The Nostagia Trap – has music become too backwards looking?
While the local live music scene struggles to survive, the one that hosts established bands seems to be thriving. CD and download sales are providing less and less income for established bands, so they have no choice but to work harder on the live music circuit and at selling merchandise to survive. One of the effects of this is that many of those bands that weren’t touring before now are reforming to capitalise on the renewed enthusiasm of audiences to pay often over-inflated ticket prices to see live music. These reunions obviously rely heavily on nostalgia, and being that pop is in its seventh decade, there is plenty of nostalgia to be peddled.
The best comeback gigs, greatest hits shows and classic LP performances make great pop theatre and are (almost) worth the price of admission; The worst, fail to capture the old magic, and feel like a pointless waste of time and money. The latter are often the result of bands that have walked right into ”Ëthe nostalgia trap’, where, flattered by the success of a recent reunion shows, they attempt to recreate the old magic by performing new material. This music has often been written and recorded, and is now being performed, without a number of the original band members. As a result it is usually sub-standard, and always anachronistic and irrelevant. The audience’s reaction to it is a mix of uncertainty, indifference and scepticism: The moshpit (if there is one) will stagnate, the waving arms will come down, and queues will begin to form at the bars and in the toilets. That, after all, is not what they have come for.
The majority of those in the audience are there for one thing, and that is to celebrate the past, and enjoy the memories that the old tunes reawaken. I’ve been to a fair few of these gigs over the years, mostly to see bands, like Roxy Music and The Pixies, which I missed the first time around. Thankfully, both of these bands hadn’t yet fallen into the ”Ëtrap’ when I saw them, so the shows were free of any new material and pure nostalgia.
Pulp are reuniting this summer; Culture Club are about to do the same; Gun ”Ën’ Roses have just announced a huge reunion gig in the US; I’m sure there are more to come. My feeling is: do it, but please, please, please, resist the temptation, the commercial or record company pressure ”â whatever it is – to make a new record. Let bygones be bygones. Use your reputation, your connections and your experience to make new music under a different name. Break from the past. Move forward.
Alas, even as I tinker with the umpteenth draft of this blog, news has just come over that the Pixies are considering making a new record. For God’s sake, spare us.