Reformation Reality

Portishead are about to release their imaginatively titled third album.  After 11 years of whimsical wasteland the three have decided to reform and emit their foreboding sense of melancholia on us once again.   Many critics have actually praised the album and although Portishead have shown a sense of adventure and experimentation, their change of sonic direction seems to have payed off (maybe not in a literal sense, until the tills start ringing!)

Contrary to popular belief, Portishead have actually managed to buck the trend of failing reformations.  Consider this, how many bands reform and produce anything like their best work?  Very few!  The Verve will be another band this year who will once again try and defy the odds.  Of course they have already disbanded once before and reformed to produce their best work, although the split of 18 months between A Northern Soul and Urban Hymns isn’t really long enough to fully cement the stubborn ego of a rock star!  Though whether they can pull it off again after all this time (8+ years) is debatable.   The pressure that they and their management company have put themselves under is quite startling.  Not content with releasing the album and evaluating the reaction, they’ve decided to sign up to a whole summer of high profile appearances before finishing their new album.  With a whole slew of headlining festival appearances (they definitely appear to be the whores of the festival circuit this year), including Glastonbury, T in the park and V, they better pray their new album is well received or there will be thousands of despondent festival goers.  There are only so many times you can hear the ubiquitous sounds of Lucky man or Bittersweet Symphony, no matter how good they are.   It would probably be more effective to release the album before the summer circuit begins, or maybe their record company knows something we all suspect!!!

Many bands are reforming solely to trade on past glories, with the need to feel vital surpassed by the need to earn the dollar.  From 70’s glam, through 80’s pop to 90’s indie, the industry is saturated with revivals.  Though have any of these bands produced new material worthy of their name? In some cases, ie; Shed SevenEMF and The Wonder Stuff, the worthiness of the name is non-applicable.   Two of the biggest bands to disband and reform, The Who and The Eagles, confirm my point entirely.  While wishing to be valued as contemporary and valid both bands appear to be bereft of ideas and out of touch.  It seems when you’ve exhausted your creative juices you’re better off performing rather than recording.  But why are there so very few that buck this trend?

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