Legacy, reformation, and sober reflection

This week brought the news that Refused and At the Drive-In have reformed for the Coachella festival, we take a look at the potential of these reformations.

Bands often burn out. We see it every year, a band splitting up after internal arguments, tour exhaustion, disillusionment with the lifestyle. It’s common for the band members to go their separate ways, or form new groups with other musicians replacing those whose opinion they differ with the most. This week brought the news of two burnt-out bands reforming: Refused and At the Drive-In.

Now, I’ve written in the past about my opinion of influential bands reforming. It was kicked off by the news of The Stone Roses gearing up for a tour after two decades of separation. My main issue is that if the tour is to be a re-run of their old music it is as though the interim period between the split and reform never happened; they ignore every band that has come in their wake, and there is a sheen of denial and arrogance to that. This then lends credence to fans who have held them aloft rather than move on to listen to new music. But, with every reunited band there is the potential for something creative.

In their seven year run Refused never lived up to their promise to break down the music industry, it was that which tore them up. All that anger and action with so little reaction and change became self-destructive. They were fighting against something formless, that, in their eyes, smothered them.

It’s a mixture of their manifesto and their break up which makes them interesting now. I want to see what 14 years has done to them. Will they come back as they were before, wasting energy with their lack of focus, or will the time have sobered them? And by sobered I don’t mean diminished. We have too many examples of aged rockers who don’t seem to have grown up, to have ever nuanced their emotion. Raw thoughtless emotion is a thing of youth, and there is something very powerful and attractive about it. But it is simple. I want to see a punk band, one previously torn apart by their anger of the system, to come back with an intelligent response, not to pander to their old fans by playing their old music, but to create something new, reflective. It’s not an abandonment of who they were but, instead, an acknowledgement of who they are. Time will tell.

At the Drive-In are a similar case, but different. When they began, they too threw themselves into their performance, on and off stage. They depleted their energy. Then in 2000 they were in a car accident. Their driver lost control in icy weather and left the bus turned over on its roof. It shook their confidence, the next four months marked a decline, a change in their personalities, an obsession with safety, and eventually a departure from the stage mid-set. It was over for them. They’d burnt-out and broken down.

In the interim the band members have all been involved in different projects. From their original hardcore rock roots they’ve branched out into progressive, alternative, and more traditional music. They’ve calmed down. I want to see them together again because all the ingredients have changed, there’s potential for a different direction from a revitalised band.

And until they actually play, I’m going to try and quash any memories of the disappointment that came with a reunited, and deflated, Rage Against the Machine.


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