We’ve gone nostalgia crazy and seminal album playbacks have just hit a new low, says Daniel Dylan Wray.


We’ve gone nostalgia crazy and seminal album playbacks have just hit a new low, says Daniel Dylan Wray

A classic album played in its entirety by a band you love; perhaps even your favourite album by them, what a novel and intriguing idea, no? Of course it is, but like all things novel its has a limited shelf-life, and based on current events, the expiry date for this now tired format has well and truly past.

Five years ago when ATP devised the ‘Don’t Look Back’ series it was a genuinely exciting prospect; today it sadly serves to highlight the fickleness of a flailing industry and illuminate the opportunists. Instead of being used sparingly and wisely it has become not just a bandwagon and a cash cow, but has turned into something almost laughable.

Whether you argue that bands divulging into this are doing it for money or for nostalgic reasons, surely both are somewhat detrimental? When Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed ‘Fever To Tell’ in its entirety at ATP back in December, for example, it was a sad but pertinent admission by the band. Here they are, just three albums deep in a career that hasn’t even stretched a decade and they are already acknowledging that they peaked on their debut record. And that can hardly aid progression and development when their ideas are so firmly rooted in things they have already accomplished.

For some it’s a fond reminder and a chance to play songs that have remained shelved for some years, and bands surely have every right to take a brief trek down memory lane, which often leads to astounding results. However, for others their motives appear to border on lunacy. And Peter Hook, I’m looking at you here – you who feels it a wise and fitting testament to mark the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death by playing seminal debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in its entirety without any of the remaining band members. If this is what this whole experiment has culminated in then surely it’s time to pull the plug?

‘Unknown Pleasures’ is an album drenched in so many sparse, delicate and haunting atmospherics that it subsequently owes so much to every member of Joy Division, as well as to producer Martin Hannett. Either Peter Hook is blind sighted, stubbornly ignorant or broke, or perhaps all of the above. Nostalgia should be short-lived – a brief and fond memory, looking over your shoulder, not drawn out into a financial motive. And we’re to blame too, I guess – unable to resist seeing ‘Doolittle’ or ‘Daydream Nation’ played from front to back, either in denial or simply not bothered by the motive behind such shows.

And although we should abstain and support progression, development and forward thinking in music, not line people’s regressive pockets, it’s not say the entire notion has been a failure – far far from it. Some performances have been blistering and done with genuine fondness and good intention. For example, Lou Reed’s reincarnation of ‘Berlin’ served as a wonderful example of the ‘Don’t Look Back’ format, and one that righted a lot of wrongs that surrounded the album lambasted an abomination upon release (see the original Rolling Stone review). Without a second stab with hindsight in tow, Reed would have never been able to perform the record as he’d always intended to but never previously managed.

Some things, though, are just better left in the past. If you weren’t around to hear ‘Raw Power’ live when it came out the chances are it’s a better idea to accept that. It’s a part of rock history, which will disappear itself if we forever recreate it. At our current rate, following Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Fever To Tell’ debacle, Arctic Monkeys will be performing ‘Whatever I Say I Am…’ on a yearly basis, and then Klaxons will have to do the same with a record that’s three years old. It all makes the next via step Justin Beiber’s album played in its entirety before it’s even been released. And not even Beiber himself would want that.

By Daniel Dylan Wray


Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010

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