On Easter Sunday, he was risen. The lanky and shirtless man, glowing behind his mass of flowing dark hair and vicious laceration scars, lifted his hands to the world that had awaited him and bestowed an omniscient smile to his gaping followers. Now mourned by a world that had ignored him, vilified him and injured him, he basked in defiance of mortality. Then, with arms outstretched, he announced the news that would resound throughout the centuries: Iggy Pop and the Stooges are reuniting.
After 33 years of estrangement and Pop’s own belligerently epic solo career, the corrosive punk band is dusting off their boots for one last stroll. Their new record, out sometime next year and only the fourth in their collective catalogue, promises to be an updated return to their guitar-heavy, seminal (in every way that implies) sound.
But following this weekend’s big Billboard announcement and the resulting baby-boomer-punker hysterics, it’s easy to forget that these musical reformation proclamations are as frequent as November rain. More than ever, groups we know and (occasionally) love are regrouping with breathless intensity, drumming for relevance again and capitalizing on their fans’ blooming nostalgia.
Often, they’re trumpeting their return before we’ve even had time to forget them: The Fugees, Ozma, Motley Crue and the Backstreet Boys had been gone for about a blip in our consciousness before their returns last year.
It’s inevitable that Destiny’s Child is going to “reunite” in three years to massive tickets sales. And though Billy Corgan’s success in reuniting the Smashing Pumpkins seemed only to exist in his unnaturally bloated head (James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky hate him with very quotable abandon), his attempt was still huge news last year.
So why this trend? This quick re-sell wouldn’t have flown 20 years ago; in 1982, Rolling Stone reporter Kurt Loder accurately predicted the lie behind The Who’s “final” tour and it was a scandal when they reunited five years later.
Culture progresses so much faster now – there are DVDs for bands with one released album, and action figures for bands that never should have recorded one. (My Chemical Romance, I wish I knew how to quit you.) It’s a trading-up philosophy that permeates our consumerist souls, but that doesn’t mean we’re blind; more than ever, musician reunions seem like a marketing gig instead of a creative rebirth. When bands burst back onto the scene so quickly, that newfound zest reeks of financial windfall and taps expectantly into a nostalgic longing that hasn’t had time to ripen. No deal.
The flip side is, of course, that more established and defunct past bands are also singing new tunes nowadays, and this places our generation in the unique position of being asked to miss something we never experienced the first time. This still seems more honest than being asked to submerge into boy bands again (and imminent “The Eagles: Live at Caesar’s Palace!” promos), but it also shows how lame our primary entertainment sources have become when they will only sell advertising to music that has endured for ages, and not actually play their music. And sometimes the regroupings is often a disappointing specter – why did the Doors bother to reform when their only interesting member is six feet under in France?
So should we care and pay exorbitantly, as these aging voices ask us to? Only if these bands do it right. And that means a respectable mourning period since the band’s last inception (1.5 decades sounds about right), a longevity that encourages new artists (This is why the INXS show imploded from the start), new material that doesn’t sound like reject scraps from their most listless peyote-induced haze, and not being the Eagles under any circumstances.
Guns n’ Roses is an apt example; having paid their dues and split apart, audiences would eagerly welcome that damned “Chinese Democracy” album if it came out tomorrow. (Though, 15-plus years in the making, it remains more culturally significant in its absence.)
The Pixies waited their turn and trompe le monde’d for 13 years before a hero’s welcome in 2004, and they actually seemed happy together. Same with the Stooges; their mysterious silence garnered more buzz than the loudest guitar ever could.
In some cases, reunions are a truly thrilling concept – but nowadays, most bands get it all wrong. Beyonce, Billy, are you listening? We’ll be there for you if you’re worth the wait, but you have to give us time to miss you first.
Stacey Anderson is a journalism and music senior, KCPR DJ and night train conductor. Catch her Sundays from 7 to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. on 91.3 FM or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org