Six More Ill-Advised Rock Reunions (Gen X Edition)
Like vampires, old bands are best left buried deep in the earth, secure in their lead coffins and unable to drain vitality from unsuspecting new victims.
Either because their most desperate fans demand it or because their mortgage notes are past due, the rock bands of yore keep punching through the dirt to reassemble for new records and tours.
Whatever their motivation, few of these bands will ever reach their previous glory, let alone justify their reunions. The last time around, we sampled needless comebacks from a variety of eras. Today, we focus exclusively on the bloodsuckers of Generation X.
6. Stone Temple Pilots
Erroneously called the Led Zeppelin of their generation, the Stone Temple Pilots were actually more like the Monkees in how they cherry-picked the most commercially viable riffs and lyrical sentiments of their peers, then carefully fused them into a videogenic Frankenstein monster.
Regrouping in 2008 after a five-year hiatus, singer Scott Weiland and his STP cronies denied financial problems were the cause and claimed they simply missed one another and wanted to reward their loyal fans.
Nice-guy intentions aside, it doesn't mean STP's 2008 tour and new album two years later were necessary. Thanks to 17 years of relentless rotation on FM radio and MTV, everyone in the world between the ages of 8 and 114 has heard "Interstate Love Song" and "Plush" at least 4,635 times, meaning only the fatally masochistic or monumentally bored need pay a hundred bucks to hear those tunes live.
5. Jane's Addiction
In 1991, lanky nightlife ogre Perry Ferrell and his partners in Jane's Addiction fell prey to trite distractions like heroin and self-importance and split up to chase a series of mediocre side projects and business ventures.
Despite claiming they would never regroup, Jane's Addiction embarked on tours in 1997, 2001 and 2009. More disheartening than the band's diminished musical returns with each outing was the deteriorated condition of its personnel.
Guitarist Dave Navarro is no longer the spooky, dreadlocked kid spitting out combustible solos, but a hideously tattooed Reality-TV oddball and porn director whom we expect to someday suffer a mysterious death.
Drummer and Lance Armstrong look-alike Stephen Perkins has largely vanished into the world of celebrity session drumming, emerging from his dweeb subculture long enough only to get some fresh air, cash a royalty check and play a few dates with his unemployed old friends.
Meanwhile, bassist Eric Avery, content to get on with his life like a real man, avoided all the Jane's Addiction reunions until consenting to the 2009 tour, which die-hard fans loved, but fans of dignity and self-respect regarded as a low point for the human race.
Ferrell, once the oversexed PT Barnum of rock, is now a satchel of musty bones that roadies must painstakingly reassemble and super-glue into one piece before every show.
Fans of Jane's Addiction like to point out the band developed its own genre of music and created the Lollapalooza festival. Fair enough. That doesn't change the fact that all they've pioneered lately is the removal of disposable income from the wrinkled paws of nostalgic Gen X listeners.
We could call them geniuses like everyone else, or we could tell the truth and call Pavement a bunch of prep-school clods that dropped a few hits of acid, figured out Sonic Youth's guitar tricks and grafted those noisy bits onto unremarkable pop songs. That makes Pavement, who split up in 2000, less genius than the rock equivalent of a cruise-ship magician who rented a tiger from Siegfried and Roy.
Like so many indie rockers of his era, Pavement leader Stephen Malkmus sang with a detachment that virginal music writers and pimpled indie fans trumpeted as rakish wit but to unbiased ears sounded like the musings of a Zoloft-impaired beat poet.
For reasons unclear and uninteresting, another Pavement member went by the moniker "Spiral Stairs," forgetting that the only time it's cool to nickname yourself is fourth grade.
These reasons alone are enough for Pavement to have never reunited, but regroup they did last year, delighting their global fan base of neck-bearded graphic designers and other 40-year-old guys who still get bullied.
While reviews of their new concerts suggest the kind of competence you'd expect from a bunch of rocker dads, nothing indicates Pavement did more in 2010 than pull the same arthritic, toothless rabbit out of their top hat.
On a positive note, Malkmus and his pals have pretty much decided to not record new material.
Boston indie rockers The Pixies broke up at their commercial peak in 1993, and since reuniting in 2004, they have been content only to tour, ignoring pleas for new material from their fans.
The self-sabotage is due to infamously abrasive band leader Charles Thompson, who for 25 years has used pseudonyms such as "Frank Black" to grant himself an aura of dark mystery.
Thanks to his swollen physicality, Thompson never seemed like a mystery at all, but rather a man-sized Butterball turkey outfitted with an electric guitar and condescending "Masshole" attitude.
Apologists try to square Thompson's gruffness with his talent, neglecting that the Pixies broke out in the late '80s, when any band without mascara and herpes was unblinkingly adored by the music press.
Rather than provide earth-cracking artistic breakthroughs in every phrase, the Pixies, thanks to Thompson's nasally voice, East Coast accent and stinging distorted guitars, reminded us more of a Boston firefighter hollering "Don't Jump" through a bullhorn.
Although we dig the ghostly and cute backing vocals of bassist Kim Deal, it's hardly enough to warrant the ongoing existence of this band.
Ten years ago, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan dismantled his grungy cash cow after a series of farewell concerts. Corgan then resurfaced with the sound-alike band Zwan, which fizzled within two years despite generous rotation on Windy City radio.
A solo album followed, with Corgan sporting black eye makeup and a feminine, Victorian-era costume in promotional videos. Instead of looking like a nifty eccentric who creates out-of-this-world music, Corgan came off as a cross-dressing serial killer who agreed to reveal the location of his victim's bodies if a record company released his music.
Corgan finally reunited the Smashing Pumpkins in 2006, hewing to the same formula since their heyday on the Singles soundtrack: crunchy guitars, exploding drums, and vocals that alternate between a Peeping Tom's whisper and the pained rasp of a baby crying for clean diapers. Making his return further unwelcome was Corgan's replacement of his original band with a revolving cast of icy fashion-school trollops.
Corgan's prolific output has been mistaken for genius by some, but we recognize it as an offshoot of the same neurotic defensiveness that finds him arguing with chump-change critics on Twitter and, in all probability, lurking this very minute outside the home of a girl who dumped him in high school.
"Hey, did you hear that Candlebox are back?"
"What's a Candlebox?"
"I guess they're a band. My uncle with all the shitty tattoos said they were awesome in 1994."
"Is that your uncle with the head injury?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
"I don't think I'll be checking out this Candlebox band."
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