I am now officially sick of comeback albums and comeback tours. I’m not complaining about musicians who get together after being away for, like, 10 years and head out to treat their fans to the sight of their middle-aged selves engaging in musical nostalgia. (Hmmm… that sentence actually came out a lot snarkier than I intended. Maybe I will complain about that – some other time.)
What I am tired of is the treatment of every new record or tour as a “comeback” just because we haven’t seen the artist for a couple of years. Britney Spears’ Blackout was a comeback? Sure, this 2007 release was her first new album in 4 years, but it’s not like she wasn’t all over the media virtually every day of those four years as we were given breathless updates on her romantic and parental misadventures. Eminem’s 2009 Relapse, which was a genuine return from addiction, was presented as a comeback album; it had been 5 years since his last record although again, it’s not like the guy was living quietly as a beekeeper in rural Michigan or something. Even sillier, his Recovery was also touted as a comeback record – the very next year.
I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes, it just takes a few years to make a new record. Or to plan the grueling logistical nightmare that is a concert tour.
For something to be a true comeback, the artist needs to have been away. If rumors of Neil Young, Stephen Still, and Richie Furay hitting the road together are true, THAT will be a comeback – their band Buffalo Springfield last toured in 1968. The Pixies had been gone for 11 years before a deliriously received comeback tour in 2004. Over in the UK, Blur, the 90s Brit-rockers, were basically broken up for 6 years before reuniting in 2008, and while they tried fitfully and unsuccessfully to do stuff together during those years, their return was a comeback made all the sweeter for having been really hard to pull off.
Then there’s the Strokes. Tough call. They were away for 5 years, and never really broke up. In fact, they always talked about some day getting together and doing something, and made some initial attempts at what eventually became their recent Angles. For me, the difference between Blur and the Strokes is that I really didn’t expect Blur to successfully reassemble. A new Strokes album seemed like it was just a matter of time – so for me, no comeback. Just a long-delayed return. But that’s not easy to sell, so Angles has been trumpeted as The Great Strokes Comeback Album.
What do you think of all the musical comebacks in recent years – is about the music or the marketing? Leave a comment.