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Comment: Should old bands reunite?

19th June 2012

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There appears to be a glut of reforming bands in recent years who are intent on recreating old glories in the form of recording new material and embarking on world tours.  From Black Sabbath to Blur, from Stone Roses to Soundgarden; many artists are looking to come back into the fold. Witnessing the return of a hero may excite music lovers, but is this trend potentially damaging?

I would argue that the best bands are a sign of their times. Context plays a huge role in what a band produces, and when taken out of this context their significance is lost. Surely a large motivational factor for a reunion is a financial one. How is a band supposed to create good, original music when their primary motivation is money?

Furthermore, many bands achieve success as they are a reaction against something; it could be a musical genre or a political issue. Thrash metal bands such as Metallica and Slayer were a reaction against the glam metal bands of the 1980s, and grunge acts such as Nirvana and Soundgarden were, to an extent, a reaction against thrash metal! What could the newly reformed Soundgarden react against now? Great bands were formed by a passionate reaction against the status quo, so surely they cannot recreate the same magic in a new context?

It could even be said that the reunion of older bands is actually damaging to music as a whole. If the market is flooded with older bands seeking to collect another retirement payout where is the space for newer bands with new ideas? Whilst bands such as Black Sabbath are still playing, it means there is less opportunity for new bands to get a foothold in the music industry.

However, in the problem lies the solution. The older artists who are reuniting may incite a reaction against themselves. If the great bands formed in a reaction against the status quo surely it is logical that current artists also react to the status quo; this time reacting against the artists looking to reform. New bands can say ‘NO!’ –We have enjoyed your music over the years, but it is time for somebody else to take centre stage.

Chinua Achebe said “suffering should be creative, should give birth to something good and lovely”. We have suffered the indignity of old acts being wheeled out of retirement, so I hope this suffering gives birth to new and original music. 

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