‘South Korea Cracks Down on ‘illegal’ Game Mods’: Thought Piece

I’ve realised I haven’t thought critically about Media, and consequence of actions relating to media enterprises/entities much this year. I had a pretty good go in 2015 at looking into Feminist debates in Music, and the ever-so tantalising possibility of a Pavement reunion, but nothing really struck me as less than a ‘black and white’ argument much this year. Maybe I’ve been focussing on other things (ask me about my band), or maybe this year just hasn’t brought up any important debates. Until today….

Gamasutra has been an incredibly useful hive of information, particularly as my Dissertation topic is ‘The Importance/Illusion of Narrative and Choice in Video Games’. Nothing quite grabbed me, and said ‘this is a debatable force’ than the news that South Korea passed an amendment into law with the specific intent of shutting down video game hacks and modifications. At first glance this seems logical; allowing programmers and creators of competitive games to crack down on aimbots, hacking, and other mods that give players an unfair advantage seems fair. Particularly with the rising E-Sports scene, that Korea, Japan, and China are rife with, this only seems fair, and the fact a law permits you from doing it should deter enough people.Violation of the amended law also comes with a hefty penalty; those found guilty could face up to 5 years in jail or roughly $43,000 in fines.

The blurred line here though is, how far is this enforced. Would this mean a complete shutdown of modifications in general? Does this mean non-malicious mods could be caught in the crossfire (excuse the pun)? Any quick look on any Mod-database website brings an excellent selection of changes to gameplay, character models, add-on campaigns, and much much more. Nothing that will advantage any player, but instead change the experience of the game to suit the player. Think the graphics (particularly in older games) are too bad? Character voices annoying, or too bland? Want Eleanor Ripley to accompany you on your quest through Morrowind? Well you can, for now it seems.

The practicality of mods out-weights the dark underbelly. While mods can give you greater skills and kills that aren’t fair to your opponents, some also allow things that programmer specifically don’t want – because it’s taboo, or downright illegal. The Fallout and Elder Scrolls series are the most recognisable for it’s mod choices, but some take it too far. Bethesda have always disallowed the player to kill children, because you know, that’s messed up. But someone modded the game to allows players to do this. The argument being, this is a ‘cutthroat post-apocalypse environment’, and ‘If players want to do this, they have every right to. It’s just a game‘. The pros and cons of this argument is numerous and something that can never really be accepted as truth, or a reason to shy away from taboo problems. Likewise, ‘Stardew Valley‘, a cutesy Farm Simulator that lets you marry other villagers has unwanted mods (for the majority.) A user by the name of ‘randomAnon123’ created a mod that allowed to marry Jas, a 10-11 year old NPC. There’s some many issues with that sentence alone, but much like anything else taken ‘too far’, 4chan replies ‘It’s just a joke’. Whether it is, or just a horrific outlet for certain Internet Degenerates, it just really shouldn’t exist.

‘It’s no surprise that this was born on 4chan. 4chan is a place where you get noticed by doing things that are over-the-top. Otherwise, you sink beneath a sea of fellow anonymous posters. So people test limits, joke about anything they can think of, even if it’s taboo for good reason. Especially if it’s taboo for good reason. It’s a game of winding people up, of maintaining purposeful distance from earnestness or serious feelings.’ – Gamasutra “http://steamed.kotaku.com/the-debate-over-a-stardew-valley-mod-that-lets-you-marr-1775228193”

Of course there are the few that spoil a concept for the many, but there have been some beautiful things to come out of Mods over the years. The now defunct ‘GMod Tower’ mod for Garry’s Mod, an original Mod for Half-Life 2 (ModSeption) brought players together wonderfully. In it’s heyday,  the Mod spawned friendships, marriages, and player to player interactions. Everyone on the server was (mostly) respectful and just looking to hang out with whoever they met in the space. It became the most downloaded Mod circa-09, because of how interactive, and accommodating it was. As it was eventually deleted, but turned into it’s own game, Tower Unite, the devs created a video of memories from players. The outpouring of memories of meeting loved-ones, and just generally having a blast is amazing to see, and one of the strongest contenders for why Mods are a great thing. The fact that this built on an already existing Mod is the icing on the cake. Despite being a £6.99 retail game, Garry’s Mod started as a fun Mod for Half-Life and has gone onto being a 1m+ download revenue stream for the creators. Some Mods gain this type of notoriety and become their own entities, and Steam, the main PC game retailer isn’t shy about listening to fans and what they create. Counter-Strike, one of the biggest competitive E-sports games is another Mod from Half-Life that’s spawned its own series. The question here is that, if South Korea really does shut down all Mods, will we ever see something like this again. Developers learn from Mods. Game modes in Fallout New Vegas, and Fallout 4 have spawned from Mods that up the difficulty. Gamers constantly update old games to make them fresh, and a brand new experience for even the most veteran player.

There’s a lot of joy that comes out of creating mods. Hobbyists, and wannabe programmers alike create something new by changing some of the formula of the game, much like any time an artist covers an older song, but hey, we’re not going to stop that any time soon – Unless you’re Marvin Gaye’s family. What I’m trying to debate here is how  important Mods are to the culture, and aesthetic of Video Game culture, to the point where this generation of consoles, Xbox One in particular, demanded that Mods be available on the platform. There’s a desire to have them on every format, and it’s doubtless that desire will burn out soon. Whether a lack of Mods will change gaming is doubtful, seeing as Video Game systems have long gone without that ability. It’s whether the freedom to change your game to suit your needs and desires (no matter how unsavoury that is) is at stake. And if so, who’ll be hit the worst. The industry, the creators, or the users.

What I’m trying to say is, I just want the guards to Shut The F#ck Up.


 

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, I hope you found it interesting, and/or useful. If you have any examples or opinions you’d like to add then please add them below in the comments, and I’ll be sure to respond to them.

Thanks again, TRDSR/ThingsILike

Media Is A ‘Soft Subject’ As Much As Coca Cola Is A Healthy Drink (Musings on societal expectations of non-maths/science related subjects)

Being that this IS a media student’s blog at the heart, something recently was said (not towards me, but in general) about the notion of ‘soft subjects’ in GCSE, A Level, and at degree level. This isn’t news to me, as I’m fully aware of the social stigma certain subjects get, and Media is a particular scapegoat for these ‘concerns’. Here is my “professional” (quotations because take that as you wish) opinion on why Media (and by extension most subjects that aren’t Science or Maths based) ISN’T a soft subject.

GCSE Media:

So this is where I began my interest in Media as an academic subject. Firstly, the stereotype is, all you ever do is sit and watch films and say why you think ‘that film were good’.

The truth is: My Media exercise book (which is STILL in my cupboard at home) was full of media debates and theory considering the role and representation of women in Media, basic narrative and cinematography theory, deconstructions of texts from newspapers to film trailers. Basically, this is English 101, but you’re writing about media that isn’t English Literature based.  As well as this, we created a film trailer, posters and promotional material (all looking at codes and conventions of said material), and wrote countless essays on debates and theory.

A-Level Media:

Again, the stereotype is, you watch films, and write shitty reviews

The truth is: We looked deeper at narrative theory, media debates and controversy issues in codes of practise. Countless hours were spent looking at the way we present different social/sexual/ability/gender groups. Essays, creation of different media materials, 2 short films, one documentary in nature. For a finished 5 minute (which is very crude but watchable HERE) piece this took months of planning, location scouting, actors, and interviewees found, and negotiated with. Plus hours of editing (literally hours, sometimes staying after school until 6/7 on a regular basis).

Media Production BA (Hons)

This time, people expect you to make a film. The stereotype is you make films. But how much effort must that take compared to physics reading, right?!

 The truth is: We make films, but God is it hard work. A 90 second video (My first project for uni, watchable HERE) took 3 full days of recording, negotiating access with Central Perk, getting permission from customers, and a solid 10/15 hours of editing in 3 weeks. As well as this, we presented a rough cut and completely changed the direction of the video, meaning an extra 5/10 hours of editing was needed. While other subjects are ‘reading’, we are out filming on location, making phone calls contacting locations, interviewees, and actors, or spending hours holed in up edit suites. Then after this, we also have to read about media issues and debates, advanced theory surrounding camera work, narrative conventions and theory, and writing essays from these seminars. Not only this, but there is hours of problem solving when using new software or hardware, when people and places let you down, or unavailable. Most of this isn’t done from the comfort of home either.

At the end of the day, the notion of soft subjects is ludicrous. Different subjects are hard/easy for different reasons, and judging one on the idea that because it isn’t about math or scientific reading and formula, it’s not worth doing. If you must know, I’ve recently been reading the book ‘Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches To Film’. Hmm, doesn’t that sound fancy.

Personally, I felt obliged to write this for the students whose parents shy them away from such subjects due to their age-old view of ‘soft subjects’. What you should do is not worry about people thinking you’re doing the ‘simple’ subjects. Some of us can’t perform maths equations ad lib. But then again, those who can can’t write blog posts as amazing as this (Hah.) So if you’re worried about it, don’t be. Follow your heart. It’s what I did. And I’m just as busy/miserable as the Maths Students.


2 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back (Off The Stage)

The line-up for Leeds+Reading Festival 2015 was added to yesterday, and while I didn’t really have any interest in the bands, mainly because (I feel) people tend to go to Leeds Fest to take drugs in the camping area more than they go to see the bands. Also, the last few years, the bands just haven’t been my cup of tea. Anyway, I couldn’t help noticing (with the help of this useful edit) the amount of bands with female band members. Check it out for yourself.

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That’s right, 8 whole bands. 8 out of 86 – and only one on the mainstage, all in afternoon slots. You’d be forgiven to think that there aren’t really any female-orientated ‘rock’ bands, but you’re completely wrong. Just this year Sleater Kinney (Who last played Leeds/Reading in ’99) reformed with an excellent album and a World Tour. Babes in Toyland have done the same. Modern bands too like Halestorm, Valentiine, HAIM, and Warpaint. Yet instead of being varied, and actually representing females in the rock/music world, they go for Limp Bizkit, one of the most misogynistic, sexist bands on the planet.

 The Female Pop world is alive and well. Just last week, Lady GaGa gave an excellent performance on The Oscars, possibly one of the greatest non-music platforms around. But like L/R, The Oscars was massively under represented by women. What needs to be done is to show that there ARE females in the rock and film roles, because there are 100s that most of us don’t even know about, because they aren’t recognised. I’m not suggesting we boycott L/R Fest, but what I am suggesting is that we recognise the equally hard work a lot of women put into writing great songs. Personally, I know hundereds of up-and-coming ‘uni’ bands in both Liverpool and Leeds that are rife with female ‘ass kicking’ musicians. I’ll post a link to my favourites below so please check them out.

 As I’ve said, I’m never happy with the Leeds Fest line-up anyway (Blink 182 twice in four years?! No ta.) but this seems to be just a regression. When there is so much talent available, and you don’t even pick it. Rock used to be blighted by machismo, but we’re still accepting this now. The 80s and especially the 90s were a revolution for Female musicians, but we seem to have taken a step back. This needs to change, or else not enough women will start bands due to persisting stereotypes or being able to succeed in the industry. It needs to change.


My Favourite Female-orientated Bands

Sleater Kinney – All-Female pioneers –

Dancing Cake – Female Bassist start-ups. Relatively new band but making excellent noise, single coming soon – https://www.facebook.com/DancingCakeMusic

The Orielles – Sister rhythm section. Surfy-Pop cool guy/gals, coming out of the underground scene – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=izQzUj8a_0k // https://www.facebook.com/theorielles

Esper Scout – All-Female rockers. Big in the Leeds scene, and for good reason too – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ysqZjT4Q0Ys // https://www.facebook.com/EsperScout

Edwards, Cobain, Williams. How Depression Affects Media

Today (or Yesterday, depending on when you read this..For the sake of argument; the 1st of Feb) is the 20th Anniversary of the disappearance of Manic Street Preachers‘ rhythm guitarist ‘Richey Edwards’. Checking out of the Embassy Hotel in London, his activities are largely unknown, except that his car was found near the Severn Bridge – A notorious suicide spot. With the recent tragedies, and stories of depression, suicide, and self harm amongst media figures, this anniversary seems more of a talking point, than a celebration

As Caitlin Moran said about Edwards‘ disappearance and character:

“…he was the first person in the public eye to talk openly about these subjects, not with swaggering bravado and a subtext of “look how tortured and cool I am”, but with humility, sense and, often, bleak humour.”

And that’s a valid point. Depression is sometimes fantacised about, when adorning ‘celebrities’. Kurt Cobain‘s broodiness has become that of legend; as has Elliot Smith‘s. Commonly coming out in lyrics and musical tones, depression in an ‘artist’s’ work can be a thing of beauty; but it’s not something used to create an image of ‘coolness’. This is purely how they can let their emotions out. Often with black humour, Cobain‘s depression and eventual suicide has been romanticized thousands of times, and negatively shown by the media in its influence on fans. The media’s coverage of depression and suicide has always been a blame game and a warning for copycats. I don’t for a second believe that in any of their lives, Cobain, Edwards, or Smith condoned suicide in anyway. It was inevitably, just their final escape. Listening back to particularly negative songs by these artists, I don’t feel an urge to act upon how they’re feeling. My depression is just that: mine, and as such, hearing someone else speak about theirs doesn’t encourage me to hurt or damage myself. If that was the case then nobody ever should tell anyone else negative feelings, just incase they replicate them.

One of my all time favourite films, Garden State deals particularly well with Depression and numbness. It doesn’t romanticize any of the films themes, but is instead an exploration of an individual with such a mindset. The same with Donnie Darko. Zach Braff isn’t saying ‘hey kids, this is how you’re supposed to act if you want to be cool, and posey, and you need to be depressed’, he’s merely showing a cinematic experience of how depression affects other people.

The less likely man of comedy to commit suicide in 2014 actually did; and it hit film fans, critics and students pretty hard. Robin Williams death brought out an entirely different side to him that not many people knew. His darkness unfortunately took over and he thought the best option was suicide. This has created a huge dialogue on whether depression should be an acknowledged thing, publicly. Shortly after this, countless other actors announced their depression.

It seems to be a buzzword these days – a red light. But it’s our attitude towards those with depression, and our expectations of their lives, and persona that need to change. ‘outting’ yourself as a depressive shouldn’t be a negative thing. Accepting weakness’ is what makes us stronger. While I’m not saying depression should be ‘celebrated’, it should at least be talked about, and vented through film and music. 4REAL.

So what we need to do is keep this dialogue going, and in turn, hopefully we can stop more ‘closet depressives’ from taking their lives with no such knowledge of their struggles from the wider community.

I AM GEORGE BUXEY, AND I HAVE DEPRESSION.

It’s that easy

So (Tom De)Long to the ‘Creepy ‘Dad’ Sex Joke’ Band.

I remember being 15 like it was yesterday… Well, actually, it was 5 years ago. But I still remember the person I was trying to be, and especially my music tastes. I’d started to (re)discover bands my older brother would play when I was about 5/6. Bands like Glassjaw, Deftones, Rage Against The Machine, and Blink-182. My first experience of Blink was as a Kerrang! VIDEO CASSETTE TAPE. (yes. They did exist) ‘All The Small Things’ was one of the many music videos adorning the tape (I vaguely remember there also being Rammstein and Placebo on there. Strange mix..) Anyway, so I began finding my own music tastes at this age, but began with what I knew. And Blink were a simple option. Not complex. Not ‘out there’. Just simple chords, and funny lyrics.

I reached 16 and I stopped. Those ‘dick jokes’ and ‘sex jokes’ just weren’t so funny anymore. It’s target market is the mid-pubescent teens who don’t like pop, and don’t like metal. A happy in between. But I just stopped listening. Turning instead to Deftones (Who are still a favourite today), At-The Drive In, The Cat Empire (My first live experience), and others. I just tired of what Blink were about, which at the root was..Dick jokes. They weren’t funny. They were incredibly predictable – The Status Quo of Pop Punk chords. And just really boring. So when I heard the news today that ‘Tom Delonge‘ was leaving, I asked myself: ‘They’re still going?!’. I knew they’d reformed, played Leeds Fest twice, and released an album that didn’t really seem to turn any heads; but apart from that, I just thought they’d given up. Evidently not. As a 20 year old music fan and player, I detest those who claim ‘Blink 182‘ and ‘Green Day‘ are their favourite bands ‘EVURRRR’ and actually adorn the tshirts like a Pop Punk solidarity badge. There must be people who give me the pretentious look, wearing my Sonic Youth tee, playing my Jagmaster, but I can honestly say..At least Its interesting?! For someone my age to still relate to that ‘scene’, and fangirl over Mark Hoppus and his pop (punk) message just shows a little immaturity. They were edgy at 15. They sung about blowjobs but they sounded like Pop. They’ve reached their mid 40s now, and it all just seems a little…creepy.

If you still identify with their lyrics then please.. Stop. I understand ‘childhood nostalgia’ but some things are nostalgic for reasons, and should be left well alone. It may have been fun at 15, but at 20, it’s just.. not. It’s incredibly misogynistic, and ‘frat boy’ humour. The kind only 14/15 year old boys find funny.

Please. Leave it alone. And don’t weep for their breakup. See is as a relief. No more creepy Dad ‘sex jokes’. And if it turns out to be a hoax, I will be wholeheartedly disappointed.


PS…

Please continue to enjoy the music you do. My opinions are just that – If you find something in Blink-182 that I don’t then please don’t take my writing as a call to stop enjoying them. Just keep supporting music in anyway you see fit.

Buy the CD. Go to a show. Buy a Tshirt.

Olivia’s and Tori’s, not Oscars and Tonys!! (The Winner of The 2015 Best Director Oscar Is…A White Middle Aged Male)

It’s that time of year again. Production companies rub their hands together with glee as the increased revenue from Oscar nominations brings them yet more money to swim in. But this is not an ‘anti fat cat, massive budget company’ tirade. Personally, I enjoyed the majority of films nominated. Boyhood was an extremely delicate affair, taking years (12 I think?) to make, and successfully pull off in one the greatest success stories of recent cinema. Birdman was quirky in all the right ways. And The Theory Of Everything, while I haven’t seen so far, seems to be a winner on all fronts (except the disabled one..Check my blog about it from last week..) My problem isn’t with any of that. It’s something much more simple, yet gets pushed to the way side every single year.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 14.49.53

I’m reminded of a ‘Cyanide and Happiness’ cartoon sketch I came across last year, in which a movie producer is talking to a new star and claims ‘YOU’LL BE A BIG MOVIE STAR, BABY! I SEE OSCARS AND TONYS IN YOUR FUTURE!’. The star signs with glee, physically excited by the concept of such a high prestige. Only, in the next frame, we’re introduced to ‘Super Bum Love 7’, in which the director calls ‘OKAY, OSCAR AND TONY, YOU’RE UP!‘ and our star is visually scared. This instantly made me think of Leonardo DiCaprio. Snubbed countless times for best actor, something on times I thought he truly deserved. Similarly with Stanley Kubrick – never winning an Oscar during his lifetime, but after he’d passed away, the Oscar board turned round and said ‘We made a mistake never giving him an Oscar.’ As film fans we see this as a travesty. But at least they’re being nominated! The biggest travesty is the countless FEMALE directors, cinematographers, writers, editors, production designers, effects designers, and musical scorers who NEVER receive recognition for their work.

GIF

“My response to reading the nominations”

Since the Oscars began, only 4 women have ever been nominated for Best Director. FOUR. And out of those 4, only Katheryn Bigelow has won for ‘The Hurt Locker’. DiCaprio and Kubrick may not have won when deserved, but what about the 1000’s of women every year who work just as hard, if not harder than any other male to direct, write, or create a film, who never get the recognition they deserve? Not only this, but what about the women of colour? Never in the 80+ years of the Oscars, has a black women been nominated for Best Director. I think Kaley Cuoco should direct a film, then tell me if everything that needs to be achieved in feminism has been done…

Upworthy posted a video to their Facebook account recently. It begins with Kaley, Mindy Kaling, and others asked ‘what is the most idiotic/asinine comment that people want you to engage to talk about?’ The answer: WHAT/WHO ARE YOU WEARING. The clips come in quick and fast, as we see several female celebrities on the Red Carpet asked the same question again and again. It’s as if women don’t have anything interesting to say?! Essentially, what this is, is undermining women further by reducing them to their fashion sense. ‘You’re only important if you have something to say about your dress’. In one of several televised interviews, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. are interviewed together, and Johansson turns to Downey Jr and asks ‘Why are you asked the interesting, existential questions, and I get the rabbit food question’. It’s a fair point, and a constant battle in interviews and ‘carpeted’ events. At some point, someone will ask the female about some element of fashion. And why? Maybe I want to know how Tony Stark fit into his costume during filming, or how much weight Tom Hanks has put on or lost for his latest films. But no. Instead, we’re in awe of them, and ask them about life. Do women not have lives outside of their wardrobes?

As a first year Media Production student – whose primary career option (besides teaching) after degree is to be a team member of any production team, you’d assume due to the Oscars and recognition of Female ‘production people’ that my degree is mainly, if not ONLY men (being that this isn’t an acting degree). Not so. I’d hazard a guess that there may be more females than males. If not, then it HAS to be roughly 50-50, give or take 1-2%. Yet, I doubt any will ever get the acclaim they deserve, no matter how amazing their contribution. Some on my degree have an amazing work ethic and an incredible creative spirit. But I guess that means f*ck all if you’re not a man (or in Bigelow’s case, making a phallocentric film..). I’m not saying all this because I feel that men don’t deserve Oscars, or that we need a ‘female only’ Oscar, I’m saying this because we need to acknowledge the hard work that both genders put into creating films. The first Matrix film was phenomenal in terms of writing, and visual effects, but neither Lana nor Andy received even a nomination. They won the Saturn Award for Best Director, but in the scheme of things, without Googling, does anybody really know what that is? Wayne’s World, possible THEE best 90s film (Schwing!) was directed by Penelope Spheeris, and received no award nominations. It received Best Film from NME. Only this year, Selma, the Martin Luther King‘s campaign biopic was snubbed for Best Director. Surprise surprise, the Director was Ava DuVernay, (and featured a cast of excellent Black actors?) and the film was critically acclaimed by critics, but there’s no sign of it at the Oscars. I wonder why? As usual, the Best Director winner of 2015 is a middle aged, white, male.

Personally, I’d have no issue with this if females were actually acknowledged, and offered the chance for their work to be seen. It’s just not really a competition at this stage. If films like Selma, and Gone Girl (the books original writer, Gillian Flynn adapted the novel into the screenplay) were recognised for their female counterparts, the Oscars would actually be INTERESTING.

So the next time DiCaprio, or some equally deserving male is snubbed for Best Actor, Director, or any other awards, just think of the 100s of other women who were snubbed for the exact same award. At least they got to the ceremony, and received the attention of the nomination.

Or, as Spike Lee said to Ava DuVernay; Fuck ‘Em.

If Only Stephen Malkmus Was A Women… (Musings on Reunions and reinventions)

I recently (a few months ago) awoke early one morning. It was not for lectures, they weren’t starting until two, and I was up at 8:45. I didn’t have a band practise, a hang-over, a date (HAH!), or anything remotely adult that I had to do. No. I was up at quarter to Nine (possibly THEE earliest I had been up at uni so far!) to buy Sleater-Kinney tickets.

Having split in 2005, the band had been on a lengthy hiatus, with Carrie doing the hilarious PORTLANDIA alongside Fred Armisen (if you’ve never seen PORTLANDIA or even heard of it, (and if you are from the UK you can be forgiven) then this is a GREAT jumping in spot). Janet joined several successful bands included the great Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, and Wild Flag, and Corin released two solo albums with The Corin Tucker Band. 9 years later, they were back, with a reissued back catalogue, a brand new album, and a US and European tour. Manchester was the date I was most excited about.

So my question today is..Should a band reunite to fight the evil of Manufactured-Pop Bands? Or should their legacy be left to cover bands, and the memories of 30-something fans, stuck in office jobs, waiting for their teenage band to make it? Or is it a circumstantial thing?

To be perfectly honest, I never got into Sleater Kinney, or many other bands that have reunited in the past 5 years before their original demise. I was a 10 year old, Red Hot Chili Peppers fanatic when Sleater Kinney eventually disbanded. I was 6 when Pavement (My favourite band) disbanded, 1 when Slowdive left, 7 when Rage Against The Machine stopped fighting, 9 when System Of A Down finished, 8 when Dinosaur Jr had had enough. To someone of my age (Just turned 20), reunions are a chance to catch a band who may be before their music tastes’ time, and a chance for those who went to the original gigs, bought the T Shirts, and made cassette copies for all their friends to relive their teenage angst. In a purely nostalgic sense, reunions are a gift from God (or Buddha, however you look at it). When bands reform purely to relive those days, and with no intention to make new music (Pavement, Rage Against The Machine) this is less a tarnishing (unless they just CAN’T play the songs anymore) and more a celebration. ‘Hey, we wrote some cool songs..Let’s have fun playing them again’. Pavement were a band whose legacy is built on stunning album after album. None is panned by critics. None is ‘that weird psychedelic album’ (well, Pavement are weird anyway..). So to make ‘new music’ could ruin that streak. Especially seeing as the reunion was over 10 years later, things change in that time. People change. The band isn’t the same anymore. And they have to remember who they were all those years ago. Carefree 20-something slackers, writing songs about pigs, Geddy Lee, cutting your hair, and ‘going back to those gold soundz’. This, or they play that persona with wisdom in their eyes, and wrinkles on their cheeks. Rage Against the Machine‘s revival came about due to political activism. Their history seemed poignant in the modern day music business, and so when a band returns for a reason we feel validated, and not scammed of our £50+ ticket fees. In Pavement’s case, they came back because they felt they should revisit that area. Stephen Malkmus no longer felt caged by his band, and could feel comfortable playing with them again. Whilst the ticket prices were high, Pavement split up again, after the reunion tour because they felt that ‘this was their ambition from the start, and to turn around with another tour and album after everyone paid slightly higher prices to see their ‘farewell tour’ would be unfair’. A valid point, and a reunion that stayed true to it’s beliefs. Similarly with The Postal Service – the ultimate Indie/Electro mix, including Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie fame. Nearly 10 years after their only (Utterly stunning) album ‘Give Up’ was released them toured the album in full again. Mainly due to the fact the album had gone Gold, Platinum and above AFTER they were done touring. Being a side project means you’re never an artists forethought. But with the reunion, there became mentions of ‘a new album’ but these were eventually squashed when nothing materialised.

 “The anticipation of the second record has been a far bigger deal for everybody except the two of us… I don’t know about it being the indie-rock Chinese Democracy, but now that Chinese Democracy has come out, I guess it just becomes the second Postal Service record that will never come out. There never really was a plan to do a second album. We work from time to time together but we have other things that take up all of our time.”

This is a pretty big thing when an artist just doesn’t WANT to release anything. Just because the fans are hungry for more, doesn’t mean the artist will be comfortable being in that space again. Writing music can be a very vulnerable position, especially side projects. The Postal Service’s only effort was one that is widely praised by indie circles (Frank Turner identifies them as the ‘indie litmus test’) and so why take away from that?

Bands that have returned with new albums (Sleater Kinney, Dinosaur Jr, Fall Out Boy) have generally been ‘hit or miss’ affairs. By the time a band has lived out it’s longevity, and disbanded, there usually isn’t much more to say. Nothing that can be seen as ‘genre defining’ or in any way…’new’. The Foo Fighters aren’t going to change music with their next installment. This is in no way a bad thing, but it does question whether, after so many years apart, a band can still sound ‘fresh’ or ‘innovative’. The Fall Out Boy method was to completely recreate themselves as a more ‘poppy’ and ‘theatrical’ outfit. Gone are the teenage emo heartbreaks, and spontaneous hardcore breakdowns, because they’re not THAT age anymore. I’m personally an advocate for Blink-182 to stop 3 albums and a breakup ago, and destroy the homogenous, creepy Dad-making-sex-jokes vibe they have in their late 30s (or early 40s, I don’t have any interest in following their ridiculous antics). FOB‘s reinvention (of the wheel to run themselves over with) has create a split in fans – the older generation who still remember ‘From Under The Cork Tree’ defining their awkward emo phase are lost with this lack of distortion and angst. However, those who may not remember pre-breakup FOB are happy to listen to Patrick Stump make witty film jokes as song titles (OrStupidlyLongSongTitlesThatWereThereJustToMakeYourItunesFreakOut), AND THAT’S FINE FOR THEM. But surely this is some kind of FOB 2.0. Even if the albums are good, like Dinosaur Jr‘s consistent efforts after the original lineup (Lou Barlow<3) was brought back in, it’s still more of a 2.0, than a minor bug fix.

I suppose in some ways, I am the 14 year old FOB fan when it comes to Sleater Kinney‘s return. Or maybe nothing HAS changed, and it’s only me. I just know, I’ll be at the front along with all the other SK fans, screaming along to Dig Me Out, and Be Yr Mama, along with the new album. So far it’s been great. As SK have stated themselves, they don’t feel like they’ve said all they have to. And when you’re in the most badass, all-female feminist bands of all time (Sorry Bikini Kill), then you most definitely still have something to say. You always will. As music changes, you will have things to say about the new music. The new themes. And the new sexism. Maybe that’s what longevity and relevance needs.

If only Stephen Malkmus was a women…


 

PS….

Not heard of some of the bands quoted above? Here’s a link to my favourite track from the more obscure!

Bikini Kill

Dinosaur Jr

Sleater Kinney

Pavement

Fall Out Boy

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Wild Flag

The Postal Service

Death Cab For Cutie

Slowdive