This is a subject that I think about a lot: if you could pick any band that has split up but could theoretically still get back together (that is, all of the original members are still alive), what band would it be? I sat down and really thought about the bands that have touched me in my life, but that are no longer around. My mind first wandered to the ’90s grunge scene and the late-60s / early-70s rock scene, but those were plagued by deaths/suicides, eliminating them as possibilities. After a few minutes of comprehensive thought, though, a number of groups that I wanted to see back together (and that really could!) just started flowing out of me.
Now there are a few bands that definitely deserve consideration that didn’t make the cut, but when I had to limit myself to only picking five acts, these are the ones I wrote down. Some of Honorable Mentions are Blackstar, Fugazi, Smashing Pumpkins (original line-up), Oasis, Live On Arrival, The Smiths, The Kinks, and The White Stripes, but choices had to be made and these are the groups I came up with as my Top 5 Bands We Desperately Need Back (that could actually come back). Enjoy!
#5 – Neutral Milk Hotel
Whether you like them or not, there is no denying the influence that Neutral Milk Hotel has had on the music scene of today. Their sound can be heard in acts like The Antlers, Beirut, and Bon Iver, and in my opinion they are one of the most underrated bands of all time. They aren’t the only group on the list with just two LPs, and Neutral Milk Hotel never really hit it big on the radio nor did they sell out arenas.
However, Jeff Magnum and Neutral Milk Hotel still managed to help start and shape the culture of a new age psych rock movement and establish themselves as one of the godfathers of modern rock music, which is why they kick off my list of the Top 5 groups we desperately need back.
#4 – The Fugees
In 1996, the Fugees were seen as THE next big thing in popular music. A group that sounded just as good polished on “Ready or Not” as they did raw on “Fu-Gee-La,” the Fugees were on the top of the charts, their videos were getting constant rotation on TV, and even your mom or sister was probably singing along with Lauryn Hill on “Killing Me Softly.” Then just as soon as they were here, they were gone. The members of the supergroup of sorts went on to pursue their own solo careers that never really took off with the gusto the Fugees had, and eventually even their solo careers fizzled into mediocrity, which is a sad thing for Hill, Jean, and Pras, who basically wrote the blueprint for being a successful modern day hip-hop group only to spilt up right after writing it.
They empowered black people and women with their music while still managing to reach out across multiple cultures, ages, and races to touch a variety of people with the power of their music, and that is why The Fugees come in at #4 on my list of the Top 5 groups we desperately need back.
#3 – Rage Against The Machine
In 1991 the music landscape as we knew it was changed forever. A little band from LA formed and decided to call themselves Rage Against The Machine, an exceedingly appropriate title for one of the most controversial bands of the past twenty years. Rage is responsible for completely bridging the gap between rap and rock, creating a hybrid of distorted, groove-infused jam rock mixed with politically inspired rap vocals. They played a free concert at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in protest of the two-party system, they have been very outspoken during live shows in the past about their passions and concerns with the world and the standards of human living and human rights in multiple countries, and use their success as a platform to inform, empower, and enhance the lives of everyone around them. Rage brought an intelligent alternative view on politics during a time when most mainstream acts wouldn’t touch the subject.
They took hard stances, they held impromptu protests on live TV, and all the while they were selling millions of albums, performing for countless sold-out venues, and making some of the best music of their time, which is why Rage Against The Machine comes in at #3 on my Top 5 groups we desperately need back.
#2 – Talking Heads
In the 1980s you couldn’t see a movie without hearing one of this band’s songs. The group formed in 1975 in NYC, and the city’s love of everything art and avant-garde helped to form the sound of one of the most influential bands for musicians from our generation. It can be argued (and is, right now) that The Talking Heads helped forge what would later become the “indie rock” sound. With songs like “Psycho Killer” and “Warning Sign,” you can hear a group that is reaching out across time to touch bands like Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Grizzly Bear, The Dirty Projectors, and countless others. At the same time, they were also conquering the pop charts over and over again and influencing what would eventually become the very popular adult contemporary scene in the ’90s.
The Talking Heads were way before their time, but they also fit perfectly into their time. They could alienate you one second and have you humming their melodies the next, which is why they come in at #2 on my list of the Top 5 groups we desperately need back.
#1 – OutKast
Once in a while, there are musicians inside niche genres who are so incredibly amazing, they blow up and become household names. OutKast put themselves on the map in 2000 when they released a little album called Stankonia that forever changed the direction of popular music. OutKast wasn’t the first rap group to bring a sense of self-consciousness to the genre, but they had a unique style of storytelling that set them apart from not only the other “Truth Rap” outfits, but also the “Southern Rap” genre itself, which was growing like wild fire around them.
From 1994 to 2004, OutKast injected a sense of artistic integrity into a rap scene that had been depredated into nothing more than flashy jewelry and loud bass. It’s not every day that you get a group that influences not only their genre of music but also the entire flow of popular music in their time. Whether it be a song like “Synthesizer” or “B.O.B,” you could always count on OutKast to deliver politically charged social commentary in a way that not only made sense (which is something most politicians can’t do), but also seemed to reveal a genuine concern for the subjects they were targeting (which is also something most politicians can’t do). Having never really called it quits as much as they have been on a seemingly permanent hiatus since 2006, OutKast comes in at #1 on my list of the Top 5 groups we desperately need back.