This week Pink Floyd will release a new album, prescription Endless River (their first in twenty years, view as every press release on it needs to remind us), and despite the fact that the band haven’t produced anything since 1994, the surviving members have continuously insisted that this will be their last effort.
Each time this statement appears it seems as though they’re trying to convince themselves, more than us, that this isn’t just about the money. While Pink Floyd have never had the smoothest career trajectory, it’s always been respectable. The band have had three major periods (the Syd Barrett lead psychedelic era, Roger Water’s prog era, and David Gilmour’s era, a noble failure), and each one was largely about exploring new territory and refusing to rely on the past. That the band should end (as they have frequently told us this is) on cash grab is quite an ironic full stop. Opuses like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall lamented the financial culture of pop music, frequently telling us that music written with profit in mind would be to the determent of creativity. Endless River is poised to do very well financially, becoming Amazon’s most pre-ordered album of all time.
Pink Floyd aren’t the only band that have made such a brazen cash grab this year however. The Libertines reunited for a series of reunion concerts in London, and are said to be contemplating a new record. If ever there was a lightning in the bottle band, it was the Libertines. Their early shows, in squats and dive bars around London, could be shambolic in a good way or shambolic in a bad way depending on whether or not Pete Doherty could pull ‘it ‘out of the bag. Sure, this was nihilistic and dangerous, but it’s also undeniably cool and gloriously irreverent (both of these are elements that should be present in good rock/pop music). By all accounts their reunion concerts in Hyde Park were a very polite affair, with Doherty (who openly admitted in interviews to doing these shows for money), chastising the crowd at points for being too rowdy and asking them to calm down. The Strokes played a greatest hits tour this year and singer Julian Casablancas, once the epitome, wearing leather jackets and sunglasses on dark sweaty stages, of New York cool, looked slightly out of breath in a baggy Hawaiian shirt.
When the Strokes tour, they mainly play songs from 2001’s Is this it?, which is by far their best work. When The Rolling Stones tour, its mainly songs that are over forty years old. This has to be pretty boring for those bands. Playing something that many times will surely render it meaningless. Its great for us as an audience, but in a narrow minded sort of way. Going to see a band on a greatest hits tour is great, because you can hear all their best songs, but it devalues those songs at the same time. It’s forcing a bad to remain in a certain period, trapping them instead of letting them moving on and ending. Everything ultimately has to end, and indeed ending with a degree of grace and dignity can ensure that the music can be viewed in the best possible light. There isn’t anything wrong with nostalgia, but in music terms where seeing it take time and money away from new and upcoming artists.
by Adam Duke