In the past year, Australia has hosted sold-out tours for international pop acts from that most fluorescent of eras, including Aqua, Vengaboys and Backstreet Boys with NKOTB. Now, East 17 and Hanson are on the way; and beloved local bands like Hummingbirds, Falling Joys, Clag and Custard have reformed. But what's fuelling this wave of ’90s nostalgia?
One cause seems to be the simple process of ageing – and with it the desire to reminisce. Aqua’s Søren Rasted told Time Out ahead of their March tour that “it felt like the right time” to get back together. After a decade of other projects, they missed the success they enjoyed in their twenties.
Others have stuck together, faded off and now face renewed interest. The Hanson brothers – Zac, Isaac and Taylor – have held strong since 1992 and have sold out their tour in September. In fact, to celebrate their 20th year, they’re hosting a resort getaway with fan club members in Jamaica. And it's a shame they got tarred with the “teen idol” brush so young, because their post-Middle of Nowhere albums have been solid. (Yes, we just admitted that.)
Back in the day, though, Hanson were the One Direction of their generation, reviled as much as they were adored. Those feelings have softened – as fans and haters grow up, their feelings towards the bands of their youth can change. “People aren't in high school or college anymore, so they feel it's okay to like Hanson,” hypothesises Tanya, who's been running the ‘Hanson Fans from Oz’ web community since the late '90s. “There's not that stigma attached and it gives them a link back to that time.”
Meanwhile, three of the four members of East 17 – purveyors of earworm ‘House of Love’ – have reunited and are heading here. To some fans’ dismay, they’re not content to just trot out the old hits. Their new album, Dark Light, is a rock-pop affair with touches of country, quite removed from the white-boy rap that helped them sell a staggering 20 million records.
As East 17 reaches for growth, you might wonder about the S Club reunion. Formerly known as S Club 7, only three of the original members have signed back on to tour Australia: Jo O'Meara, who generated 50,000 complaints for bulling and racism to the industry ombudsman during her stint on the UK Celebrity Big Brother; Bradley McIntosh, who formed a disastrous group with members of defunct boybands 911, Steps, NKOTB and Another Level; and Paul Cattermole, who reportedly hasn't done much since the group split in 2003.
The ’Club seem pragmatic about their renewed popularity. “Everything always comes back into fashion at some point,” said O'Meara. McIntosh thinks the group's style still has something to offer noughties audiences looking for something with less of an explicit edge: “I think everybody loves a bit of cheese, deep down.”