New Year, Old Artists, New Music – Reunions lead the way so far in 2012.

Late in 2011 the buzz started building around 2012 being the ‘year of the reunion’.  Both Van Halen and The Beach Boys were rumoured to be getting back together and everyone figures the Rolling Stones will do something Stones-ian to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Just a few weeks in to 2012 and we’ve already had a taste of what 2012 might have in store in terms of reunions in rock.  Despite the fact that there have been very few noteworthy new albums released thus far, we’ve been teased with new music from the aforementioned Van Halen, The Beach Boys and, New Jersey’s favourite son, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, who released the first single from his forthcoming Wrecking Ball album with the E Street Band backing him up.  If these three tracks are an indication of what’s on the rock music horizon, 2012 might be better known as the ‘year of the let-down’.

Early next month Van Halen will release A Different Kind of Truth, the first full-length album featuring David Lee Roth on vocals since 1984’s 1984.  While this is certainly big news and it’s great to see DLR back on stage and actually smiling alongside Eddie Van Halen, this reunion feels to me like a full-fledged cash grab.  Much of the ‘new’ material is rumoured to be based on leftover songs and riffs from the late 1970’s and the firing of original bass player Michael Anthony in favour of Eddie’s son Wolfgang reeks of greed and leaves a huge hole in the band’s harmonies and background vocals.  That said, ‘Tattoo’ is a decent track.  It isn’t great and I guarantee you won’t be listening to it this time next year, but it certainly showcases the elements that once made Van Halen a monster in rock.  It has a groove that makes you want to move, some very slick guitar playing from guitar god Eddie, and it features a pretty catchy vocal hook in the chorus.  While I didn’t really like the track on my first few listens, I have to say, BBP editor-in-chief Andy Burns was right when he called ‘Tattoo’ a ‘grower’.  Roth even delivers some pretty clever lyrics in the verses about the merits of, well, tattoos.  We’ll see if the rest of the album, and subsequent tour live up to the hype.

Late in 2011 The Beach Boys announced that surviving members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnstone will finally bury the hatchet (and postpone any pending legal actions between them) to reunite for a 50-show reunion.  They are also reportedly working on new material which should be interesting given Wilson and Love’s relationship over the past few decades.  To wet our appetite (and ignite ticket sales) the ‘boys’ re-recorded their appropriately titled 1968 hit ‘Do It Again’ and posted a video online showcasing the original guys laughing, cavorting and harmonizing once again.  The new recording isn’t that exciting as it really features the amazing falsetto of long-time Beach Boys and Brian Wilson sideman Jeffrey Foskett more than anything else.  Love’s lead vocals are fine, the harmonies are expectedly sweet and the production sounds like everything Wilson has produced in the last 20 years…in other words, no new ground.  Still, there’s something nostalgic and inspiring when you see Wilson, Love and the other Beach Boys, all close to 70 years old, together again and making music.  I’m looking forward to the tour, but I have low expectations for the new music.

Finally, the Boss himself released a new track called ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ last week to coincide with the announcement of a new album and tour in 2012.  Early reports were that the new record was filled with exciting new sounds combining the best of Springsteen’s E Street Band sound with the introspective and quieter side of Nebraska and/or Tom Joad records.  ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’, and the other tracks from Wrecking Ball (track listing was released last week) appear to have Bruuuce one again commentating on all that is wrong in America and searching once again for a sign of hope – themes that have filled Springsteen records from day one.  The problem with the first single is that it builds and goes absolutely nowhere.  There’s no cathartic moment and no release.  There’s the trademark E Street Band sound (minus any sign of sax following the death of Clarence Clemons) but the track just plods along.  I have no doubt that Springsteen will hit the road this year and wow audiences around the world as always.  I just wonder if he has another great album in him.

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