There is always a sense of trepidation when your favourite band reforms. Doubly so when two of your favourite bands announce plans for new albums in quick succession. LCD Soundsystem and Bon Iver have provided over their initially short lifespans some of the best albums made after the turn of the millennium. Though their styles are somewhat different, their involvement with artists such as James Blake and The National meant that their presence was very much missed by the scene.
James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem released 3 albums between 2005 and 2010, each one was an electronic masterpiece but they will perhaps best remembered for their 2007 effort Sound of Silver. The album has perhaps the best three-track-run of any album in history with ‘North American Scum’, ‘Someone Great’, and ‘All My Friends’ – the melancholic ballad of ageing friendships. Yet Sound of Silver as with their other albums has incredible depth, with songs like ‘New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ as well as ‘Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up’ providing some of the best blues songs outside of Jack White’s back catalogue.
Yet this was all cut short after the release of their third album This Is Happening. Citing reasons very similar to ‘I’m too old for this shit’, James Murphy decided the band would not continue, though he himself would continue working in music. This reunion then came as a big surprise to their fans given how principled and sure Murphy seemed at the time. Though he acknowledged some of his fans might feel betrayed by this change of heart, he completely welcomes the sentiment. His decision to bring the band back as a creative and live force must also be framed in the context of the death of David Bowie, his idol whom he channelled on tracks such as ‘All I Want‘, who was a creative force even up to the day of his parting. If anything can make a man sure that he’s not too old to give art to the world then it is Bowie.
Bon Iver’s story is a similar one. After the release of their self-titled sophomore record, Justin Vernon announced that the band were currently winding down. This move came from his need to turn off and walk away from the project which had become a beast far larger than the raw simplicity of For Emma, Forever Ago. Yet the legacy that he had left, though short lived, was a great one and their second album Bon Iver, will remain one of most richly sounding and cohesive records of all time with perhaps only The War on Drugs’ Lost in The Dream coming close in recent years.
Outside of the band, Vernon was always involved with the creation of new music. Though Murphy was sometimes involved in more of a production role with, for example, Reflektor by Arcade Fire, Vernon’s work continued in other projects such as the excellent Volcano Choir. Repave, Volcano Choir’s second album, is among his best work and is surprisingly unknown to many Bon Iver fans, often bemoaning that there are no more Bon Iver records.
The news that neither band is no longer winding down, along with the release of the non-album track Haven, Mass from Bon Iver and the Christmas single Christmas Will Break Your Heart by LCD Soundsystem has certainly reminded so many people why these bands are so special to them.
Although it could be seen as indicative of a slump in the quality of new bands given the reception these old favourites’ reunions have received, it is really not the case. The space that these bands left had not really been filled, partly due to the fact the dust hadn’t really had time to settle. Their importance as bands and the great records they have created is the reason their return has been met with such joy. The fact that two titans such as these have returned can only be a good thing, meaning it is not left only to bands such as The National, Interpol, and Arcade Fire to keep the car running.
Image: Mark Jenson via Flickr