Pop music is increasingly built around a remake/remodel framework, and sadly I don’t mean that songs are taking their cues from the seminal opener to the first Roxy Music album.
No, instead we live in a world where Pharrell and Robin Thicke can blatantly rip off Marvin Gaye, sell millions of downloads and then get personally affronted when someone accuses them of stealing from ‘Got to Give It Up’, saying that calling artists out on their plagiarism is stifling their creative expression – creative expression apparently having the secret second meaning of ‘being too cash-hungry to properly credit your sources’.
The fever for nostalgia that saw the ‘70s-drenched ‘Blurred Lines’ become a huge hit (see also ‘Uptown Funk’) is at its worst when it comes to reunions, as older and paunchier incarnations of the bands you love fail to recapture the magic by doing the same shit on very different days from their prime.
Most recently, S Club 7 showed us this, proving the amazing to believe fact that a thirty-something man who has clearly seen better days can’t quite pull of the line ‘hoochie mama show your nana’ in the way he could in his youth (although Rachel Stevens remained as much a Goddess as ever.)
Shows like The Big Reunion have made reunions even more profitable than they already were, so it seems like we’re doomed to ever dwindling reunion from bands that weren’t even liked that much in the first place, until we face the terrifying prospect of a joint headline tour from the Cartoons (of ‘Witch Doctor’ fame) and the Fast Food Rockers. Although I would probably go to that.
But perversely the idea of the reunion could actually be saved by a band that were so disliked in their brief pop careers that people threw bottles of piss at them at Reading. From the band that brought you the immortal lyric ‘U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi you ugly’ we have a new single, their first in 15 years. Daphne and Celeste, 19 and 16 respectively at the time of the release of their first single, are now in their thirties.
Surely a band (not) remembered for their schoolgirl-ish lyrics and brilliantly childish insults doing the same stuff all these years later should be a huge stain on our childhoods, the same as watching Paul barely get through the S Club reunion medley, or the time I saw a member of S Club Juniors on Tinder.
And yet somehow it isn’t. Their new single ‘You and I Alone’ is clearly the sound of a band with nothing to lose doing whatever the hell they want to do. A weird off-kilter electropop song, it has roughly the same quick fire nonsense take on pop lyrics as their first two singles, but features references to Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd rather than the references to putting coconuts in your anus preferred by their classic ‘Ooh Stick You’.
The interviews are so good, in fact, that they completely colour how I see their early output, which now seems like a clever situationist take on female bubblegum pop tropes rather than a regrettable remnant of the year that also brought us ‘The Vengabus’ (sidenote: shade aside, ‘The Vengabus’ is one of my favourite pop songs of all time).
‘You and I Alone’ is the bad ‘90s pop equivalent of Johnny Cash’s work with Rick Rubin, and has led to me spending all day thinking of more bad ‘90s popstars that I’d love to see teamed with modern indie producers. If Billie Piper decides to record an album with The Haxan Cloak, or Lolly records an album with Bjork’s current producer Arca, I definitely thought of the ideas first, and am totally 100% behind their decisions.
So that is the secret to a good anti-nostalgic reunion. Just completely disregard your previous work, release a avant garde pop song that completes rewrites your pop history as a Dadaist stunt, and give a series or arch and urbane interviews with the internet’s great pop music resources. How hard can it be. Get on it, Ronan Keating.