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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reunion

Inspired by this thread polling message boarders which reunion would they like to see, Smashing Pumpkins or At the Drive-In, I'd like to chime in once again on band reunions.

Reunions are a real dicey issue with me. Many bands break up and its band members say over and over again they'll never reunite and then, they reunite. Sure, they eat their words, but it thrills longtime fans that they're getting back together. Recent examples of this include Gang of Four, the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. While I think bands like these reuniting is cool to see, I generally don't pine for reunions.

In the case of At the Drive-In, I believe they went out on their peak with their final album, Relationship of Command. That album shows the band in a fully-realized form. The sound and design were things they had been hinting at with their records up to it. It's still a powerful album and it's the result of many years of hard work. The band members had a goal of breaking out of the average, confining mindset found in their hometown of El Paso and they did it. They continue to do such in their respective bands, The Mars Volta and Sparta.

But for a lot of people, they would love to see At the Drive-In play together again. I was lucky to see them twice and I will testify that they were one of the greatest live bands I've ever seen. As much as people want a reunion, its ex-members keep saying it will never happen. I honestly doubt they will ever reunite, but I think that's for the better. I don't mean this in a bad way.

There's a sort of mystique around a band like At the Drive-In. They said what they said and moved on. That's a testament to who the band was and what they stood for. They didn't play along to what people expected them to do; they did what was best for themselves. They said if one member wasn't into the band and left, then that would be the end of the band. That attitude may be a little arrogant and self-centered, but if the power behind ATDI was out, it wouldn't have the kind of impact of when the power was on. I credit them for sticking to their word when they split in 2001.

In the case of the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr, here were bands that said they would never get back together. Especially with Dinosaur, there were plenty of harsh words said between members in interviews and song lyrics over the years. There were no chances of anything diluting all the bad blood. In the case of the Pixies, there were signs that a full reunion could happen as Joey, Charles and David worked/toured together for many years following the band's break-up, but the possibility of Kim Deal's participation was doubtful.

When bands like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr and Mission of Burma announced they were reuniting, people were very excited at the chances of what could happen with this. At least there will be a chance to see these bands play live again, but a big "if" happens when the band decides to record new material. Off the top of my head, Mission of Burma's new material has the distinction of being as highly-regarded as their older material. That's a rarity because new material is not usually as widely-embraced as the material that the band earned their reputation with. Both Dinosaur and the Pixies are recording new material and there are some great expectations with whatever comes out. We'll have to wait and see if their new material holds up as well as albums like Doolittle and You're Living All Over Me.

Whenever I hear about band reunions, I think a band is trying to recreate its youthful energy by playing songs from yesteryear. This is usually a fun sight to see if the band members still play the material with a sense of vitality. However, there have been plenty of times that acts have reunited and the results have been very spotty. Sure, it may be cool to see surviving members play together again, but if the performances blow and the new material sucks, I think it's better to stay apart.

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