Kill Your Idols

I know it’s been a while since I tore some classic band to shreds. Lately I’ve been spending a little too much time praising my favorites instead of tearing down the much-beloved, but little-deserved icons of rock. And I had every intention to do that this week. To tell you how, for example, the Rolling Stones were never as great as you thought. It would have been excellent.

But sometimes you have to take a diversion. So this week, I won’t exactly be reviewing a classic album. I’ll be talking about filtering music through nostalgia, bands getting back together, and when to leave the past alone.

You see, this weekend, I read some news that shook me to my core. I mean it seriously rocked me, but not the good kind, like you want. I’d read news about Queen reuniting for one more half-hearted money-grubbing tour. It didn’t bother me too much. They’ve done it before, and who could be a worse replacement than the former lead singer of Bad Company? So let them do it. Brian May’s got to eat.

And then I saw the unthinkable. Out of all the possible replacements for Freddie Mercury, the surviving members of Queen have picked one of the most ridiculous and gimmicky singer possible: American Idol runner up and general hack Adam Lambert.Was there no one else Brian May and company possible could have chosen? Any one at all?

 Now, the best of all possible options would be to leave the corpse of a great band alone and have the surviving members move on to different projects rather than cling to the memory of a group that broke up tragically over two decades ago due to the death of an irreplacable lead singer. It’s frankly a little embarassing to see these musicians attempting to coast on their past successes while captitalizing on the loss of a great musician. And it’s embarassing to see a singer like Adam Lambert, who became famous for singing other people’s songs, continuing his trend of contributing nothing original to our culture as a nation.

I know its a fad right now for popular bands to get back together for reunion tours. Even acts that never came close to topping the charts are making an effort to get back together. Dinosaur Jr., At the Drive-In, Refused, Cap’n Jazz, and more are all taking to the stage after long absenses.

But there’s a big difference between these reunions and what the surviving members of Queen have in the works currently. For one, all the band members are still alive. But there’s also another reason, and it comes down to different views of nostalgia. Many of these bands that are reuniting miss their pasts, but I don’t look at, say, the Dinosaur Jr. reunion as a cash-grab based on nostalgia. All the members continued to make music, and once the original lineup was back together, the band put out two full-length records.

The Queen reuinion, on the other hand, is just a tour. A tour with someone else in place of Freddie Mercury. There’s not an effort to do anything new. The band comes in, plays the hits, and leaves considerably richer. It’s not about art, or creative fulfilment, or anything like that. These guys just want to relive their glory days and take their fans’ money while doing it.

Believe me, I know there’s big money in nostalgia right now. But I don’t think that it should come at the expense of art. And I know this is ironic coming from a column about reevaluating the classics, but there’s a time to leave the past alone. Do something new and exciting, or at least have the decency to fade into the past quietly and gracefully. Not everyone can be a rock star forever.