In March I saw 30 Seconds to Mars in London. Don’t envy me, they’re rather a shell of their former selves live, but that’s not the point of this article. What is pertinent is that the band reworked a number of older songs. Not drastically, but there was an electronic edge to a lot of them that wasn’t present on the studio recordings, or even when I saw them in 2013. If you look on page 17 for Oscar’s review of their new album, America, this makes sense. To make the set flow, the band changed the old songs to work with new songs.
Conversely, in 2014 I saw Frank Turner at the O2 Arena. He announced to the crowd he was going to play an old song in a different way. “So long as it isn’t I Am Disappeared,” I thought to myself, “this could be promising.” It was I Am Disappeared and the new version was one of breath-taking beauty that blew me away.
What sets these two reworkings apart? I won’t deny an element of it is just personal taste. But I feel there is more to it than that. For this, another example comes to mind. Deaf Havana reworked their 2011 masterpiece, Fools and Worthless Liars, and their 2017 comeback album, All These Countless Nights. The former was brilliant, possibly even better than the original. They play alternative versions live to this day. The reworking of All These Countless Nights was uninspiring. The difference? The reworked All These Countless Nights showed nothing the band hadn’t done before. The alternative Fools and Worthless Liars saw a band try new recording techniques, lyrics, arrangements, instruments and altogether rework themselves.
With the alternative I Am Disappeared, Frank Turner took a rocky song about never stopping and turned it into a slow acoustic ballad, the kind he always steered clear of previously. With the reworked 30 Seconds to Mars songs, they put a weak gloss over their songs.
Reworked albums can be great if bands are willing to put in the effort. But in a day where labels are encouraging them to be put out for so many releases in an effort to increase sales, they are an increasingly uninviting prospect. If labels want to keep pushing reworked albums, they should make sure that bands are willing to put the work in rework. And, with that, it’s time to enjoy Beach Slang’s new acoustic numbers