The 1990’s were an awkward decade. People watched movies like Jurassic Park and Twister in the theaters, “Saved by the Bell” and “Friends” on the TV, and listened to grunge, punk and ska on cassettes or their Discman. A fashionable look involved flannel and a No Fear t-shirt or jelly shoes and slap bracelets for the ladies. It was a period that brought us the Gulf War, the first George Bush and Power Rangers.
Just when we thought that decade was firmly in our collective rearview mirror, news broke that bands like Garbage, The Cranberries and others were contemplating comebacks. What started as a dribble has erupted into a gushing flood of bands from the ’90s that are all releasing comeback albums in 2012. While we’re glad to see some make a return, others should have stayed on the shelf. Have a look through this list to see which comebacks will work, and which won’t.
Click “next” or hit shift + right for the rest of the list…
New Album: Roses
Release Date: February 27, 2012
Label: Downtown Records (US), Cooking Vinyl (Worldwide)
Comeback Potential: 50/100
No conversation about 90’s music would be complete without discussing The Cranberries, or the Cranberry Saw Us, as the band was called originally. With painfully catchy tunes like “Zombie” and “Linger,” they truly are the quintessential band of that decade, and a logical place for us to begin our exploration of this recent wave of comebacks by bands from the 1990’s.
On February 27th The Cranberries released Roses, their sixth studio album and first as a group since 2001. The gap in collective activity allowed for three of the band’s four members to pursue solo careers, but despite their individual successes the decision was made to join forces yet again to try and spark some of that old magic that has helped them sell 15 million+ albums in the US alone since the release of their debut Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? in 1993. While many were pleased to see the band reunite after such a lengthy hiatus, initial critic and fan response to the new material was less than enthusiastic. The main complaint being how safe and consistent the “new” sound was, as if sticking to a successful script were some sort of criminal act.
While The Cranberries failed to take Roses in any real unique or creative direction, they did stay true to the sound that made them one of the most successful rock bands of the 90’s. If it worked well twenty years ago, it should work well today. Right? Maybe.
New Album: Days Go By
Release Date: June 25, 2012
Label: Columbia Records
Comeback Potenial: 40/100
Music in the 90’s will always most closely be associated with the Seattle grunge rock scene, and rightfully so when considering how significant of an impact that genre had on the landscape of music at the time. It was that shift in sound and attitude that effectively killed off the last few remaining big hair metal bands of the 1980’s and changed not only what american teenagers were listening to, but also made it common place to dress in heavy dingy flannel and constantly complain to parents and teachers about how depressed you were. While the importance of grunge in those years is undeniable, it wasn’t the only style of music to enjoy its fair share of mainstream attention. Bands like Sublime, Green Day and Rancid all played a huge role in restoring punk rock back to popularity in the mid 90’s, and it was the release of their third studio album Smash, that truly solidified The Offspring as a significant contributor to that movement. Aggression-fueled tracks like “Self Esteem” and “Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)” were what really put them on the map, although nothing they’d released prior to, or after that album, has earned them the same level of broad-based fan appeal or popularity.
Judging by the title track from their forthcoming album, Days Go By, The Offspring will likely miss that high mark set by Smash some years ago. We know it’s The Offspring, but it might as well be the Foo Fighters, and it’s difficult to stage a meaningful comeback if the band you now sound like is already still here.
New Album: Not Your Kind of People
Release Date: May 14, 2012
Comeback Potential: 70/100
When asked to describe the band’s musical style, Garbage keyboard player and guitarist Steve Marker was once quoted as saying that they try to “take pop music and make it as horrible sounding as we can.” While that may seem like a ridiculous approach to recording music, it proved to be a successful one that resulted in the creation of songs like “Stupid Girl” and “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” two of Garbage’s biggest hits in the 90’s. That willingness to experiment always kept them one step ahead and allowed the group to produce music that had a modern sound even by today’s standards.
Garbage have come a long way since their humble Madison, WI beginnings back in 1994. Although the band was active throughout periods of the 2000’s, Not Your Kind of People will be their first release together in seven years. Shirley Manson and the rest of the group have proven that they understand what it takes to adapt as the profile of popular music has changed throughout the years and it’s a safe bet to assume that this new album will continue to reflect that.
New Album: The Idler Wheel…
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Comeback Potential: 95/100
Fiona Apple is without question one of the most critically acclaimed artists to appear on our 90’s revival list. Her penchant for delicate, hauntingly beautiful records has earned her heaps of praise, respect and admiration over the years from fans and fellow artists alike. Apple established herself as a musical force right from the start through the release of her debut LP Tidal, which bore one of her most recognized singles to date, “Criminal,” in 1996.
The 90’s saw Fiona release three full-albums with her fourth to follow in the form of 2005’s fan-extracted Extraordinary Machine. Aside from that the songstress has been relatively quiet over the past six-plus years sticking mostly to sporadic live performances and even recorded one joke track with comedian Zach Galifianakis. Then in late 2011 the internet began to buzz with rumors that a new album might be in the works, a suspicion that was later confirmed by an announcement from LA Reid and Epic Records in January of this year. Fast forward a few months and we now have not only the album’s title, The Idler Wheel… (shortened), but also its first single, the unembellished “Every Single Night”, a song that has quickly become a favorite of the staff here at P&P.
Given what we’ve heard from The Idler Wheel… thus far, and what we already know about the immensely talented musical mad scientist that is Fiona Apple, we have no reason to believe that her 2012 comeback will be anything but an absolute success.
New Album: TBD
Release Date: Late 2012 (rumored)
Comeback Potential: 95/100
Believe it or not Damon Albarn used to just front one band back in the 1990’s. We’re talking pre-Rocket Juice & the Moon, pre-The Good, the Bad and the Queen, even pre-Gorillaz. His work as lead singer and songwriter with the English alternative rock band Blur helped to propel a massive rise in popularity of the Britpop / shoegazing genre during that decade. Known as a chronic experimentalist, Albran’s tendency to genre morph led to an evolution of the group’s sound over the years that not only brought them mainstream success in the U.S. through the release of records like “Song 2,” but also ultimately resulted in the exit of guitarist Graham Coxon during recording of their seventh album Think Tank in 2003. The separation lasted roughly six years and ended in 2009 when the band’s original members reconnected to begin touring together as part of a reunion concert series. However, fans would have to wait until earlier this year for news of a new Blur album and preview of a potential single, a wait that officially came to a close when Albarn and Coxon took the stage to perform “Under The Westway” live at the Brit Awards War Child benefit show in February. The new track was well received by both fans and critics alike and only set to further heighten the already stratospheric anticipation for the band’s first album together in nine years.
Everything that Albarn touches turns to gold, and with his old mates now back in the fold, the success of Blur’s comeback is all but a foregone conclusion.
New Album: TBD
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Comeback Potential: 85/100
No Doubt just barely made this list. Not because they don’t qualify, because with a debut and three total albums released in the 1990’s they certainly do, but because up until three days ago no one knew when to expect the group’s sixth studio album. That mystery was solved this past Sunday when Gwen Stefani and the boys took to their website to officially announce that a yet-to-be named album was scheduled for release on September 25th, 2012. The gap in time between this new LP and Rock Steady, No Doubt’s last studio album? 11 years. While Stefani and the rest of the band kept themselves preoccupied with solo side projects, family growth and other distractions during that break, fans were left to wonder if they would ever hear a complete project from the Anaheim quartet again. With that said this new album has been somewhat of a work in progress, as it was at one point anticipated for a 2011 release that never was. During a studio visit last year Rolling Stone was able to divulge some info about the songs that were being recorded at the time, and their commentary was nothing short of exciting. There were reports of “a party-ready reggae blast” called “Settle Down” and another track “One More Summer” that “updates the band’s ska-pop sound with pounding dance beats, arena-size guitars and a beyond-catchy chorus”. It was even leaked that the group was working on a record with Major Lazer. All things you want to hear when a decade-plus drought of new material is coming to a close.
No Doubt’s last album was a bonafide success reaching platinum status in the United States twice over. The break was a collective and amicable decision that allowed for growth and breathing room. Of the new album Stefani was quoted as saying, “it’s so exciting to have a record coming out, and we all want the same thing: for it to be modern and catchy and addictive. Once you make music that connects with people, it’s like you taste blood — you can’t go back.” If Gwen is out for blood, there’s no doubt that No Doubt will realize a true return to classic form in 2012.
New Album: Speak In Code
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Label: Fearless Records
Comeback Potential: 40/100
Eve 6 was the epitome of alternative bro-rock in the 90’s. With hit songs like “Think Twice,” “Inside Out” and “Here’s To The Night,” the trio from Southern California consistently churned out top 40 radio friendly material with an edge, the sort that could either make you want to party late into the night or reminisce nostalgically about the good times that were. Their first two albums, a self-titled debut in 1998, and 2000’s follow-up Horoscope both earned the band significant notoriety and had them making the rounds on late night talk show programs, appearances on TRL with Carson Daly, and even found their videos in constant rotation on MTV back when the station used to do that sort of thing. All seemed to be going as planned until the release of 2003’s It’s All in Your Head. Poor sales led RCA to release the band from their contract and once that occurred the wheels effectively came of the bus resulting in a dissolution of the group in 2004. Like so many others on our list, the members of Eve 6 then embarked on a hiatus leading each to pursue different solo opportunities, ones that would spark individual artistic growth and ultimately lead two of the three original members (Max Collins and Tony Fagenson) back together in 2007. It would take another few years and a fair amount of convincing to bring guitarist Jon Siebels back into the fold, but once he returned the band began writing and recording the new material that would eventually evolve into this year’s Speak In Code, their first full album together after parting ways eight years ago.
Sometimes a stroke of misfortune can actually be a blessing in disguise. It took a tanking album and label drop for the members of Eve 6 to break loose and mature as musicians. Now with a renewed sense of purpose and a roster spot on Fearless Records, the group is out to reestablish their relevance in the music world. While Speaking In Code lacks the old catchy pop charm of what used to make Eve 6’s music so appealing, it doesn’t outright disappoint either, and has one of those “it will grow on you” type qualities that should ultimately please longtime fans of the group.
The Smashing Pumpkins
New Album: Oceania
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Label: EMI Label Services/Caroline Distribution
Comeback Potential: 65/100
There’s so much that could be said about The Smashing Pumpkins that I’m almost inclined to not say anything at all. “Pumpkins are back, fuck it”. That sort of thing. Truth be told the band actually reunited and started kicking around the earth again back in 2005, just not in its classic, true form. In fact the only founding member still with the group is lead signer, songwriter and warped genius Billy Corgan. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was the last to depart in 2009 forcing the newly revamped Pumpkins to lurch forward with only 25% of its original machinery still intact. So why are they included on this list of “comeback bands” from the 90’s you ask? Simple, because they are one of the most commercially and critically successful bands of that decade and you frankly can’t talk about music from that era without mentioning their name. Here’s a number, 18.75 million. That’s how many albums The Smashing Pumpkins have sold in the U.S. alone. The sheer volume is staggering, but the clear bulk of those units moved are from the band’s earlier work. Albums like 1993’s Siamese Dream and the epic twenty-eight song, two-disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which to this day is still the best-selling double album of the decade. But no matter how good things seemed back then, there was always the underlying fear that something might go wrong, and eventually it did. Drug addiction would strip Chamberlain from the line up shortly after the release of Melon, a decision that was made following an announcement that the band’s touring keyboardist had died from a heroin overdose while Chamberlain was present. Next James Iha (rhythm guitar) and D’arcy Wretzky (bass guitar) announced their final departure, and despite Chamberlain’s eventual return, The Smashing Pumpkins would never again prove to be the musical force they once were.
True to obscure Corgan form, the Pumpkins have most recently been releasing music via a free over the internet, one track at a time type of concept album called Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. It’s also been reported (by Corgan) that Oceania will be an “album within an album”, whatever the fuck that means. There’s no telling what this new album is ultimately going to sound like. Although we’ve heard multiple tracks from Teargarden, Oceania hasn’t received an official single release yet, so until then fans are going to be kept guessing. At the end of the day though, the knock on the new Pumpkins is always going to be that they aren’t the old Pumpkins, and no amount of clever Corgan-wizardry is going to change that.
New Album: The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Label: Barsuk Records
Comeback Potential: 70/100
There is perhaps no band from the ’90s who are as attached to their biggest hit as Nada Surf is to “Popular,” but they aren’t your typical one-hit wonder. After their huge hit they went independent, took day jobs, and put out their music independently. And while that might not have done wonders for their mainstream success, it did gain them a following they can call their own, and it’s a following more loyal that the kids who bought the “Popular” single so many years ago then complained when the band didn’t yield another huge hit.
Nada Surf has put in the work and avoided the stereotypical role that they seemed destined to play, and for that, this comeback has a pretty good shot of working out, even if it’s just for the indie kids.
Ben Folds Five
New Album: TBD
Release Date: August 2012 (rumored)
Comeback Potential: 85/100
Earlier this year Ben Folds and his fellow partners in crime, Robert Sledge and Darren Jesse, announced that they were back together and in the studio working on the trio’s first album in 12 years. In fact the photo above is from a recent recording session showing the three hamming it up like old grade school chums. Although this new album has neither a title, nor a scheduled release date, on Monday of this week the band did share the demo version of a song we can likely expect to hear on it called “Do It Anyway”. It’s a piano-led tune cut from the same clothe as the solo and group Ben Folds sound we’ve grown so accustomed to hearing over the years.
With very little detail out on the new album thus far, it’s difficult to predict how successful this comeback will be. Most do seem to prefer the Ben Folds Five catalogue to that of Fold’s solo career, so logically the group’s reunion should be well received.
Ben Folds Five – “Do It Anyway” (Demo)
New Album: TBD
Release Date: October 2012
Comeback Potential: 50/100
We touched on the grunge movement earlier, but haven’t really dug into the bands that helped to establish and popularize that scene back in the 1990’s. Soundgarden, along with fellow Seattle groups Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice and Chains developed a new sound in the Northwest that would change the face and attitude of rock music forever. Soundgarden was the first of their grunge counterparts to sign to a major label and proceeded to release three full albums during the 90’s before in-fighting and disagreements over creative direction would cause the band to breakup in 1997. During the downtime lead singer Chris Cornell went on to famously front the rock super group Audioslave, which he led until they disbanded in 2007. That period was followed by further solo efforts, surprising collaborations with producers like Timbaland and even a public dissing of Kanye West. Other Soundgarden members would keep themselves busy with side projects as well, until 2010 when the group agreed to reunite. Over the past two years they’ve worked on writing and recording new material, including the song “Live to Rise” from The Avengers‘ movie soundtrack. Don’t expect to hear it on the new album, although according to Cornell it would “work just fine on it”. No title or official release date for the new LP yet either, but Cornell also shared with Rolling Stone that it’s done and currently scheduled for a release sometime in October of this year.
15 years is a long time to go between releases. This is Soundgarden’s first album since 1996, back in a period when the band was producing hits like “Spoon Man” and “Black Hole Son”. The good news is Cornell has proven an ability to still create and perform well when fronting a group, so that should hopefully hold true now as he stands with his first band. Let’s just turn a blind eye to the odd shit he did on his personal time and hope for the best with this reunion.
New Album: TBD
Release Date: TBD
Comeback Potential: 10/100
Musically, Hole might have a chance to make this comeback work. Courtney’s showmanship and don’t-give-a-shit rock style have always had their appeal, and today there’s a big void she could fill. There aren’t many rebels in rock, and things are getting kind of soft. Courtney Love has that edginess that a rock star should have. Unfortunately, that “edge” might also cause some “craziness.” The chance that Courtney can hold it together long enough to make an album and start a tour are unfortunately very unlikely.