have you. These bands offer the unique opportunity to be nostalgic for the present. (“Wow, that brand-new Audioslave song sounds exactly like if some rock stars from the past started a new band.”)

The elephant I’m ignoring here because it’s so big and stinky is that almost all the “hip” young bands, even the good ones, sound like some band from 20 to 30 years ago as well. In fact, they’re the most egregious revivalists. But — with some exceptions, obviously — the trouble is that they’re ripping off too narrow a spectrum of bands, and doing it too precisely. I mean, in comparison to some of these newer synth-punk wannabes, the Strokes look downright versatile for ripping off the Velvet Underground and the Cars and Tom Petty. (And can’t the younger generation leave Gang of Four to own their own sound? Didn’t they actually set an example for how to artfully borrow from the past in order to forge something entirely new?)

Ultimately, the situation that results from all this is a drag for new bands and music fans. The wannabes end up opening for their historical forebears on national tours (e.g., Bloc Party opening for Gang of Four) instead of headlining their own tours. That means two other, smaller, maybe more original bands lose the chance to open for a “hip” new buzz band. In short, the whole process of exposure for new music is slowed down rather than sped up.

By the way, I would like to personally thank Eric Avery for refusing to rejoin Jane’s Addiction; the remaining members of Led Zeppelin for refusing to re-form without Bonham; and every single new band who have not yet started slavishly ripping off T. Rex and E.L.O. I would also like to thank Sweet for staying gone (as far as I know). Some bands really shouldn’t get back together. I’m glad the Beatles broke up.

And so, after much thought, I have come to a painful but unavoidable conclusion: All these revival bands must be packed into limos and sent to Iceland, where they may live out their days smoking pot, recording electronic concept albums on computers, and arguing about who was more influential. I’ve had it with them all. The only ones who can stay are the Stones and Alice Cooper, because the Stones have been cheesy mercenaries for about 40 years and they’re still the best live band on the planet; and Alice Cooper is simply the coolest motherfucker ever. All the rest have to go to Iceland. If they can use their time there to record a genuinely decent record that might limp alongside their better, earlier stuff, they may receive a furlough. Unfortunately, this means my beloved Argent and Blunstone will not be touring for a while. Brian Wilson will. The Crüe will be sentenced retroactively for 512 years in Björkland to atone for most of their discography. Paul McCartney will be given nine months to a year’s freedom (based on his past few albums and his newest, which is shockingly unembarrassing). The Eagles will be locked up for the remainder of their career, regardless of creative output, with the exception of Joe Walsh, who goes free on the basis of his pop song “Life Of Illusion.”

Iggy Pop will be incarcerated and tortured with old tennis shoes for 40 days and nights and then forced to spend the rest of his life performing his hits on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship.


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