Best and Worst '90s Band Comebacks

Who soared ... and who sunk?

Breaking up is hard to do. But for bands, getting back together and making it work is even harder. Not only do they have to contend with the personalities of their mates, but they also have to answer to the rapidly changing culture and audiences. Is the reunion a cash grab or a genuine go at creating together again? Can you really "rock" after becoming over the hill? We looked at 10 recent comebacks from '90s bands and saw who soared… and who sunk.

BEST: Green Day

The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals
Jason Merritt / Staff/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Punk-pop suffered growing pains at the turn of the millennium. Genre giants Green Day were no exception. Their 2000 album, Warning, displayed a maturity that seemed desperate to leave behind songs of getting high and masturbating. The threesome cocooned but returned in 2004 with the rock-opera opus American Idiot. Since then (save for a stint of outpatient rehab for singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s alcohol and pill addiction in 2012), Green Day have wowed arenas worldwide and bombarded hungry fans with music galore. In 2012 alone, they released three full-length albums! And in 2015 the threesome became members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

BEST: Blur

Courtesy EMI. EMI

Britpop fans celebrated when it was first revealed that the original lineup of Blur would be headlining Coachella 2013— its first American concert date since 2003. For ages, front man Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon had rows, which saw the latter musician pingponging in and out of the group for a decade. With the solid four back intact, Blur played an elegant, anthemic set for the sweaty desert crowd. Then finally in 2015, the group released The Magic Whip, their first album in 12 years.

BEST: Neutral Milk Hotel

Image by Will Westbrook. Will Westbrook estate
Some band comebacks are as spellbinding and rare as a total solar eclipse. But miraculously, Neutral Milk Hotel leader Jeff Mangum emerged from the shadows following a long absence after the release of his critically hailed 1998 album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The blogosphere was abuzz as Mangum’s name began to populate festival lineups in 2012, and there was a collective squeal of glee in spring 2013 when the full band announced a nationwide tour. For a recluse, Mangum still commands a lovelorn audience and has had obvious influence on groups such as the Decemberists and the Lumineers.

BEST: Blink-182

Courtesy Blink-182. Blink-182

Like one-time tour mates Green Day, punk threesome Blink-182 spent the better part of the 1990s reveling in melodic immaturity (“What’s My Age Again?”). But with each album came a more realized sound and wizened lyrics. When Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker regrouped in 2009 after a four-year hiatus, the music that sprung forth was more akin to DeLonge’s side project, the stratospheric Angels and Airwaves. Neighborhoods (2011) and 2012’s Dogs Eating Dogs EP showcased the group members' musicianship and growth as fathers— and forefathers of the pop-punk scene. As of 2015, though, DeLonge has left the band, and Hoppus and Barker are performing with Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba on guitar.

BEST: Pulp

Courtesy Daniel Milne. Daniel Milne

Though this gang of British pop-rock hooligans formed in the late ’70s, they came to prominence in the ’90s with Different Class. The much-beloved album spawned singalongs like “Common People” and “Disco 2000,” but the mammoth responsibility of stardom became too much for singer Jarvis Cocker. Overcoming a cocaine addiction and quietly releasing solo material throughout the aughts, he and Pulp made their triumphant return at Glastonbury 2011 and have wooed back live audiences ever since. An entertainer as radiant as Cocker, all scissor kicks and amp scaling, can’t be curtailed, as shown in the 2014 documentary Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets.

WORST: Stone Temple Pilots

Courtesy Stone Temple Pilots. Stone Temple Pilots

There was trouble from the start in Shangri La Dee Da— even at the height of their popularity, Stone Temple Pilots dealt with singer Scott Weiland’s substance abuse. The gravelly voiced front man tried another go with his STP brethren after Velvet Revolver dissolved. But as the quartet planned a 2013 tour that focused on classic material, accusations flew back and forth between Weiland and his mates about artistic motives. He jumped ship again, gathering a backing band to perform STP songs, and that resulted in the remaining original Pilots to sue for breach of contract. They recruited Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington for a new song— which was met with mass disappointment from fans of STP and Linkin Park… and a countersuit from Weiland. The new band is recording a full-length album with Bennington as of 2015, and Weiland has moved forward with his Wildabouts.

WORST: Limp Bizkit

Courtesy Limp Bizkit. Limp Bizkit

Often credited with dishonoring the peaceful spirit of Woodstock with its 1999 performance that incited riots and rapes, Limp Bizkit were the epitome of testosterone-driven, frat-boy rap-rock. When the luster of Fred Durst’s backward cap started to fray, he turned to a brief film career. In 2011, however, the call of the bro beckoned, and Durst and Co. released Gold Cobra. Longtime collaborator DJ Lethal split from the group in 2012, and despite universal panning, rap impresario label Cash Money agreed to sign Limp Bizkit. Expect their Stampede of the Disco Elephants (and run away?) later this year.


Courtesy Anderson Group. Anderson Group
What was once one of the most commanding and influential female-fronted groups of the ’90s became a neutered shell of itself during its 2010 “reunion.” The first Hole album in more than a decade was called Nobody’s Daughter, but it might as well have been called Nobody’s Band Mate, since the only notable member left was firebrand Courtney Love. Hole used to boast a 3-women-to-1-man ratio, but on the ramshackle 2010 tour, it was Love and a whole lotta dudes. The letdown was even more severe when the sets were pared down to under an hour, and Love would fumble with her guitar as though it were an eel trying to slither away. How the mighty have fallen.

WORST: Rage Against the Machine

Courtesy Rage Against the Machine. Rage Against the Machine

Here’s an example of wasted potential. Rage Against the Machine, the political rabble-rousers of rap-rock, abandoned music when the world needed it most. (OK, three-fourths of the band teamed with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell as Audioslave, but that band traded activism for mainstream radio play.) The second term of George W. Bush soldiered on without much protest from the normally outspoken Los Angeles foursome. Indeed, from 2007 on, their reunion shows did bring awareness to a variety of causes, especially immigrant rights. But the message got drowned out time and again by aggressive fans causing havoc in the pit. A new album might have been a stronger outlet for change.

WORST: Blind Melon

Replacing the lead singer is one of the most contentious things a band can do (just ask Sublime, Alice in Chains or Journey). Especially when the face of the group has passed away, like Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon did in 1995. Do you risk tainting the legend or just let it be? Upon recruiting Travis Warren in 2006, the Blind boys went for it— and came up flat. Warren plays things a little too safe, unable to conjure up the free-spirited vibe that Hoon so effortlessly exuded. Now, photographer and filmmaker Danny Clinch is trying to honor Hoon via his in-progress documentary.