The New Stuff SUCKS! – Artists And The Curse Of Nostalgia

Dave Chappelle, one of the world’s funniest comedians, has recently been heckled when trying out some new material at one of his shows. The man was shot into super-stardom when Chappelle’s Show became one of (if not the most) popular shows in Comedy Central history. The mainstream began to overlook the deep-rooted humor and writing of the show and bastardized it into a few catch phrases (i.e. “I’m Rick James, Bitch!”). I call it the “Napolean Dynamite Complex.” You see the movie for yourself, then a year later everyone catches wind of it and falls in love with the least important part of the bigger picture. These catch phrases and quotes end up becoming bigger than the person, film or medium they came from in the first place. As great as it would be to get launched into the public eye, you have just reached a peak in people’s nostalgia and will remain there regardless of what you do in the future. Someone with the star power of Dave Chappelle has been overshadowed by his own jokes. That’s right, bands, we’re in the same boat. Sometimes people just want to hear the old stuff.

Everyone is familiar with “the one hit wonder” and the overall concept of someone hitting their stride early on and never being able to eclipse it for the rest of their career. Unfortunately, for those who haven’t even had the chance for a big hit, they just have a first album or demo or introductory song that that will remain their “best work” to their fans. This is very prevalent in the punk rock community. If a band slows down, cleans up their vocals, signs to a bigger label… pretty much anything that isn’t the same as the first music they put out, then they’ve either “sold out” or just “suck” now. Unfortunately this “punk rock curse” rings true for the band I’m in. The Swellers started when I was 14 years old so all of our awkward growing pains were in the public (or at least the local) eye. Unfortunately when we began to expand our horizons, listen to other/interesting music in our down time and growing up in general, it scared some people away. It wasn’t some strange statement, we just didn’t feel like doing the same stuff anymore. At shows we’ll still hear people yell out older songs, and for the most part we’ll play them. The difference is there’s a decent population of people who haven’t tried listening to the newer stuff or completely wrote us off because of some choices we’ve made. Understandable, because I’ve done that to bands in the past. The problem is when artists/entertainers start to question themselves and their actions and think, “Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m not good enough anymore.” The people you’re creating your art for can give you self-doubt in return. Its pretty messed up. Entertainers are trying to progress and keep things fresh for all of our sakes.

In the past few years we’ve seen an overwhelming resurgence of bands reuniting for new tours and new albums. Maybe they’re cashing in or just fell in love with it all over again, who really knows? For some reason there’s been this void people have needed filled and their favorite bands are coming back to do it for them. When these bands become self-aware of what their fans really want, their setlist will lean heavily in one direction to appease everyone paying money to see them again. There are still some bands who forget the fact that they broke up because they either lost their entire fan base or hated each other… and they remember that pretty early into their reunions. On top of this nostalgic period of “getting the band back together”, plenty of bands are doing “full album tours” and playing the fan favorite albums from front to back in an attempt to either win back old fans or just get a final hoorah out of it. I often wonder if this is just feeding the mentality of “older is better” instead of embracing who you are and sticking with yours guns. In this awkward music industry slump, people are trying to do anything they can to make some extra money and it makes perfect sense. Why not give the people exactly what they want and make some money while doing it? But, does that slowly deteriorate your psyche and mean you’re just giving in? There’s a lot of questions you have to ask yourself and make sure you think about the longevity of your career before you throw in the proverbial towel and become a puppet. I hear about huge bands who don’t even talk to each other, but they know they’ve made careers for themselves and have families and colleges to pay for and investments… It’s growing up, I guess?

All of these questions aside, it is very important for the fan to understand that artists are artists because they’re producing work they believe in. After years of ups and downs these people, their thought processes and the way they go about things will change. It’s very normal. If someone created something you love, it’s very easy to still support that moment in time without tearing them apart. You can listen to the one “perfect album” from a band even if you still think their new one sucks. No one is guilting you into going to shows to see new songs you don’t care about, but remember that bands are still doing this all for you. Bands go on tour, just like comedians, so they can have their listeners get the first-hand experience. Please don’t ruin that for the people on stage or in the crowd.

(pre-order The Swellers – The Light Under Closed Doors here: http://nslp.co/nsrswell

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