Ever get a feeling of déjà-vu? Festival line-ups for this summer are sagging beneath the weight of reformed 90s bands – Blur, Faith No More, Limp Bizkit. Rumours of a Libertines reunion refuse to die. Meanwhile, the year’s hottest ticket is for another faded goliath, Michael Jackson.
Further down the commercial scale the story is the same, with comeback tours being announced by the kind of indie also-rans – My Life Story, The Bluetones, Carter USM – that no-one was all that keen on in the first place.
It’s a disease, this obsession with reviving the past, that infects all areas of life. Even the food we eat is nostalgic. Wispas are back. Sales of Arctic Roll and Bird’s custard are reportedly rocketing.
At the cinema, too, we flock to see decades-old franchises (‘Watchmen’, ‘Batman’, ‘Indiana Jones’) rather than risk being challenged by something new and unfamiliar. What is wrong with us? Are we doomed to forever repeat ourselves, like hopeless inmates endlessly circling the prison yard?
The pat explanation for all this is that nostalgia arises from fear. Faced with the twin apocalypses of environmental collapse and economic meltdown, we seek refuge in the cosy certainties of our youth. Well, boo-hoo. Isn’t the real reason something more prosaic – basic cultural laziness? We simply can’t summon the intellectual effort it requires to engage with the new.
Against this shameful backdrop, then, there’s something heroically cool about John Squire’s point-blank refusal to reform The Stone Roses. “I’d rather live my life than attempt to rehash it,” he told Newsnight. “Music is a young person’s game and I don’t think us old fogeys should get in the way of that.”
Meanwhile, the same day, Lee Mavers was reported as saying he “doesn’t see the point” in getting The La’s back together (anyone who saw their brief reunion jaunt in 2005 would probably agree, but we’ll gloss over that).
Why should this kind of conviction be so rare? Why can so few musicians resist the urge to retread past glories, experience that adrenaline-jolt of fame one last time? Music should be about celebrating the present, deploying one’s creativity in new and unexpected ways, not endlessly replaying the past. As Squire so eloquently demonstrated on his official site, the point should be art, not commerce.
This post, then, is a celebration of those bloody-minded individuals for whom no comeback cheque can ever be big enough. It’s for David Byrne, who’d rather compose disco operas, convert ferry terminals into giant instruments, and maintain a startlingly erudite blog than wheel out ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and ‘Road To Nowhere’ for an audience of monied nostalgists.
It’s for Morrissey, who in defiance of all financial logic would rather churn out shruggingly-received solo albums than bury the hatchet with Johnny Marr. And it’s for Paul Weller, who sees the undignified karaoke-comeback tours staged by his former Jam bandmates and concludes, rightly, that he’d rather not lower himself to their level.
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OK, it’s a depressingly small list, but – as the almighty live-music dollar comes to dominate music as never before – it is, perhaps, an increasingly significant one.