Is The New '90s Nostalgia Good For Rock and Roll?
We all have bands that defined our youth--that made us love music, that maybe even introduced us to a new feeling that we didn't know existed. Whether it's the psychedelic rock of the '60s, punk of the '70s, thrash of the '80s, or grunge of the '90s, every generation has its own musical roots.
And as history has shown us, those roots always cycle back and show through again eventually. But rarely do they return as poignantly and quickly as the recent nostalgia-heavy marketing renaissance of '90s alt-rock and grunge.
It's happened so fast that I think it's best to not even think of this resurgence as a "revival."
I mean, those who caught the tail-end of the '90s alt-rock craze aren't even past the age of 25. It seems more like a chance for people to indulge more general '90s nostalgia--the great economy, the national strength, the sense of security, even the time before some of the best musicians around had passed away.
And music is the ultimate security blanket. It's what fans are wanting, so labels are taking notice. Just consider all the media buzz about Pearl Jam's Twenty, new music from Nine Inch Nails, and Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City.
I noticed this most specifically at this year's Rock on the Range three-day music festival in Columbus, Ohio, where the headliners all shared a common thread: they hit their peaks in the '90s and have shifted back into the spotlight in the past few years.
The Smashing Pumpkins disbanded in 2000, but now have a new lineup alongside the original frontman Billy Corgan. Soundgarden reunited in 2010 after a 13-year hiatus. Bush's Gavin Rossdale left Bush for family life and a solo career before revving the band back up. And Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell replaced Layne Staley after his drug related death a decade ago.
Even though they have new albums, all of these acts seem forever tied to a favorite past-time--and it seems like fans are pretty conflicted about it.
A lot of them aren't sure if they really want the bands of their youth to come out of the woodwork again.
Most of the time, the immediate reaction to the news that a band you once worshipped are releasing new music after a period of long silence (or maybe traveled a different musical route, and is now stating they are "better than ever"), is excitement and anticipation.
Then, you feel that little stab of fear and cringe-worthy doubt--maybe they stopped putting out music when you most needed it, or the band's original line-up changed. Maybe the band went through years of strife and you don't identify with them anymore. Or maybe, you're just scared they will suck like the last album they put out before going on hiatus.
But I would give anything to see some of my favorite bands again, like Pantera. Even if Zakk Wylde filled in for Dimebag Darrell, I would still pay for a ticket.
But even the genre of heavy metal and classic rock, both prevalent in the '70s and'80s, are still going strong with bands from those decades--Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones, for example. These bands have been creating new music for decades, have changed members and had stints between records. And no one has said that they are in the midst of a "revival."
It isn't about bringing back a sound; it's about bringing back the feelings and the memories those sounds created. And while the industry may not be about that, it's what the fans should be focusing on.
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