10 Bands That Prove Reunions Are Worthwhile
There’s not many issues that divide the music universe like the subject of band reunions. Many choose to immerse themselves in nostalgic ecstasy with cigarette lighters aloft as Damon Albarn wails out the final chorus of The Universal, while others prefer to condemn the ‘crass’ comebacks of legendary John Lydon fronted groups The Sex Pistols and P.I.L. faster than you can say Country Life Butter.
Whether you believe that band reunions are a glorious celebration of the past that inspires up and coming bands or merely an ill-advised cash grabbing exercise that uses up festival slots, here are ten reformations that tore down the house and offered a defiant two fingers up to all but the staunchest of comeback spoilers.
A band that broke up at the peak of their commercial and creative powers, The Verve’s comeback had been pined for by fans for the best part of a decade. Thankfully their patience paid off as the group embarked on an arena tour in 2008 that culminated in a remarkable headline slot at Glastonbury. After the band had captivated the audience with the heart wrenching anthems and soaring psychedelia that made them famous, they made the characteristically bold move of finishing on a new single titled Love is Noise. The impassioned groove of the new track proved that there was still a creative life in The Verve that went beyond the live stage. This notion was further proved when the band released a new album titled Forth, a record that’s best moments were equal to their previous highs.
The Verve unleash Love Is Noise on an unsuspecting Glastonbury
When Pulp split in 2003, it was generally accepted that the celebrated misfits of Britpop were long past their commercial and critical peak. At this point, the thought of Jarvis Cocker and co. returning to headline major festivals 8 years later seemed about as likely as Big Ron Atkinson fronting Football’s Show Racism The Red Card campaign. Thankfully though, 90’s nostalgia and critical re-evaluation meant that Pulp were a big enough attraction to headline a number of major festivals throughout the summer of 2011. It was these shows that made fans both old and new appreciate what an infectious, intelligent, witty and unique outfit Pulp are and also featured the long awaited return of Cocker’s calamitous dance moves.
Pulp reminding everyone why the first time was so memorable at Reading 2011
A band that ended in a haze of excess, addiction and bitterness, The Libertines comeback was the sort of event that inspired excitement and fear in equal measure. On one hand, a generation of fans in leather jackets and skinny jeans fantasized at the thought of the most important band of their era performing with the same chaotic passion as they had before. Contrastingly, there were plenty who believed that the notoriously unstable relationship between the band’s songwriters/frontmen Pete Doherty and Carl Barat as well as the general unreliability of Doherty would reveal a spent force hopelessly trying to recapture the old magic onstage. When the post punk revivalists hit the stage for performances at both legs of the Reading and Leeds Festival in 2010, it was a relief just as much as it was a joy to see that they’d still got it. Barat and Doherty looked every bit the inseparable duo they were in 2003 as the band showcased the furiously paced romantic anthems that made them such a revered group in the first place.
The Libertines bring The Good Old Days back at Reading 2010
My Bloody Valentine:
If there was ever a set of fans that deserved rewarding for their patience, then the followers of feedback drenched, shoegaze pioneering Scots My Bloody Valentine would be top of that list. After finally getting around to releasing their masterful second album Loveless in 1991 (An album that took 3 years to make, made use of 19 recording studios, umpteen producers and almost bankrupted record label Creation with it’s £250,000 cost), the Kevin Shields fronted outfit slowed to a halt, splitting up in 1997 unable to release a follow up to their acclaimed 2nd album. Despite this, fans were hugely optimistic when MBV announced that they were reuniting for a tour in 2007 with the intention of releasing new material.
Although the comeback shows went down a storm, eyebrows were raised in unison when Kevin Shields announced in 2009 that the band were going to put all their focus into recording their illusive 3rd album. Fast forward three years and fans were still clinging to the odd ‘promising’ quote or ‘reliable’ rumour that the press would deliver about the bands phantom new work. This continued until 27th January 2013 when at a Brixton show, Shields shocked fans to the point of convulsion by announcing that the long awaited new album ‘might be out in 2 or 3 days’. To everyone’s surprise, the perfectionist frontman was spot on (almost) as My Bloody Valentine’s 3rd album M.B.V was self-released on 2nd February 2013 to mass acclaim from fans and critics alike. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 22 years for another one.
She Found Now, the first song on My Bloody Valentine's new album M.B.V.
Blur’s reunion has been among the most successful reformations in music history. In 2003, a breakdown in relations between guitar virtuoso Graham Coxon and the rest of the band resulted in Coxon departing and the Britpop icons going on ‘hiatus’ shortly after finishing their tour for 8th album Think Tank (2003). Fortunately for the London born quartet though, absence in music tends to make fans hearts grow fonder and by the time Blur had kissed and made up for a reunion in 2009, the demand was so high that it might as well of been the heady, lager soaked summer of 1995 once more.
After a few exhilarating small scale warm up shows, it was time for the band to bring back the glory days and headline Glastonbury 09. Blur stole the show at Glasto with a career spanning set that showcased just how diverse and exhilarating their best music was and proved that they had more than enough uniting anthems to give the Gallagher Brothers a run for their money. This glorious moment was followed by two more triumphant nights in front of enormous crowds at London’s Hyde Park. Due to the bands commitments to other projects including animated rock groups, solo careers, political campaigns and ermmm…. cheese, Blur went quiet for a couple of years before making yet another grand return.
The band decided to flex their live muscle again by playing another colossal show at Hyde Park to mark the end of the London 2012 Olympics. Like the performance three years earlier, frontman Damon Albarn had the massive audience hanging on his every note and the atmosphere created the feeling of a legitimate public event. Although plans for a new album hardly seem set in stone, you get the feeling that Blur are more than capable of recapturing the old magic in the studio.
Blur's sublime rendition of Tender at Glastonbury 09
The Stone Roses
The reunion of The Stone Roses was arguably the most hyped comeback in the history of British music. A band who had hit near perfection with their debut album before imploding in such a bitter and unsatisfying manner, a Roses reunion had been dreamt of by a generation of fans who’d been left with an unsatisfying ‘what if?’ feeling. Reunion rumours had surrounded the Madchester pioneers for the best part of 15 years and by 2010 fans were taking these claims with the same grain of salt one might attribute to Shaun Ryder when he spots another UFO. In 2009, it seemed that both fans and critics had their final answer when the bands guitarist turned painter John Squire made a piece of art which stated that he has ‘no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses.’
The funeral of the mother of bassist Mani in 2011 however, meant that all four members of the definitive Roses line up were together for the first time in years and this sowed the seeds for what would become a full scale reunion. The comeback was announced at a memorable press conference in October 2011 where the band sent shockwaves through the British rock world by announcing a trio of homecoming shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park. The excitement however, was balanced by the very real fear that the combustible band would implode before they even got round to playing the Heaton Park shows. These fears intensified when an incident occurred at a festival show in Amsterdam which resulted in drummer Reni walking off stage before the encore and frontman Ian Brown announcing to fans that ‘The drummers a cunt.’
Thankfully though, Brown and Reni made up in time for the homecoming shows in the summer of 2012 which received unanimous acclaim and have already achieved legendary status (The gigs are the centrepiece of Shane Meadows’s biopic documentary on the band Made of Stone.) The Heaton Park shows put the Roses at the centre of popular culture once more and a case could now be made for calling them the biggest active band in the UK today, especially after another summer of colossal shows at Glasgow Green and London’s Finsbury Park in 2013.
16 Years in the making: The Roses take to the stage at Warrington Parr Hall
While always consistent and at times phenomenal, the general consensus when James split in 2001 was that Tim Booth’s band of indie eccentrics were far removed from their prime and should probably call it a day while people still cared. Like so many other bands on the list though, James discovered that time away had done both their popularity and creativity the world of good as they performed a sell-out reunion tour in 2007. The stunning comeback shows reminded everyone that James had anthems in all shapes and sizes from the baggy beats of Come Home to the faith inducing mid-tempo ballad Tomorrow, and proved to doubters that their best work had aged as well as anyone could have possibly hoped. Perhaps even more incredible was that Tim Booth’s soaring falsetto and off the wall dance moves were every bit as captivating on stage as they had been in 1994. While successful reunions make it incredibly tempting to rest on your live show laurels, James got to work in the studio and released the marvellous Hey Ma (2009), an album that is arguably the most consistent they’ve ever made.
James showcase the majestic title track of their comeback record on Later With Jools Holland
One of the most influential bands of the last 30 years, The Pixies stature grew more and more mythical in the alt rock world as the years past following their split in 1993. Although many failed to see how the band could possibly live up to expectations if they came back, the majority of fans still seemed happy enough to sacrifice a limb in the hope of a return from the ‘quiet-loud’ pioneers.
Loyalists got their wish in 2004 when Black Francis and co. reunited for a world tour which was highlighted by four fantastic sell out gigs at London’s Brixton Academy. The band continued to tour successfully over the next decade but the continued absence of new material was beginning to tarnish the comebacks credibility amongst many fans and critics. The reunion seemed to be running out of steam in June 2013 when bassist/vocalist Kim Deal announced that she was leaving the Pixies to re-join her other group The Breeders.
The band managed to turn the disappointment into excitement a month later however, when they announced that they’d be playing brand new songs on their upcoming world tour. This excitement has been validated with the band releasing two vintage sounding EP’s(with a third on the way in April 2014) that despite not matching the unbeatable heights of peak works Surfer Rosa (1988) and Doolittle (1989), still contain enough moments of chaotic genius to more than justify the bands continued existence.
The Pixies performing at Coachella 2004
When Dinosaur Junior split in 1997 it marked the end of a slow death which had seen the departure of two founding members (Lou Barlow, Bass, and Murph, Drums) and the music slowly drifting away from the anarchic guitar frenzy found on landmark album You’re Living All Over Me (1987). Despite the well documented bad feeling between Barlow and notoriously difficult bandleader J Mascis (Guitar, Vocals, Primary Songwriter), a series of meetings between the pair managed to heal old wounds and a reunion came together in 2004. Like all bands on the list, Junior turned in some phenomenal live performances that reminded fans why they loved them in the first place. What’s more impressive though, is the fact that the riff heavy alt rockers have released 3 high quality albums (Beyond, 2007, Farm, 2009 and I Bet On Sky, 2012) in the subsequent years. Dinosaur Junior have grown old gracefully by maintaining the same pendant for crazily elaborate guitar solos but with a more methodical, produced sound that is classic without ever falling into self-parody. The band have proved that a reunion can be about more than nostalgia by strengthening their back catalogue and forging an excellent part two in their career.
Dinosaur Junior with Watch the Corners, the terrific single off their last album.
The re-emergence of Suede is perhaps the most unlikely success story on the list. At their best Suede were everything a great indie band should be: challenging, intelligent and immensely exciting and this made their decline all the more sorrowful as drug addiction and creative erosion resulted in the band splitting to general indifference in 2003. The reaction to Suede’s 5th album A New Morning (2002) had been so poor that it tarnished their legacy considerably and resulted in many critics forgetting just how special the band’s first three albums had been.
When the band announced a one off reunion show for March 2010 frontman Brett Anderson made it clear that Suede had no intention of recording new material and risking further harm to their legacy. The ‘one night only’ show at the Royal Albert Hall, however, was stunning from start to finish and was described by Anderson as ‘the best show we’ve ever done.’ The outstanding night at the Albert Hall gave Suede the live bug and the band went on to perform a number of acclaimed shows over the next 2 years.
Despite the reunions success, the band felt that to justify their continued existence as a group they needed to write and release new material. Many fears were expressed by fans who’d been stung by the decline in quality of the bands later work but a wizened, long time sober Anderson eased concerns by declaring that new music would only be released ‘if it was outstanding’. These words were not something the androgynous frontman took lightly and this was proven when Suede finally got round to releasing their masterful 6th album Bloodsports. Rather than reinvent the wheel Bloodsports takes the melancholic, galvanising glam of the bands best work with an outlook that is more mature but never less exciting. The impossible claim made by Anderson that the album would sound like a cross between the bands greatest album Dog Man Star (1994) and their most commercially successful record Coming Up (1996), was actually validated by an album that not only stands up with Suede’s best work, but also rivals any music being made by the current generation of bands. No longer so young, but still beautiful.