Band reunions: they’re a dicey business, as far as fans are concerned, because they risk tarnishing the memory of the band in question’s glory days. Sometimes they do exactly that, but occasionally a band get back together and make a record that’s as good — or sometimes actually better — than their back catalog. Such records are few and far between, but one of them came along this week: Researching the Blues, the new studio album by the recently reunited Redd Kross. In celebration of that band’s return, we thought we’d have a look at some other reunion albums that are worth your time — as ever, let us know if we’ve forgotten any.
Redd Kross — Researching the Blues
This has been streaming at NPR for the last couple of weeks, and we’ve been enjoying it immensely. From the bracing, wah-laden blast of the title track (above) to the closing “Hazel Eyes,” it proves that the band has lost none of its charms. It’s a pleasure to have Redd Kross back.
VCMG — Ssss
In fairness, VCMG were never a band in the first place, but still, Ssss marks the first time Vince Clarke and Martin Gore have worked together since the early days of Depeche Mode, and in that respect, it’s absolutely a reunion album — which makes its brand of filthy techno all the more exciting.
Mission of Burma — ONoffON
The fact that the second incarnation of Mission of Burma has been markedly more productive than the first is conclusive proof that reunions don’t always have to be insufferable cash-ins. ONoffON was a record that deserved every “return to form”/prodigal sons cliché that got thrown at it — the only complaint that can be pointed in its direction is that it makes you wonder what might have been had the band stayed together for the 22-year gap between this record and its predecessor.
The Raincoats — Looking in the Shadows
Befitting their status as one of the great forgotten bands of the UK punk/post-punk era, The Raincoats’ 1996 reunion album was quietly excellent and largely ignored by the public at large (although those in the know, such as Kim Gordon and the folk at ATP, have been championing their cause ever since). The whole album was great, but we have a particular soft spot for quietly sinister single “Pretty” (above).
Dinosaur Jr. — Beyond
Back when J. Mascis and Lou Barlow were engaged in an ongoing sullenness contest — one that Barlow won with “The Freed Pig,” surely the most gloriously passive aggressive I-hate-my-former-bandmate song ever written — a successful Dinosaur Jr. reunion seemed as likely as hell freezing over/an Eagles reunion/etc. But the old cliché about time healing all wounds seems to have been proven true in this case, because Beyond was like Barlow’s 15-year absence from the band had never happened. Even the band dynamic appears the same — Barlow got to write two of the album’s 11 songs, a pattern that’s been maintained over Dinosaur Jr.’s two subsequent post-reunion records, and in a recent interview, Mascis described his relationship with Barlow as “um… OK.” Bless.
The Go-Betweens — The Friends of Rachel Worth
Australian band the Go-Betweens pretty much define the epithet “criminally underrated” — they released six excellent albums between 1982 and 1988, attracting plenty of thoroughly deserved critical praise but never really selling a heap of records (with the possible exception of their 1988 single “Streets of Your Town,” which was their only commercial “hit,” although it didn’t trouble the US charts). They went their separate ways in 1989, but main songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster reconvened in 2000 to record another excellent but, yes, criminally underrated record. They made two more albums before McLennan died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2006 at the age of only 48.
Neu! — Neu! 4 / Neu! 86
This record has a strange and storied history — it was recorded in the mid-’80s, ten years after Neu! masterminds Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother had gone their separate ways, but was never finished, mainly because Dinger and Rother had dramatically visions of what the record should sound like. As such, it was a pretty sought-after bootleg for years, a fact that eventually led to its release as Neu! 4 in 1995. The 1995 release was Dinger’s decision, and Rother was not amused — the two squabbled over it until Dinger’s death in 2008. Shortly after, Rother remastered the album and released it as Neu! 86. Anyway, somewhere in the two dramatically different versions is a great album — true, it’s not a patch on Neu!’s first three records, but since basically nothing anyone’s ever recorded before or since is a patch on Neu!’s first three albums, you can’t really hold that against this record.
Television — Television
Also on the not-quite-as-good-as-their-glory-days-but-still-pretty-great front, Television’s 1992 reunion album seems to have been largely forgotten in the two decades since its release, which is a shame, because it’s definitely worth hearing. Is it Marquee Moon? No, of course not. But, again, what is?
Orbital — Wonky
Meanwhile, here’s a more recent example. This record did a pretty comprehensive job of banishing any fears that the Hartnoll brothers might have slipped behind the electronic music curve in their eight-year absence from the scene. Once the pioneers, always the pioneers, it seems.
Swans — The Seer
And finally, also from 2012 — we’re cheating a little here as The Seer hasn’t been released yet, but take it from us: it’s amazing.