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Evaluating this year’s Coachella reunion acts

April 12th, 2012

Coachella begins its first of two weekends this Friday in the nice hot California desert. Headliners include Radiohead, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg, and The Black Keys, with everyone from Bon Iver, M83 and Justice, to Florence + The Machine, Arctic Monkeys and Feist also performing between April 13th and 15th, as well as April 20th and 22nd. The three-day festival has earned a reputation for scrounging up some big bucks to lure bands out of retirement, for better or worse.

This year is no exception. Five influential bands are set to make their grand-scale comebacks, which for many people is the whole point of attending. Both post-rock overlords Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Britpop survivors Pulp have previously hit the comeback trail, and proven it’s just like old times all over again. However, At The Drive-In, Refused and Mazzy Star are still testing the waters, trying to get that chemistry going.

Here’s a look at what you can expect if you’re heading down to the desert… or if you’re just waiting to watch YouTube clips after the weekend.

At The Drive-In

Original members? All of them. Well, both original members Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Jim Ward are back as well as the other three who last played in the band in 2000: Omar Rodríguez-López, Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar.

Cashgrab or a legitimate return? After the in-fighting, it appears to be more about making up than anything. The money doesn’t hurt, but they seem pretty true to making this work, be it just for some shows or in the long run.

Chances of reliving their heyday? Good. ATDI played a warm up show this week in Austin and based on some of the video shot, it looks like they’re in peak shape. But these guys were such an electrifying live act back in the late ’90s, it’ll be tough to recapture that type of energy to its fullest.

Any new material? No. The set list in Austin featured nothing but the songs all five of them played on.

Life after Coachella? Ward recently told the L.A. Weekly, “This isn’t the sort of thing where we’re taking advantage of the reunion status and going and doing as many festivals as we can. We’re doing this very slowly and we literally don’t know what’s going to happen.” So, it sounds like they don’t even know yet.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Original members? The founding three – Efrim Menuck, Mike Moya and Mauro Pezzente – are all actively involved.

Cashgrab or a legitimate return? There is no cashgrab with Godspeed.

Chances of reliving their heyday? Excellent. The collective has been performing shows for the last year or so, receiving rave reviews.

Any new material? Very possible. GY!BE are working on a new album, so what better time to test them out.

Life after Coachella? See above.

Mazzy Star

Original members? Both singer Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback, the driving force behind the band, are participating. So are long-time members Suki Ewers and Keith Mitchell.

Cashgrab or a legitimate return? A little from column A, a little from column B, I suspect.

Chances of reliving their heyday? Very good. Based on what we heard from their “Common Burn”/”Lay Myself Down” single and the undemanding nature of their performance, as long as Hope’s voice is still hauntingly dreamy, it should work out. The band played a few warm-up gigs this week in California, but no reports yet on how they went.

Any new material? A new album is schedule for the second half of 2012, so new material is expected.

Life after Coachella? New album, inevitable touring.

Pulp

Original members? Jarvis Cocker, plus everyone from Different Class to We Love Life, except for Russell Senior.

Cashgrab or a legitimate return? Tough to say, because Jarvis was doing well on his own. Most likely a bit of both.

Chances of reliving their heyday? Very good. Based on performances at Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading and on Jimmy Fallon, they’ll be as glorious as ever.

Any new material? Jarvis has admitted to writing new material but it might be a bit too early to debut any at this festival.

Life after Coachella? See above. However, no Canadian dates have been announced, so we’re waiting to hear if there is more touring scheduled for 2012.

Refused

Original members? Co-founders Dennis Lyxzén and David Sandström are involved, as well as Jon Brännström, Magnus Flagge and Kristofer Steen, who all played in the band at some point.

Cashgrab or a legitimate return? The most blatant cashgrab since the Pixies.

Chances of reliving their heyday? Good. Footage from a warm-up show showed they can still throw down a raucous set. Lyxzén will be 40 this year, but still seems to move well. Still, punk is a young man’s sport, and it always looks a bit silly when the wrinkles start to creep in.

Any new material? There won’t be during these reunion shows and the band has yet to say if they will record again.

Life after Coachella? Considering the anticipation for this reunion, probably, but nothing’s been confirmed.

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