When Friedrich Nietzsche talked about the “eternal return of the same,” he was talking about pop culture, right? Inundated with sequels at the box office, reunion shows on TV (e.g. Fuller House), and the still-touring ROLLING STONES, it’s hard not to feel like we’ve seen it all before. To be sure, innovation in storytelling is paramount. We want new ways to look at ourselves, to explore our fears and our beliefs, and to communicate through art.
But we need not always be forward looking. There are often meaningful blends of old and new, evidenced by the recent Netflix hit Stranger Things. The show, created by the Duffer Brothers, sends up John Carpenter and a whole slew of tropes from horror/adventure films from the ’70s and ’80s. But it never quite collapses into parody or mimicry, as did J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which channeled Steven Spielberg so heavily that Abrams faded into the background, stylistically speaking.
It is important, though, that we examine our inspirations, especially when it comes to music. That’s why it is so fortuitous that two new collections from music legends are being issued this year. In October, ROY ORBISON’s first career-spanning greatest hits album will be available for purchase. With any luck, it introduces a new generation of listeners to “the voice.” The collection is said to include tracks from his early career, including time at Sun Records and Monument Records as well as later hits with the TRAVELING WILBURYS. Twenty-six tracks are all they could squeeze onto a single CD, but it’ll do for now. Here’s hoping that discerning youths pick this up and pass around a legacy truly worth revisiting.
The month after that, in November, a new box set will be released, Lou Reed—The RCA & Arista Album Collection, Vol. 1. This collection will contain six of Lou Reed’s earliest solo albums: Transformer, Berlin, Rock n’ Roll Animal, Coney Island Baby, Street Hassle and The Blue Mask.
Performance artist and musician LAURIE ANDERSON assured fans that the tracks, remastered by LOU REED himself, are “not smoothed out.” Anderson, Reed’s window, said that “sometimes remastering revealed their details and roughness in the most exciting ways. They leap out at you with their original energy.”
The folklore around Reed’s career is that when the VELVET UNDERGROUND released their first album, only a few hundred people bought it, but they all started bands. Here’s to the bands that will be formed in garages all around the country when people get their hands on this new box set.
Looking backwards is not, however, always a good idea. This was, at least, the second thought I had after reading that KORN and LIMP BIZKIT have announced a joint tour, kicking off this December. I can’t actually publish the first thought I had—it’s not fit for print. Other groups have decided to relive their former “glory” include AQUA, the Danish pop group which has decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their hit “Barbie Girl” with a tour in 2017.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that sometimes, looking backwards can just be, well, fun. Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, for example, recently announced that their parody-documentary TV series Documentary Now! will include a TALKING HEADS episode. Their band, “Test Pattern,” which performed recently on Late Night with Seth Meyers, certainly looks the part. Armisen, during the appearance, donned a flowing grey suit and surrounded himself, Hader, and drummer JEREMY GARA of ARCADE FIRE with TV screens with faux-messages.
Their song, “Art + Student = Poor,” was played with a straight face and upbeat guitar. Some might ask “why?” and I honestly wouldn’t have a very compelling answer for you; but that doesn’t seem to have ever been a motivation for these two SNL alums. They’re just having a great time.