The Comeback Kids Aren't Alright

If the continual cycles of bleeptro adorning every media facet of NME are anything to go by, it would seem that it doesn’t really take that much effort to create a decent track these days (check this out for hours of endless fun). Gone are the days when bands were famed for their instrumental talent – it’s all about crunkcore and horrorhop and electro now. Which is fine. I move with the times, you know.

However, it would seem that said bands are reluctant to accept defeat on the genre-trend battle ground. Bands like Green Day, for example. They’ve been kicking around for an unbelievable 22 years now. That’s older than most of the viewers that were tuned into NME TV the other day, when the channel (along with nearly every other ‘alternative music station’) seemed hell bent on cramming in as much Green Day as possible. Why? Because after FIVE years, the band have finally released something new. And it’s just so blah.

“Do you know the enemy? Do you know your enemy? Gotta know the enemy, wahay!” shouts Billie Joe Armstrong, over and over and over again. COME ON GREEN DAY. Yes, once you were a pivotal music force against ‘the establishment’, but Jesus. It’s like you’re not even trying anymore.

The same can be said for perennial oddball Marilyn Manson. In his glory days he held in his hands the fear and ignorance of thousands of parents everywhere. He was ‘responsible’ for the Columbine High School massacre, after all, and kids who listened to his music were dark and had problems. But now? He’s 40 years old, had an affair with a 19 year old despite (then) being married to extreme hottie Dita Von Teese and his new album is nothing short of an uncomfortable parody of himself. Pretty as a Swastika? Yawn. I Have To Look Up Just To See Hell? You don’t say. Unkillable Monster? So it would seem. Brian, your crazy shiz just doesn’t wash anymore, as you could probably tell by the sales of your last album, Eat Me, Drink Me. Time to bow out gracefully, eh?

Two examples, then, of the musical dead coming back to life. But three’s a trend, right? So, tempted as I was to include The Manic Street Preachers’ desperate clutch at straws with their new album Journal For Plague Lovers, I considered my current residency in Wales and thought better of it. Luckily though, a much more depressing option has come to light in the form of The Bangles. Yes, they of Eternal Flame, Manic Monday and Walk Like An Egyptian fame. Reports suggest that, as I write this, the band are busy squirreling away in the studio producing a new album.

Knowing your enemy and unkillable monsters are, at least, prevalent (and marketable!) issues on the social landscape at the moment, so unless The Bangles are gonna get crunk on the ass of the music industry – which I’m sure we can all agree would be an amazing spectacle that I for one would pay money to see – I suspect their efforts may well be in vain, and they will too be relegated to the ranks of once prominent bands who’ve had their day. Like the drunken uncle on the dancefloor at a wedding, perhaps they should just leave it to the kids now.

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5 thoughts on “The Comeback Kids Aren't Alright

  1. Another reason not to include the Manics in that list is that their ‘latest’ album is actually the long-awaited release of some VERY old songs. Sadly, Billie Joe and Brian have no excuse for their behaviour. I’m saving my money for something better.

  2. youloveus says:

    “Manic Street Preachers’ desperate clutch at straws”

    That’s some top quality trolling there Rach.

  3. No, it isn’t.
    Granted, The Manics have got a huge following and I acknowledge (Dan) the concept behind the album and its money-spinning potential, but the point I’m making is that their music sounds old and dated against a backdrop of fresh, contemporary artists; as is the case with the other artists mentioned, it’s almost uncomfortable to watch them try to continue to appeal to a mass market.

  4. youloveus says:

    That rather depends on what you define as being a mass market. Although the charts do not count for much these days, if the Manics can still sell enough to reach the top three, then there’s clearly a wider demand than I can comprehend.

    The same applies to Oasis et al. They continue to exist because they continue to sell. They’ve outlived ‘fresh’ and ‘contemporary’ artists that disappeared as quickly as they arrived because they have absolutely no sense of sustainability.

    Bad poets in bad make-up can MySpace it to the Astoria, but they don’t go much beyond there. And you can even go so far as to say that how ‘fresh’ and how ‘contemporary’ are they. All art is imitation, all music operates on a cyclical basis. It’s just the comeback kids that sit outside of those cyclical spheres that maintain an enduring appeal.

    Rather than sitting uncomfortably, they are placed so snugly in the middlebrow consciousness of listeners that everything else exists in an orbital state. If the media prepared to pigeon-hole bands into a neatly-packaged genre, then it will surely come as no surprise that there will be the long-standing artists that are adjudged to be on the periphery because the instant-news culture means that we’ve lost the sense of five minutes ago.

  5. It’s an interesting observation. However, there is something far more pivotal going on in the music business which you don’t mention here.

    Why do they sound old? Easy: The way music gets consumed has been changing dramatically for about ten years now and that’s Manson’s and Green Day’s problem: they cannot be original because they never were or had to be; they’ve always been relying on the (now fading) commercial model, where everyone buys your songs because they get airplay (paid for by the industry) and are therefore “cool,” not because they’re good. That’s not how it works anymore. You don’t need airplay anymore to get your music out into the world, you don’t even need a major label anymore, or a label at all. But you do need to be creative, or else you disappear in the masses of bands out there that are all waiting for their break.

    Of course, these “artists” signed by majors still make money. There are still enough people out there who enjoy listening to that kind of prefabricated, repetitive music. But those numbers have been dwindling rapidly (just listen to the major labels’ moaning (they blame it on pirating, which is utterly ridiculous), and then look at independents like Trent Reznor who still make tons of money (even though he puts albums of his on Pirate Bay himself!)).

    Ten, maybe twenty years from now, our culture will long have forgotten Manson or Green Day.

    @ youloveus
    Art is not so much imitation as re-interpretation. And if you look beyond commercial music you’ll quickly realize that there are still musicians out there who are completely different from everything before. Especially Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faröe islands – they all have incredibly talented independent artists. Bands you’ll *never* hear on a British radio, because no commercial radio would ever play, for example, post-rock grungecore (yes, that exists).

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