Music

Ten Bands From The ’90s That Haven’t Reunited

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So Chavez is reuniting, or whatever you want to call it. A Pavement reunion just dominated most of last week in New York City. Before that, it was a never-dissolved-but-certainly-largely-inactive Superchunk. In the past few years, we’ve seen tours and new albums from a resurgent Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies, Faith No More, and Mission of Burma. Even bands you wouldn’t imagine ever reuniting—Hoover, Universal Order of Armageddon, Swing Kids, Cap’n Jazz, Swans, Floor, Jawbox, Rorschach—have done one-offs or full-blown tours. As SOTC pal Jessica Hopper challenged Sasha Frere-Jones on Twitter last night: “Can you name one band from 1993-99 that is not presently reuniting?” Well, yes. Below, a list of the ten ’90s bands we’d most like to see reunite, plus a whole lot of honorable mentions. Most of these probably won’t happen. But we can always dream, right?

Jawbreaker

Is there any ’90s band that enjoys more widespread goodwill than Jawbreaker at this point? The culture wars that attended the Bay Area trio’s turbulent sell-out/signing to Geffen and the squeaky clean record that resulted, Dear You, are ancient history at this point—long since fought and lost. All that remains are gauzy fond memories of an aphorism-sprouting Blake Schwarzenbach—now happily ensconced in Brooklyn, playing low-key shows with forgetters—and a bunch of Jawbreaker-related tattoos people can’t quite bring themselves to remove. If you thought a lot of people came out of the woodwork to proclaim their love of Superchunk when that band came through NYC a few weeks back, just wait till these guys do it. Likelihood of Reunion: Pretty good. They apparently did it already, circa 2008, when they all got together to work on a still-pending documentary, but the only people in the room were the three musicians in the band. It may not take much more than getting them all in the same room again.

Neutral Milk Hotel

It’s hard to even picture the music-blog meltdown if this ever actually happens: Jeff Mangum, our very own J.D. Salinger, coming down from whatever metaphorical/possibly literal mountain he’s been living on for the past decade-plus to reclaim the mantle of NMH’s aggressively deified In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a surrealist maelstrom of folk, punk, Balkan horns, and mournful singing saws still worshipped with near-biblical fervor (fitting, given the whole “I love you Jesus Christ” thing) despite his near-total disappearing act since. Even Mangum’s brief solo appearance at Le Poisson Rouge last year triggered, like, open weeping. The mind reels. Likelihood of Reunion: No idea what anyone could offer Mangum now that he hasn’t already turned down. Never say never, but in the interim, find something else to do with your life.

Drive Like Jehu

This one seems like it should have happened already. When the San Diego feedback kings broke up, around 1995, it was for no apparent reason, and three out of four members continued to play music—though bassist Mike Kennedy left the game to become a chemist, drummer Mark Trombino went on to work as a producer, cashing checks from everyone from Jimmy Eat World to Blink-182, and twin guitarists/frontmen Rick Froberg and John Reis formed Hot Snakes, a band they broke up only a few years ago (though they just reunited for an impromptu show). People always hail them as post-hardcore pioneers but has any band come close to matching them since? Refused? This show would be incredible. Likelihood of Reunion: If it never happened in the Hot Snakes days, who knows why it would happen now.

Afghan Whigs

Yesssssssss. In their prime, Cincinnati’s Afghan Whigs were a fearsome, lurid, uncouth beast, slowly evolving from grimy Sub Pop upstarts to light-MTV-exposure alt-rock aspirants to, by the time of their 1998 swan song 1965, lascivious garage-funk titans dabbling in blazing soul horns, mournful string sections, and all manner of lyrical lasciviousness thanks to stupendously sleazy frontman Greg Dulli, who’s kept at it via his Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins projects since, but belongs back onstage sneering “Got you where I want you, motherfucker” as a jet engine of lewd derision churns behind him. Their reunion shows would be three hours apiece and require three days of bed rest afterward. Likelihood of Reunion: Threatened for years, and nobody seems to hate each other. Don’t tell me Pavement’s re-deification didn’t jar them a little bit.

Lync

No Age, meet your makers. The original atmospheric, whimpering, whispering hardcore band, Lync played pretty much every song like it was on the verge of falling apart. Most tracks do—part of the appeal. Their fractured, cracked melodies predicted everything from the Promise Ring to huge sections of the contemporary Smell scene out in LA. If you love them, you have to think they’re never coming back (vocalist/guitarist Sam Jayne seems pretty busy with his post-Lync project, Love as Laughter), but we can always hope. Likelihood of Reunion: Slim, though we may or may not have personally witnessed Jayne getting a little misty-eyed when someone played Lync at Enid’s, back in the spring.

Failure

If you own more than two guitar pedals you’ve had this Google Alert set up for years: The list of ’90s bands more obsessed with studio-as-instrument wonkery than Failure basically consists of the word “Radiohead” and then a whole bunch of white space. 1996’s Fantastic Planet, the crowning achievement from these gorgeously dour L.A. art-rockers, is flabbergasting in its guitar-antihero excess, 17 tracks (three of them elaborate segues) of lovingly detailed space-rock depression; “Blank,” in particular, is a Generation X power ballad unparalleled, the self-loathing of “Creep” imploding rather than exploding. Nothing but retrospectives since.

Likelihood of Reunion: Both principals are still at it: Frontman Ken Andrews bought a whole bunch of synthesizers and pressed on, while cohort Greg Edwards joined Autolux married the chick from the Raveonettes. Fantastic Planet, in its entirety, ATP NYC 2011. Let’s do this.

Nation of Ulysses

Just to see what would happen, really. Former frontman/Sassiest Boy in America Ian Svenonius remains a very ubiquitous guy, having gone on to play in about a million other bands (Chain and the Gang, most recently), host a talkshow on Vice TV, and generally ride the Ian MacKaye memorial lecture circuit. Still, for all that, NoU for our money were the most exciting of any of Svenonius’s endeavors—the most outlandish, the most creative, the most aggressive, the most well dressed. Plus they were jerks and there is not enough of that these days. Likelihood of Reunion: No idea. Svenonius once said, “Nation of Ulysses broke up because the epoch changed with the advent of digital music and the Nirvana explosion. We were faced with what’s now known as indie rock, a sort of vacuous form.” All of that stuff has only gotten worse. Way worse.

Kyuss

It’d be a trip just to see what folks who listened to Kyuss in the ’90s are doing in 2010 — if they’re, like, productive members of society. The pre-Queens of the Stone Age stoner-rock stomping grounds for Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri both, this band had blacklight headbanger anthems for days, weeks, months, lost years. 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley is ripe too for full-album ATP recreation (yes, including “Lick Doo”), every rumbling bassline and desert-cracking mega-riff, with frontman John Garcia howling like a deposed cock-rock monarch over top. Ain’t a bong on earth big enough. Likelihood of Reunion: Not good. Everyone but Homme seems to’ve been on board for years and years, but he’s a little busy. Gotta be something they can blackmail him with though.

Bikini Kill

Probably the most important act on this list, and the quintessential ’90s band: Fistfights with Courtney Love? Check. Combative public nudity? Check. A love affair with a Beastie Boy? Still going strong. Bikini Kill inspired more people, found themselves at the various axes of ’90s rock (insert “Smells Like Teen Spirit” anecdote here) more often, have had the best afterlife (everything from the Spice Girls stealing their slogan to Le Tigre to the zine library opening shortly at NYU’s Fales Library). They probably don’t need to come back, so present is their influence, but who would complain? Likelihood of Reunion: No one, that’s who. They apparently still get along so cross your fingers.

Belly

Never forget: They made the cover of Rolling Stone. Tanya Donelly hit plenty of year-end lists during her time with Throwing Muses and the Pod-era Breeders, but Belly’s 1993 debut, Star, was her true alt-queen coronation, sugary sweet yet curiously morbid: “Feed the Tree” was the jam for a slightly more sensitive 120 Minutes fanatic. They only put out two records (and a best-of!), but 1995’s generally derided King holds up better than you think as an emblem of wayward grunge romanticism. I’d say they’d be perfect for Lilith Fair 2011, but they’re too good for it, really. Likelihood of Reunion: Would it happen if we bought more Tanya Donelly solo albums? If we bought fewer?

Honorable Mention, with help from Chris Ryan, Marisa Meltzer, and Brandon Stosuy: Fugazi (inactive since 2002), Railroad Jerk, Promise Ring (broke up in 2002), Karp (impossible), Antioch Arrow, Beat Happening, Spinnanes, Unwound (broke up in 2002), Tiger Trap, Chisel, Huggy Bear, the Fisticuffs Bluff, Clikatat Ikatowi, Bedhead, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Born Against, Sugar, Soul Coughing, Archers of Loaf, Material Issue (also impossible).

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