Nine Bands From the '90s Underground That Should Consider Reuniting
Photo via officialrefused.com
Everyone was all abuzz about the reunion announcements of Refused and At the Drive-In this week. I was less abuzz. I never much cared for Refused (nor International Noise Conspiracy) and I was one of those people that liked ATDI "before" (and I certainly had no need for Mars Volta). And they're not the only ones throwing their hats back in the ring. Last year we saw new releases from The Get Up Kids and Braid.
The Promise Ring are gearing up to play some dates next month, and just yesterday Murder City Devils released their first songs in over ten years. If you were into underground music in the late '90s you've got an opinion on all of these things. And I've got an opinion on bands from that era that I'd like to see get out there again. Most of these bands broke up by 2000 (with a couple of exceptions being later or way way earlier), but all were pretty important to kids who were lucky enough to come of age in the "Hands Up Houston" era. Maybe they could reunite and then book these bands. How about it?
9. The Peechees
I remember when I was in my formative punk years being introduced to Chris Appelgren at a show at Zelda's. He was a dreamboat. It wasn't until after our short conversation that my friend told me "he runs Lookout! Records." Gulp. It wasn't until a little later that I first saw the concert film Songs for Cassavettes that showed Mr. Appelgren in action. As the front man of The Peechees he had enough shake and shimmy to make Elvis blush. But after just four short years and two albums on Kill Rock Stars, the band called it quits. The Peechee All-Season Sensations were playing dirty bluesy garage-punk during Oakland's pop-punk heyday, and like they titled their first album, "Do The Math." The world just wasn't ready for punk to be truly dangerous in the sexiest of ways. But fourteen years later, it seems like we're prepared for the party in Chris Appelgren's pants. I think some of these soft boys getting into garage could learn a thing or two from their re-emergence.
Recently Man or Astroman? rolled their mainframe into town and I was asked at least 30 times if I was going to go. "Eh, I've seen 'em a couple times, probably not." Everyone was always shocked that I didn't think they were as mind-blowingly awesome as seems to be the consensus. They're fine, no dis. But have you ever seen Hayden Thais and Brian Teasley's side project Servotron? They're like the SkyNet version of MOA? and they traveled the country recruiting humans to their Servotron Robot Allegiance by way of technologically precise insults. Robots themselves, they encouraged humans to replace their weak flesh with bionic bodies with their bargain basement Devo-esque indie-punk. They are always near the top of my list of best shows I've ever seen and anyone I've met that has seen them agrees. I'd like to see them get back together for the same reason I'd like to see The Peechees reunite, to get out there and give more people a chance to have their faces melted.
In 1998, Sarge were on the verge of breaking through with their immaculate album The Glass Intact. They were popping up in major magazines, as a band to watch, even making Spin's top 20 of '98 list, and then it seems as if the band just drifted apart. Songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Elmore soldiered on traveling the country solo playing house shows and basement clubs for the huge fan bases she had cultivated on Sarge's travels, eventually forming The Reputation. But it just wasn't the same. The sexiest lawyer in indie rock ought to make some phone calls and get the old line-up together just to give us one last thrill.
6. Born Against
These days hardcore bands are singing about how hard it is to be from Sugarland and how lame pick-up trucks are. But back in 1989 Sam McPheeters was delivering articulate screeds against the true evils of our religiously conservative corporate controlled society that belied the brutally of his band's aural assaults. McPheeter's lyrics read like Occupy Wall Street General Assembly minutes. In today's political climate it would do us well to be reminded of what it means to be an educated and well spoken dissident American.
It's hard to believe that the sultry VV of The Kills and Dead Weather fame was once Alison Mosshart, a baby faced punk show cutie with dreads and Sauconys. Discount were a pretty important band in the late '90s emo-dominated music scene. While boys were bemoaning their frustration with smelly old girls, Mosshart was busy showing indie crowds that girls could be fierce, cool and opinionated. In the twelve years since Discount's final tour more and more girl fronted punk bands have emerged, no doubt owing quite a lot to Mosshart's enthusiastic and captivating performances. Maybe if VV could find the time she could slip out of character and give it one more go just remind us how it's done.
4. Nation of Ulysses
Both Refused and At the Drive-In undoubtedly owe a great deal to Nation of Ulysses. Not only did front man Ian Svenonius make hardcore sexy, he made it weird. So why not just cut to the chase and get the real deal? Sure, Svenonius has been making a go of it in less prestigious acts in an attempt to combat the onset of indie rock, which he derides as "a sort of vacuous form", but NoU were more than a band. They were a way of life. Getting back together now would show the world that not only did they do it first, they did it better.
3. Bikini Kill
Speaking of a band being a way of life, how about these fine folks? Bikini Kill are arguably the most identifiable band from the Riot Grrl movement (they were named dropped in 10 Things I Hate About You as an indicator of Kat Stratford's "shrewiness") And sure, the members continue to do important things in music, so why get back together now? Because it's time for them to get back out there and take a look at the seeds they've sewn. Girls have become increasingly vital in punk scenes in the decade and a half since Bikini Kill last played, and I'll go ahead and speak for all the members of my sex when I say "Rebel Girl" is playing in our heads each time we do the things we "oughtn't". So what better way to celebrate our progress with the original Queen of the Neighborhood? Damn, I really do want to be her best friend.
Hey Ian, don't "leaf" us hangin'.
Out of all the bands on this list, I feel that Fugazi are the most likely to reunite. Instead of breaking up, they have been on "indefinite hiatus" since 2003, but have no current plans to do anything as a band for the foreseeable future. But when it happens, it's not going to be for the money, after all, it was rumored they were offered an ungodly sum to headline Coachella in 2007. Sometimes their principles came close to overshadowing their music, but in the end the sound always reigned supreme. When the day comes, and I know it will, those $5 tickets are going to be a hot commodity.
In 2007 the makers of the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo went about shooting a posthumous Jawbreaker documentary. The filmmakers got the three members together for the first time in eleven years in a meeting that ended up being more cathartic than uncomfortable. The guys even jammed through a handful of their old songs. Unfortunately, they refused to have the camera on during the session and to this day the documentary itself sits on shelf with no planned release date. And while drummer Adam Pfahler and bassist Chris Bauermeister would jump at the chance to see a reunion become a reality, lead man Blake Schwarzenbach's reluctance makes it seem that a reunited Jawbreaker is nothing more than a boat dreaming from the hill. Maybe we'd have better luck getting Peter Lee to reunite Houston's own tribute act Whatabreaker.
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