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10 Comeback Albums That Aren’t Total Embarrassments

Doug Pensinger / Larry Busacca / Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

It happens to just about everyone who lives to middle age: The bands we loved during our youth get back together and start making music again. Sometimes this happens because the artists’ need for money becomes greater than their hatred for their old bandmates. Sometimes it happens because the old musicians get bored and forget about how jaded they felt when they walked away from the band so long ago.

But sometimes — not often, but sometimes — people get the old band back together because they still have something to say. They get back together because the once-smoldering passion for music got rekindled somehow. On those rare occasions, magic can happen.

For every great comeback like Paul Simon‘s ‘Graceland,’ there are 10 albums like Aerosmith‘s ‘Pump.’ So we decided to take a moment to round up the comeback records that deserve some attention. You may be familiar with some of these, while others may be brand new for you. Either way, they’re all worth hearing.


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'La Futura' (2012)

ZZ Top
 
 

You may have written off ZZ Top after not hearing any major radio play since the '80s, but they're still masters of Texas blues riffs. Now that fuzzy blues songs are cool again -- thanks to the White Stripes, the Black Keys and a slew of knockoffs -- ZZ Top return to the scene with 'La Futura.' If you're skeptical, just check out the germanium-transistor-drenched guitars on the album's single, a cover of DJ DMD's '25 Lighters,' called 'I Gotsta Get Paid.' This track has more cool points than you can shake a beard at.

 
scott_walker_the_drift

'The Drift' (2006)

Scott Walker
 
 

Scott Walker is a curious person. He made a few waves as a pop singer in the 1960s, but decided to go off in a strange direction. 'The Drift' was 11 years in the making, and it's full of dense, powerful songs. His signature feature, though, is his strong baritone voice, which may take some getting used to for the uninitiated.

 
TomWaits-MuleVariations

'Mule Variations' (1999)

Tom Waits
 
 

Coal-throated folkster Tom Waits' fans are typically a rabid-natured lot, so it's safe to say they were largely thrilled when Waits released 'Mule Variations' in 1999. It was his first album since 1993, and it marked the first tour Waits did since 1987. 'Mule Variations' also secured Waits a second Grammy.

 
Superchunk-MajestyShredding

'Majesty Shredding' (2010)

Superchunk
 
 

Superchunk helped usher in a new generation of catchy, guitar-driven pop rock. They released their first, self-titled album in 1990, and they maintained a steady output of music until 2001. After a smattering of singles and EPs, they finally released 'Majesty Shredding' in 2010. And it's a ripper. The songs are as well-crafted and catchy as any Superchunk fan could ask for.

 
mbv-newalbum

'm b v' (2013)

My Bloody Valentine
 
 

'Loveless' captured the attention of tons of music fans everywhere when it was released in 1991. For a while, it seemed like My Bloody Valentine would break through the mainstream and usher in a new era of counting shoelaces. Billy Corgan cited the band as one of his biggest influences while recording the Smashing Pumpkins' seminal 'Siamese Dream.' But then My Bloody Valentine disappeared. After more than 10 years' worth of rumors and speculation, the band finally released 'm b v' in 2013. And it is just as sweet and dense and hypnotic as 'Loveless.' We are happy to have this album, no matter how long we had to wait.

 
mission_of_burma_onoffon_300x300

'OnoffOn' (2004)

Mission of Burma
 
 

Few bands reach a high level of notoriety from just one EP and one album. But Mission of Burma did just that. They were poised to move onward and upward after releasing their first album, 'Vs.,' in 1981. Sadly, the band broke up all too soon, due to band leader Roger Miller's tinnitus. The band's volume level during live shows was legendary, which probably led to the band's early demise. But after 23 years, the band came back with 'OnoffOn,' proving they still had the chops that made them so great.

 
DinosaurBeyond

'Beyond' (2007)

Dinosaur Jr.
 
 

Dinosaur Jr. broke out onto the then-unknown grunge scene back in 1985. They released three albums before splitting up. While bassist Lou Barlow went on to find success with his own band, Sebadoh, guitarist J. Mascis kept plugging away with Dinosaur Jr. He flirted with mainstream success before he stopped releasing albums under the Dinosaur Jr. name after 1997's 'Hand It Over.' Ten years later, the original lineup got back together and released 'Beyond.' The album had all the Dinosaur Jr. elements the fans have always loved, but it definitely benefited from the years of experience Mascis and Barlow each accrued on his own. And it felt good to have original drummer Murph back behind the kit.

 
devo

'Something for Everybody' (2010)

Devo
 
 

Beefore guitarist Bob Casale passed away in 2014, Devo got back together and recorded 'Something for Everybody.' The album starts off in high gear with the lead song 'So Fresh.' It's all guitars and four-on-the-floor drums that bring to mind 'Freedom of Choice.' From then on, it's all love as the band shows these young EDM kids how electronic is done properly.

 
JohnnyCashAmericanRecordings

'American Recordings' (1994)

Johnny Cash
 
 

Most of the other artists on our list of the best comeback albums had a big gap, usually at least 10 years, between albums, where Johnny Cash had released two other records shortly before 'American Recordings' came out. But few, if any, artists have ever so thoroughly and successfully reinvented themselves. After being dropped from Columbia Records and (surprisingly) finding little major-label interest, Cash hooked up with producer Rick Rubin, who recorded Cash with his acoustic guitar playing some interesting covers. The album proved the Man in Black still had a lot to say. His hard living and passion for music came through crystal clear. After this album, Cash enjoyed a wide resurgence in popularity that was long overdue.

 
davidbowie

'The Next Day' (2013)

David Bowie
 
 

Everyone thought David Bowie had retired sometime after 2003's 'Reality.' That wasn't the case. He worked in secret for two years writing and recording what would become 'The Next Day.' It's a grand album full of basic songs with dense arrangements that work beautifully with Bowie's iconic voice. The video for single 'The Stars (Are Out Tonight)' is more short film than music video. Typical Bowie.

 

Next: Best Final Albums

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