armchair cultural observation since 1995

Dusting off the magnum opus

Somehow it’s become an inevitability, this business of reperforming your famous album. Lou Reed did it with Berlin, Brian Wilson did it with Pet Sounds, Roger Waters did it with Dark Side of the Moon, Arthur Lee (RIP) did it with Love’s Forever Changes. Even Anthrax did it, with Among the Living. The years pass, a consensus is achieved, and then it’s time: Assemble the band, hose off the magnum opus. There’s a certain clinical rhythm to the thing, like getting a colonoscopy.

Still, let’s not become inured to the oddness of it. Because it is odd. Totally un-rock ‘n’ roll, for starters, to be casting this fond retrospective gaze upon one’s own work. (Would Iggy Pop do it, for God’s sake? Oh—he already did.) And then rather risky too, by a paradox. Reperforming is a high-wire act. It’s aesthetically fraught. What are you doing out there, exactly? You could be burnishing your masterpiece or flogging a dead horse. Or flogging your masterpiece. Or burnishing a dead horse.

James Parker

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