It’s always easy to get on our high horses about “cash-in” reunions, but being the survivor of an esteemed, broken-up band can’t be easy. No matter how excited you are about your newest project (and you’re always most excited about your newest project), it’ll never live up to that classic album from your past, more mythologized and obsessed over the more you try to distance yourself from it.
Musicians make money from their music, sure, but they’re also artists, and artists don’t like to be told not to progress in new directions, even if it’s being lustily pleaded by their biggest fans. This week, a pair of beloved Canadian bands gave in to the pressure (sort of – more on that later) of 10 year milestones (both a year late), and their reactions were almost polar opposites.
Today, Constantines announced they will be getting the band back together for the 11th anniversary of their landmark album, Shine A Light, in a note on their website. Written by Bry Webb, the letter is both grateful and graceful. Peppered with references to classic Cons songs, it’s a gorgeous grapple with the bittersweet passage of time, and an overture to the inescapable fact that whatever his band’s heyday may have meant for him and his bandmates, it meant just as much, if not more, to the fans that hold it in hushed reverence.
A great irony in all of this, is that I’ve become more aware of what the Cons meant to people in the years since the band last played together, than I ever was while we were active. I suppose that’s no grand revelation – you often have to get outside of something to get a picture of what it is. We are grateful that people love this band so much. We love it too.
What it all comes down to is this: There is too much love and too much life in this music for it to only exist in the past.
The Unicorns will-they-won’t-they reunion rumours have been messier to say the least. Last year, on the 10th anniversary of their album Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?, we published a story about the same phenomenon that brought the Constantines back together: the passing of their legacy from the band to their fans (in this case, a secret online fan forum that veered between warm-and-fuzzy community and cyber-toxicity). It included the non-revelation (they had said similar things in other interviews) that they’re open to a reunion, even though they hadn’t all been in the same room since their breakup. (Read: Who Will Manage Our Web Presence When We’re Gone?)
A few days ago, Alden Penner told Vish Khanna that some Unicorns shows and unreleased material could be forthcoming, “”The important thing right now is that we might play some shows and maybe even record some new material while we’re at it,” he teased. “These are all maybes, which have been thrown out there a lot. I guess good practice is that you do what you say.”
No more certain than our story, but it spread to many major publications, before SPIN finally reached out to Nick Thorburn to debunk the rumours (though his Twitter response was more declarative). “Don’t get your hopes up,” he wrote to SPIN. “We are talking right now but that’s as far as it’s gotten. We’ve talked about this kind of thing many times over the years and while it’s true that this is the furthest along it’s gotten, conceptually, it’s still just talk.”
Of course, that’s been enough to get many fans’ hopes up, but the disorderliness of their reunion flirtations suit the band’s album, whose youthful shambles were a major part of its charm. Fans should ask themselves whether that lightning-in-a-bottle could be recaptured 11 years later. Ironically enough, the lead-up, as frustrating as it is, suggests, hey, maybe it can.