Since Stephen Malkmus ditched the likely lucrative reunion of his legendary band Pavement to continue on with his Jicks project, which released their great album Wig Out at Jagbags this week, I thought it a good time to look back at the band reunions that have popped up this new millennium. Though these reunions have both delighted and horrified fans, sometimes at the same time, a few have been so solid that it’s like our favorite bands never left us. Now get on it, Cocteau Twins!
1. Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis and bassist/Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow buried the hatchet in the 2000s, formally reuniting with longtime drummer Murph in 2005 to play on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and tour. They subsequently have released three terrific albums. If you were a fan of Dinosaur Jr. but haven’t checked out any of the albums from Dino. Jr. 2.0 (gross), do it now, as they’re as good as anything the band released during its heyday. 2012’s I Bet on Sky featured the kind of more chilled-out (yet still distortion-laden) songwriting you might expect from alt-rock elder statesmen, while 2007’s Beyond felt like lighting a match in a room full of gas, exploding with bottled up riffs and energy. Lou Barlow, whose own Sebadoh reunion also ranks as one of the better ones of the 2000s, makes his first contributions to the songwriting on these albums since 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, and the band is better for it. Combined with their live shows, which are lessons in ear-splitting noise only bested by the next band on this list, it makes them the best reunited band of the new millennium!
Dinosaur Jr. - This Is All I Came to Do (Live at Amoeba)
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My Bloody Valentine released one of the greatest albums of all time, Loveless, in 1991. Then … nothing. Or next to nothing. For a very long time. After years of what seemed like teasing in the form of frontman Kevin Shields being vague about a possible reunion, he announced it was a real deal in 2007. The live shows that followed were pretty life-changing for those of us who didn’t get to see the band in their heyday. Earplugs were handed out at the door, and you could feel your clothes vibrating during the climactic noise break of “You Made Me Realise.” Walking out of those shows, you’d feel your head spinning, much like playing Loveless for the first time would leave you feeling slightly nauseated yet provoked and endlessly intrigued. But all the reunion shows in the world can’t quite compete with an actual new album. In 2013, we finally got it with mbv, and damn if it wasn’t worth the wait. It was my favorite album of last year (and was our bloggers’ consensus best album of 2013), and more importantly, it ensured My Bloody Valentine were a real, living, breathing band in the new millennium, one capable of releasing great new material and not just touring off of older albums. With all due respect to The Pixies, who I’ve not included on this list due to their lack of quality new material, My Bloody Valentine gave us the goods both ways—recorded and live.
Wire have been quietly recording and playing shows since the early 2000s. The band never really broke up in earnest—drummer Robert Gotobed left the band for the ’90s, and they played occasionally as Wir—but the full band reunited in 1999, playing well-received shows from 2000 on and finally releasing material starting in 2002, with the Read and Burn EPs. Several full-lengths followed, all of them critically acclaimed, most recently last year with Change Becomes Us. It’s hard to imagine a world where the first two bands on this list could have existed without Wire’s experimentations with noise and structure, which, thankfully, continue on to this day.
They came back, they played, they got out. Even though we didn’t get any new material out of the deal, you can’t help but respect Stephen Malkmus’ explanation about the brevity of the beloved indie rock band’s 2010 reunion. “Anyone who bought a ticket to see us, I don't want them to have paid these slightly higher prices to see us and then have us right back there again—it’s just disingenuous. And we want to keep it fun,” he told the Las Vegas Sun. Though he no longer writes music for Pavement, he’s continued on with the fabulous Jicks.
5. The Breeders
Kim Deal reunited with the Pixies in the early 2000s and played scores of shows with the legendary band before unceremoniously leaving last year. While that embattled reunion continues, Deal has been releasing fine music and touring with The Breeders throughout the 2000s. The band, initially a way for Deal to release her songs while under Frank Black’s leadership in the Pixies, released a couple of ’90s classics with Pod and Last Splash, the latter landing the band an unlikely hit with “Cannonball.” Following a troubling late ’90s for Deal’s bandmate and sister, Kelley, who was busted for drugs in 1995, The Breeders came back in 2002 with the low-key Title TK, playing shows with members of the hardcore band Fear. In 2008, they released the excellent, underrated Mountain Battles. The Fate to Fatal EP followed, and with the 20th anniversary re-release of Last Splash, The Breeders have been touring and playing the entirety of that bewildering, brilliant record.
Guided By Voices were always an untamed beast, as Robert Pollard stuffed his band’s albums with half-finished songs recorded on cheap equipment, ending up with classic albums of lo-fi sound collage like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand. They played their last show on the last day of 2004. But since then, nothing has slowed down. Pollard released several solo albums (which are difficult to distinguish from proper GBV albums) and the band reunited its classic lineup in 2010 for Matador’s 21st anniversary. Since then, it’s just been non-stop. 2012 saw three GBV albums; another, English Little League, popped up last year; and two are scheduled for this year (we’re not even getting into Pollard’s solo releases). It’s a bit exhausting, sure, but it’s pure Guided By Voices, and the flashes of brilliance among those albums, not to mention their exhilarating, often hilarious live shows, make it all worthwhile.
7. Mazzy Star
With a band like Mazzy Star, whose hushed brilliance on albums like She Hangs Brightly and So Tonight That I Might See continues to touch listeners years on (“Into Dust” was featured in two commercials in recent years), a reunion was never going to be exactly clamored for, nor would it be in any way unwelcome. But Seasons of Your Day, released last year, shattered fan expectations with its simmering beauty. Composed of new songs and those recorded following 1996’s Among My Swan, it is a true return to form and one of the better albums released last year, in my book.
The cult post-punk band reunited in 2002, and their recorded output since has been excellent, notably 2006’s rumbling The Obliterati, which captured and sometimes surpassed the energy of their youth. Their most recent album, 2012’s Unsound, received strong reviews as well.
9. Wu-Tang Clan
With a group as massive as Wu-Tang Clan, it’s a tough call to say when the band has been fully formed—or if it can ever really be reunited again, given the passing of Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Nevertheless, 2007’s 8 Diagrams was received well, and their long-awaited, long-delayed A Better Tomorrow is scheduled for 2014, with RZA recently stating that the album was weeks away from completion. Let’s hope the Clan can pull it together and pull it off this year.
|Photo by Liane Chan|
Though the influential noise-pop band reunited, notably playing Coachella in 2007 (with an awkward performance of “Just Like Honey” with Scarlett Johansson, no less), only a few songs have popped up since then, with the Reid brothers unable to overcome their differences long enough to record an album’s worth of new material. Come on guys! Let’s do it! New Jesus & Mary Chain album in 2014!
Who’s your favorite reunited band? Who do you wish would reunite? Who are you mad at me about leaving off this list? Did you like the new Pixies EP? Leave me a comment and lemme know.
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