Who doesn’t love a comeback? Who doesn’t love it when something you forgot about, a performer or a concept once lauded, makes a return, to steal your heart anew, to reboot and reclaim what was once theirs? That is always a great thing.
But when that is everything? That’s a bit problematic. When all of culture is a reboot, there is no culture at all. The remix is cute but you don’t want to live in the remix, a life of Groundhog Day consumation where all the ghosts from your past keep returning, coming back to vomit on you, after brief reprieves, goings away long enough to warrant them gone but not forgotten. This isn’t just the new Ghostbusters movie, which offers a different version of something past (even though it might threaten to ruin some people’s childhoods): this is more of the obscure, flash success, trend driven reboot. These are the recurrences that shouldn’t recur.
It’s happening in music and, sadly, is going to probably go mainstream. For example: in the past two weeks, a lot has recirculated from 2006. Justice dropped a new single to let us all know that they haven’t let themselves out of cultural confines of French “hard” house since we last saw them. Death From Above 1979 made a fuss about their tour after a “long awaited” return. MSTRKRFT are returning with their first album since the mid-aughts, something that The Avalanches did a week before. And? Was anyone really clamoring for these people to return with music that is just a rehashing of what they did better, in a different context when what they were doing was new, unheard of, or underground? Lauded then, yes, but what is the urgency behind reintroducing these same concepts anew? Has their percolating and toiling for years added anything to their sound?
Not at all. There are shallow revelations and low temperature bubblings but there is no pressing anything, no pulse, no nothing: it’s just more of the same. You have to ask “Why now?” and, if the answer is anything else but “Well, they needed to get paid.” then the return isn’t anything more than that. This isn’t a bad thing but, given the gap, something alarming happens when these returns are successful because we—The audience.—ran to these cathedrals of antiquated taste to grovel for more: it’s a sign that personal taste hasn’t evolved and, in some senses, taste died when these people first came and lovers of a sound Ziploc™’d sonic evolution into a bag to remain the same forever. There is nothing there: you, then, and you, now, are the same. You never stopped dancing yourself clean because you’re still dirty with the cultural stains of the mid-aughts.
And that’s the thing: it’s cute for kids to like these things, to attend Coachella and wail after [Insert Rebooted Band]—but when we adults who lived through it are there with them, wailing and crying? We look old and tired. The same goes for fashion and for video games: when you look backwards, there’s nothing else to see but that which was already around you. When Google lets the past be present, it also lets the future be present—so why let your present be the past?
No, none of this is bad. It really doesn’t matter if you really liked MSTRKRFT and are stoked on a new album: live that 2006 life. As The Guardian pointed out recently, nostalgia is backward-looking but that turned head can be positive. “If re-examining the movies and music we grew up with can sometimes feel like looking back at embarrassing photos of our teenage selves,” writer Charlie Lyne muses. “Then the process at least forces us to reckon with our own fallibility, and that of others.” Where this goes awry is when we don’t notice that fallibility, when we sheep back to old ways, and—Like the base level Pokémon we’re catching again today.—lack an evolution.
That thing where everything you love is a reboot from your early twenties is just that: a clamoring for that which didn’t fulfill itself. You, like the artists that are giving it another try, are giving your taste, your being, your life another try. Maybe that is positive but why did we stop trying? Did we stop trying? The reboot should be a footnote—not the headline.