A Tale of Two Black Flags
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice, a myth originally told by the ancient Greeks but best-preserved in Western culture through the Roman poet Ovid, generally is interpreted as a cautionary tale about the perils of living in the past. Orpheus, a famous Greek bard, loses his wife to a snake bite, goes into the underworld, persuades Hades with the gnarliest of jams to let him bring her back to the land of the living, and gets his wish under the condition that he doesn't look back. He does look back and loses it all.
While the story is rooted in the idea of a romantic relationship, it's easy to look at its musical implications. Orpheus himself comes off like a brooding Mediterranean Bon Iver figure consumed by his obsession with a lost love. You can also see the analogues between Orpheus and musicians who try to recapture certain points in their careers. But the most relevant aspect of the Orpheus myth to the landscape of contemporary music is the near-futility the listener has in experiencing the past in the present.
What brings Orpheus to mind is the recent announcement of two reformed Black Flag lineups, one under the Black Flag moniker featuring founder and trademark holder Greg Ginn and Jealous Again-era vocalist Ron Reyes, and the other simply under the name "FLAG," fronted by Nervous Breakdown-era vocalist Keith Morris. Both are scheduled for various summer festival appearances.
My reaction to these reunions is neither thinking they are blasphemous nor something to be stoked about. I understand that Black Flag wasn't some kind of sacred cow of a band with infallible artistic credibility. I have heard "Slip it In" and think it is corny as hell, but I also know that in the grander scheme of '80s hardcore, it was right along the trajectory of tastelessness that happened with bands that stayed together for more than two years. Whatever these reunions produce -- be it good or shitty performance, or good or shitty new material -- probably won't sully the Black Flag name as much as anything they did after My War.
However, I think the reason I am not keen on the reunions is that the idea of Black Flag is more appealing than the reality of Black Flag. I don't really know what people expect to get out of a Black Flag concert (not "show," in the slightest sense) in 2013? The old people who saw them in the '80s probably aren't going to relive their glory days. There probably will be less glass and spit (oh, God, all the talk about spit when you read anything about Black Flag sounds horrid) flying around, and I don't think that girl in the striped shirt from The Decline of Western Civilization who looks like she is on Quaaludes will be swaying back and forth in the corner. She's probably got a career and kids by now. The same can be said for a lot of the members of the reunion lineups. They aren't the same angry kids that Penelope Spheeris filmed decades ago.
Greg Ginn of Black Flag