Top Five Most Successful Comeback Attempts of the '00s

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We thought they were gone forever, for good, kaput. Then they came storming back into the limelight to blow our minds.

Mission of Burma. They were a chord-throttling 80s post-punk outfit who released an album and an EP, influenced a rapt generation, then broke up. Then, earlier this decade, they reformed - with producer Bob Weston replacing original mixer/sound manipulator Martin Swope - and set about writing and recording some of the best elliptical, odd-rock songs of their career. Yeah, it's great that the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine are touring and vibing again, but neither of those bands have made music as vital, thrilling, and essential this decade as ONoffOn (2004), The Obliterati (2006), or The Sound The Speed the Light (2009). Damn.


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Photo by Sarah Lee
Calvin Johnson. After years of post-Beat Happening silence punctuated by guest appearances on other people's albums, twee-pop's ravine-voiced godfather inched back into the solo performance game, dropping a handful of discs that fruitfully mined American song forms and reminded us why his rumbly bass is such an elemental force. We strongly recommend 2002's What Was Me. (We haven't forgotten Cal's Dub Narcotic Sound System, but we don't think of that as a solo deal.)


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Nine Inch Nails. Your average Trent Reznor fanatic is, by necessity, a patient person; the waits between Nine Inch Nails releases can last congressional or presidential terms, the amount of time it takes to complete a few community-college terms. Three years separated Pretty Hate Machine (1989) from Broken (1992); five years separated The Downward Spiral (1994) from double-disc extravaganza The Fragile (1999). So while it wasn't shocking that Reznor dropped off the recording radar post-Fragile for six years, the ferocity of his comeback was amazing. See, between 2005 and last year, Reznor unleashed (sometimes for free online!) a cavalcade of (mostly) great albums, enabled in part by his liberation from the major-label system: 2005's semi-schizo With Teeth, electro-bombshell dytopian nightmare Year Zero in 2007, then - wait for it - two-disc ambient masterpiece Ghosts I-IV and aggro-pop gem The Slip last year. No wonder dude got hitched (to alt-rawk dish Mariqueen Maandig) and announced a much-deserved, indefinite leave of absence from all things NIN! He's probably exhausted.


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Tool. Tool fandom isn't much different from NIN fandom, except that the pauses in activity can be blamed, in part, on frontman Maynard James Keenan's insistence on keeping side-project A Perfect Circle going. (Bias alert: A Perfect Circle are a waste of time.) The wait is always worth it, as evidenced by the heady, skin-crawling prog-metal of Lateralus (2001) and 10,000 Days (2006) and how those albums' attendant tours were greeted - even if I'm way more partial to Aenima (1996), the album that came before.


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Fiona Apple. Quirky songbird Apple - whose pop-outre thunder's been stolen in that past couple years by the likes of Anni Rossi, Regina Spektor, and that cuckoo Megan Joy from the last season of American Idol - spent a ridiculous amount of time swapping producers and making and re-making Extraordinary Machine (2005), the follow-up to 1999's stunning, exhaustingly titled When The Pawn... But the wait totally paid off, scooping up a Grammy nomination, earning Apple critical and mainstream admiration and good will, and building anticipation for a follow-up that's more wishful hope than definite reality at present.

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