Indie rock break-ups, make-ups

A&E runs down the indieverse’s most painful breakups and possible reunions

Will Pavement get back together? PHOTO COURTESY MARCUS ROTH.

Ashley Goetz

Will Pavement get back together? PHOTO COURTESY MARCUS ROTH.

When artists die, their work becomes more desirable. Maybe itâÄôs the shroud of mystique. Maybe itâÄôs the fanâÄôs longing for something they canâÄôt ever have again. But more likely, itâÄôs the hope that lightning can be recaptured. When a band breaks up, itâÄôs not unlike a death. But itâÄôs a death with the tangible possibility of resurrection. Sure, band reunions are often anticlimactic (The Pixies) or even downright regrettable (The Smashing Pumpkins ), but that doesnâÄôt stop the incessant chatter of âÄúwhat if?âÄù A&E compiled a list to document, remember and rumor some of the premiere âÄô90s/2000s indie bands who called it quits too soon. At the Drive-In (1993-2001) The legacy: At the Drive-In suffered from classic The Replacement s Syndrome. That is to say, their demise occurred just as they were starting to gain headway. What started as no-frills post-punk on early records evolved into a massive âÄî and slightly prog-y âÄî wall of sound. The interplay of frontman Cedric Bixler-ZavalaâÄôs stream-of-consciousness shrieks and guitarists Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Jim WardâÄôs varying guitars made At the Drive-In a formidable rock beast. The breakup: Shortly after the release of the bandâÄôs final LP, âÄúRelationship of Command,âÄù creative tensions within ATDI came to a head. Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez claimed they felt creatively stifled; years of relentless touring had drained energies and the pressure of being dubbed âÄúthe next big thingâÄù proved too much for the El Paso quintet. And in February 2001, At the Drive-In went on a still-ongoing âÄúindefinite hiatus.âÄù Sloppiness of breakup (1-10): 8 The future: Post-breakup, both camps of ATDI scurried to new projects that came to signify the internal difference that had been brewing in ATDIâÄôs later years. Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez found great success with the indulgent prog of The Mars Volta, while Ward and ATDI rhythm section Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar assumed the more traditional alt-rock sound of Sparta. As for a reunion, the forecast was grim until this past month, when Bixler-Zavala told Drowned in Sound , âÄúI wouldnâÄôt mind it. YâÄôknow, it might happen. We just have to iron out a lot of personal things.âÄù Possible? Yes. Likely? WeâÄôll see. Likelihood of reunion: 7 Neutral Milk Hotel (1991-1998) The legacy: Neutral Milk Hotel didnâÄôt mess around. The cerebral Lousiana folk-rockers âÄî one of the flagship bands of the famous neo-psychedelic label Elephant 6 âÄî recorded just two LPs. Their last, âÄúIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea,âÄù is considered one of the finest indie records of all time âÄî even garnering a perfect 10 from the notoriously hard-to-impress Pitchfork.com. The breakup: After touring to support âÄúAeroplaneâÄù in 1998, frontman Jeff Mangum suffered a nervous breakdown . Mangum has been somewhat of a recluse since then, but did offer Pitchfork this reunion skepticism in 2002 , âÄúI donâÄôt know. It would be nice, but sometimes I kind of doubt it.âÄù Sloppiness of breakup: 5 The future: NMHâÄôs non-recluse members have all busied themselves with other projects, so it appears the ballâÄôs securely in MangumâÄôs court. As a possible sign of encouragement, last fall Mangum performed Neutral Milk Hotel songs publically at the Elephant 6 Surprise Holiday Tour âÄî one of the few times heâÄôs done so since 1998. Still, the outlook is murky, at best. Likelihood of reunion: 4 Pavement 1989-1999 The legacy: Much like the Pixies prior to their 2004 reunion , Pavement doesnâÄôt have a thing left to prove. ThereâÄôs no well of untapped potential; thereâÄôs no âÄúwhat ifs,âÄù âÄî Pavement did it hard, did it right and did it consistently for a decade. Over the course of seven years, the quintessential indie group recorded five stellar records spanning the spectrums of noise pop, indie rock and even some experimentalism. Still, if something rocks so hard, itâÄôs awfully hard to set it free. The breakup: Despite the bandâÄôs cohesiveness over the years, the relationships started to wear. In 1999, at what would be their final concert in London, frontman Stephen Malkmus reportedly handcuffed himself to his mic stand and said, âÄúThese symbolize what itâÄôs like being in a band all these years.âÄù Guitarist Scott Kannberg later stated Malkmus was misquoted, but considering the groupâÄôs label provided a formal announcement of their demise some weeks later, things were not OK. Sloppiness of breakup: 7 The future: In the years following Pavement, members have joined indie rock royalty the likes of Sonic Youth and the Silver Jews . All the while, Malkmus has focused on stellar solo work with his band, The Jicks. As for a reunion, at this juncture, it almost seems certain. It was rumored Pavement would reconvene at this yearâÄôs Coachella festival, but things never fully panned out. Last year, though, Malkmus told Entertainment Weekly that, âÄúSomething small in 10 years like the Zeppelin thing sounds good to me,âÄù alluding to the rock dinosaurâÄôs one-night-only 2007 reunion show. Will 2009, the post-breakup 10-year mark, be the year? Signs point to yes. Likelihood of reunion: 9 Others: The Promise Ring (1995-2002) Pioneering Milwaukee emo band before the term emo was tainted. Hugely influential. Sloppiness of breakup: 2 Likelihood of reunion: 5 The Moldy Peaches 1999-2004, 2007-2008 Cult favorite anti-folk duo comprised of Adam Green and Kimya Dawson , whose song âÄúAnyone Else but YouâÄù gained unlikely notoriety in the 2007 film âÄúJuno.âÄù Sloppiness of breakup: 3 Likelihood of reunion: 6 The Unicorns (2000-2004 ) Essentially one-album wonders whoâÄôve still managed to cultivate an air of significance. Two members went on to form the group Islands. Sloppiness of breakup: 8 Likelihood of reunion: 2