When I was a kid, it seemed that rock bands broke up for good—and the ones that didn’t were anything but hip. Around the time that Starship’s “We Built this City” was on the radio—sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth—a band called “the Byrds” played at a lake near my home. I put that name in quotes, because I think that the only original member was the drummer. Not good.
Anyway, as illustrated by this solid piece of criticism in this week’s Baltimore City Paper, things have changed. Nowadays, the time you spend playing music before your breakup—which used to be called your career—is just a prelude to a reunion.
Some are quite lucrative, as implied by this interview with Thurston Moore in the new issue of Spin. Some are corrections of the historical record—a way of saying, hey we invented such-and-such genre; props are due—such as Coalesce’s recent tour. And some are purely benevolent, such as Dismemberment Plan’s recent reunion.
All of them seem to suggest, to borrow a phrase from my pal Joe Gross, a linear time game in which the perpetual availability of media has made it easier than ever for bands to succeed in whatever era is most accepting of their talents. (It probably doesn’t hurt that some of these bands never peaked; Mountain is going to try to relive past glories; Slint never had any.)
I think Thurston’s got the right idea: make a few records, break up, go to art school, or whatever, and then, when you’re hip again, milk it for all it’s worth.