The Stone Roses’ reunion, nostalgia and cultural bedblocking
Here we go again. Yesterday’s news that The Stone Roses are reforming for a couple of shows in Manchester next year (with a world tour to follow as promoters beat each other up with a big stick to have the …
Here we go again. Yesterday’s news that The Stone Roses are reforming for a couple of shows in Manchester next year (with a world tour to follow as promoters beat each other up with a big stick to have the band on their summer 2012 festival bill) will predictably dominate the music news agenda this week. Leaving aside the fact that the band were fairly ropey live as their first run came to an end – their appearances at Feile in Cork in 1995 or Reading in 1996 come to mind and leave just as rapidly – the Stone Roses were an iconic band thanks to that incandescent self-titled album. But nostalgia will always trump hindsight when musicians like Ian Brown, John Squire, Mani and Reni decide to get back together to deal with unfinished business and enjoy a large pay-day. By the by, The Rub never really happened for Reni, did it?
There are many reasons why this reunion will receive so much coverage, but few have to do with the actual music. As we’ve seen with the recent palaver over the 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album and the Pink Floyd reissues, the generation who grew up with those bands now call the media shots and hence the nostalgia factor is in full effect. It’s much easier to cover bands who already have a history rather than try to make sense of the thousands of new acts out there making exciting, vital, visceral music. It’s also much easier to cover acts which you have a clearer recollection of from their first go on the swings and roundabouts rather than do the spadework required to find a new act to enthuse about and cover them properly.
When it comes to reunions of once heralded bands like the Stone Roses (and as we’ve seen with recent reunions from Pulp, Blur and Pixies), it’s just a case of reaching back into the archives and dusting off old copy and opinions. No need to have to work out how and where a brand new act fits into the bigger picture. No need for the commentator to have to listen to acts which he or she can’t make head or tail of. No need to pretend that you are enthusiastic about acts who really make you feel out of the loop. You can still pretend to be at the cutting edge by writing about a band who were in their pomp two decades ago.
Nostaglia of this ilk really is a form of cultural bedblocking. Instead of giving the time and coverage to musicians and artists who are producing new, innovative, fascinating work right now, the space and attention goes to acts who’ve already been through that hoopla and who haven’t produced an iota of note in years or decades. It’s easy to do because the heavy lifting has already been done – we can see those engimatic photos of the Stone Roses the very moment we hear the first chords of “I Wanna Be Adored” – but there was a time and place for that kind of thing and that time was 20 years ago.
I remember seeing The Stone Roses at Belfast’s Maysfield Leisure Centre in summer 1990 and it was a fantastic show. But I’ve no real inclination or desire to see those same four musicians who are simply going through the motions and doing it for the money (no doubt brilliantly, provided Ian Brown has learned to sing) in 2012. There are many more acts I’d prefer to see because those acts exist in the here and now rather than in some nostalgic time-warp where you’re trying to experience or re-experience something from the past.
Regular OTR readers will know that we’ve little truck here with reunions because they’re such an obvious sleight of hand. It’s a far different matter when you’ve an act or a band who’ve stuck it out through the highs and, just as importantly, lows. I may have nothing good to say about U2′s recent output, but I take my hat off to them for sticking together for over 35 years. The reunion bandwagon, on the other hand, is a cynical practice, yet so many people (especially people who are paid good money to be cynical) fall for them every time. Whatever about the fans – many of whom are eager to see a seminal, favourite act for the first time and can’t be faulted for that – or the band – who, at least, are getting paid for their troubles – it’s another thing entirely when fanboys with laptops lose their reason over an event like this.