Break ups are hard. They’re even more traumatizing when they’re so sudden. It only leads one to keep asking, “What went wrong? Weren’t things going great? How did this happen?” Some revel in those moments, believing it builds character, while others — most, actually — just think the whole thing’s quite bitter and depressing.
With Christopher Owens’ announcement that he’s leaving Girls, despite the band’s recent (and incredibly young) success, we all sort of felt lightheaded with déjÃ vu. Haven’t we been here before? How many other countless acts have called it quits in the pinnacle of their success? How many have thrown up the stop sign when everyone else was speeding around at 88 mph? The short answer: Too many.
The longer, more intriguing answer? That awaits you.
At The Drive-In
Life and Death: 1993-2001
Founded in 1993 by Jim Ward and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, At The Drive-In spent the majority of the ’90s underground as an aggressive post-hardcore act. In a little over seven years, the El Paso collective managed to release three studio albums, one compilation album, five EPs, and six singles. Their final album, 2000’s Relationship of Command, proved to be a major breakthrough hit, cracking the Billboard 200, and spawning three equally successful singles. The following year, amidst a world tour and at the band’s commercial peak, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez announced that the band was going on indefinite hiatus. Not too long after, Rodriquez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala formed The Mars Volta, while Tony Hajjar, Paul Hinojos, and Ward created Sparta. -Michael Roffman
Swan Song: “One Armed Scissor”
Life and Death: 1976-1986
Spearheaded by guitarist Greg Ginn in 1976, Black Flag surfaced in Hermosa Beach, CA, twisting heads with its trademark furious hardcore punk. After spending four years touring with alternating vocalists, the likes of which included Keith Morris, the band enlisted Henry Rollins and released their highly influential debut LP, 1981’s Damaged. Over the next four years, Black Flag would go on to issue five more albums with Rollins, ending with 1985’s rather progressive In My Head. However, despite their creative drive and relentless touring, the band called it quits in 1986, citing inner conflicts and a revolving fanbase. As Rollins stated, “Why don’t we make a record that was like the last one so people won’t always be trying to catch up with what we’re doing?” -Michael Roffman
Swan Song: “Retired at 21”
Death From Above 1979
Life and Death: 2001-2006
Over the past decade, Death From Above 1979 has been described and defined by many critics and fans. Still, one half of the band bassist Jesse Keeler described their sound as best as anyone could:”…an elephant in your living room.” Hailing from Toronto, this Canadian duo of Keeler and Sebastien Grainger walked strong and carried a big stick, namely its three EPs and one studio full-length, 2004’s You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. In 2006, however, the stomping officially came to a halt when Keeler announced the band’s dissolution on DFA1979’s online forum: “I know its been forever since I wrote anything on here. I’m sure by now most of you assume the band isn’t happening anymore since there are no shows, no work on a new album, etc. well. I wanted to let you know that your assumptions are correct.” -Phillip Roffman
Swan Song: “Little Girl”
Life and Death: 1971-1980
What started out as Linda Ronstadt’s studio band in 1971 quickly became America’s biggest musical act by the mid-70s. , the Eagles were the first band to take light alt-country mainstream, releasing six studio albums between 1972-1979 behind the songwriting strengths and conceptual propensities of Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Hotel California, the band’s reflection on the perilous state of America and one of the best-selling records of all time, was released just three years before the band’s demise in 1979. In 1980, less than a year after releasing their third straight number one album, The Long Run (ironically enough), The Eagles disbanded after in-band tensions came to the point of near-physical violence. -William Alton
Swan Song: “Heartache Tonight”
Life and Death: 1992-1997
In 1992, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel united to form the Fugees. With direction from producer Ronald Bell, whose credits included Kool and the Gang, the New Jersey trio carved out their debut LP, Blunted on Reality, harnessing a unique sound that fused together soul, hip-hop, and reggae. Their label complicated things, however, pushing back its release date to February of 1994, despite it being finished in 1992. Yet, the LP spawned two popular singles — “Nappy Heads (Mona Lisa)” and “Vocab” — and garnered them enough praise that they’d follow it up with 1996’s groundbreaking The Score. Nabbing two Grammy Awards and topping the Billboard 200, The Score went on to be certified six times Platinum and named one of the finest hip-hop albums of all time by various critics. A year later, Hill, Jean, and Michel went their separate ways. -Michael Roffman
Swan Song: “Killing Me Softly”
Life and Death: 1992-2006
Born in Modesto, CA in 1992, Grandaddy were a quiet, little band who by the end of their 14 year run in 2006 made a big impression. Led by former skateboarder-turned-burnout-musical-visionary Jason Lytle, the band transformed their gentrified suburban angst into its own quirky, sci-fi-like indie pop sound, one dominated by visions of a dystopian society run amock by gross commercialization, intellectual laziness, and rank and file conformity. 2000’s The Sophtware Slump was so spot-on in its satirical critique of computer driven culture that it played more like an oddball prophesy than merely a record. Sadly, the band’s commercial success fell drastically short of its critical acclaim, and the band bowed out with a whimper, opting not to tour behind its final album, Just Like The Fambly Cat. -Ryan Bray
Swan Song: “Jeez Louise”
Life and Death: 1979-1988
Resurrected: Please, bring flowers to this grave.
In 1979, Bob Mould, Greg Norton, and Grant Hart started HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ in Minneapolis as an amphetamine-fueled hardcore band from hell, born on a mission to be the fastest, loudest band on Earth. But by the time the trio parted ways, they left behind the blueprint for what would eventually become alternative rock. Spurred on by the competition between two truly gifted songwriters in Mould and Hart, the band was a beautiful combination of opposites. Their music was tough but sincere, loud, and angsty while at the same time hook heavy and pop savvy. But while their musical chemistry was undeniable, booze, drugs, and pervasive infighting made for the band’s demise in 1988. They are survived by HÃ¼sker offshoots Sugar and Nova Mob, as well as Mould’s prolific body of solo work. -Ryan Bray
Swan Song: “Could You Be the One”
Life and Death: 2001-2011
Resurrected: There are still flowers on the grave.
Led by the incomparable James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem was instrumental in reviving dance-punk in the early aughts, beginning in 2002 with their ironically-titled first single “Losing My Edge”. Over the course of three highly-regarded albums, Murphy’s impeccable production, style, and satirical wit gave him the singular talent to make us dance and think all at once. While still a shock, the announcement that 2010’s This Is Happening and its subsequent tour would be the band’s last came well ahead of time, giving fans time to relish their final days. After ticket sales for the band’s farewell at Madison Square Garden were overwhelmed by scalpers, a series of career-spanning sets were added at NYC’s Terminal 5. That sold out MSG show survives in DVD form and as part of the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits, and Murphy continues on with his DFA Records and DJ career. -Ben Kaye
Swan Song: “Home”
Life and Death: 1991-2009
Resurrected: Keep your eye on this grave. Like George A. Romero wrote, “When there’s no room left in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” The underworld ain’t big enough for the Gallagher brothers.
From the moment their breakthrough album Definitely Maybe hit the states, even Americans were aware of the vitriol between the brothers Gallagher. However, Oasis’ demise in 2009 was still oh so shocking. With the countless punch-ups, negative back-and-forths in the press, and the younger Liam bowing out of MTV performances, it seemed Oasis would go on forever more, until either the elder Noel killed his younger brother, or vice versa. The end came thanks to L. Gallagher’s swinging around a guitar outside his dressing room. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Oasis was no more. It wasn’t the booze or drugs that drove the brothers apart in the end; it was the apparent disregard for one another. Time, of course, heals most wounds, and L. Gallagher spoke of a possible reunion just this past year: “[Noel’s] the one that keeps mentioning it. I want to put him out of his misery. But I think he needs to do his solo thing first and realize he’s not that good without his brother.” Oasis is survived by Beady Eye, featuring the final lineup of Oasis sans N. Gallagher. Noel Gallagher is flying birds. -Justin Gerber
Swan Song: “The Shock of the Lightning”
Life and Death: 1987-1989
Resurrected: Who knows? “All I know is that I don’t…”
Formed in 1987, this East Bay outfit released just one EP and one LP, with most of their catalog rising to fame thanks to inclusions on bootlegs and compilations. Yet on May 28, 1989, after having played some 185 shows and making huge strides in the mainstream, Operation Ivy called it quits. While the seminal outfit ended with a whisper, their ska-infused sound and socially conscious lyrics saw them influence latter acts like Sublime, Green Day, and Rancid (which guitarist Tim Armstrong was responsible for forming). Rancid’s “Journey to the End of the East Bay” so perfectly summed up the outfit’s short-yet-substantial existence: “Started in ’87, Ended in ’89, Got a garage or an amp, we’ll play anytime. It was just the four of us, Yeah man the core of us, Too much attention unavoidably destroyed us. Four kids on tour, 3,000 miles, in a four door car, not knowing what was going on. Not in a million years, never thought it’d turn out like this, Hell no, no premonition could have seen this!” -Chris Coplan
Swan Song: “Plea for Peace”
Life and Death: 1989-1999
Born in 1989 with the release of their debut 7-inch EP Slay Tracks, the five-piece indie outfit created an immediate underground buzz. After Slay Tracks, which included the hit track “Box Elder”, and a couple of EPs on Drag City, Pavement attracted the attention of Matador Records, which would release the band’s debut LP Slanted and Enchanted, as well as the band’s four subsequent albums. After a rocky 1999 tour beset by frontman Stephen Malkmus’s boredom and feelings of entrapment, Pavement succumbed to a vague death. No formal announcement was made, even within the band, causing some of the band members to learn of the news via the Internet. -William Alton
Swan Song: “Spit on a Stranger”
Life and Death: 1986-1993
For a band who were never even that friendly, the Pixies’ first seven-year run is pretty impressive. The Boston outfit’s work as pioneers of the alt-rock sound reflected just such turmoil, mixing everything from punk and surf-rock to psychedelia, held together by four distinct personalities whose sole shared trait was being as loud as possible. Still, there was only so much tension the band could handle, and frontman Frank Black eventually disbanded the group in early 1993, neglecting to tell the other members until weeks later (and by fax no less, which just seems extra insulting). -Chris Coplan
Swan Song: “U-Mass”
Life and Death: 2006-2010
Resurrected: It’ll be awhile (if ever) ’til Cosentino visits this grave.
Born in L.A. in 2005, the oft-called “Olsen Twins of Drone” Bethany Cosentino and Amanda Brown began their prolific run with the trippy, epic Moccasinging. Pocahaunted would go on to let loose dozens of releases in their too-brief five year life, peaking on the ethereal, entrancing one-two punch of Island Diamonds and Mirror Mics in 2008. Without warning, the seemingly endless stream of music dried up in 2009, leading to confirmation that Cosentino had left the band to form her eventual mega-hit band, Best Coast. Brown would attempt to revive the project with an all-star cast (including husband Britt Brown of Robedoor, and Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw) and a new, dubbier direction, but this too would fade in the band’s final dissolution in 2010. –Adam Kivel
Swan Song: “Palm”
Life and Death: 1977-1985
Originally founded in 1977, this London trio struck gold with its unique blend of post-punk, reggae, and later New Wave. The Police released five albums, all of which hit Platinum, and quickly became one of the most successful touring acts in the world. It was their fifth and final album, 1983’s Synchronicity, where the band truly hit its watermark. Garnering three Grammy Awards and four hit singles, Synchronicity would go on to be certified Platinum eight times. Due to internal conflicts, however, Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers parted ways two years later, amidst the recording of Synchronicity‘s long awaited follow-up and after what was then their most lucrative tour to date. -Michael Roffman
Swan Song: “King of Pain”
Rage Against the Machine
Life and Death: 1991-2000
L.A. comrades Rage Against the Machine spent the better part of the ’90s pumping pissed-off, politically-charged rap-metal into the headphones of Generation Y. Their records played like political pamphlets, championing leftist causes and introducing controversial figures like Che Guevara and Mumia Abu-Jamal to teens who felt unsatisfied with being Under the Table and Dreaming or circling The Downward Spiral. It’s all the more embarrassing, then, that the final image most people associate with RATM’s original run is bassist Tim Commerford perched high atop a stage prop at the 2000 MTV VMAs after losing the award for Best Rock Video to Limp Bizkit. A month and change later, frontman Zack de la Rocha announced he was taking his mic and going home. -Matt Melis
Swan Song: “Renegades of Funk”
Life and Death: 1975-1978
Resurrected: 1996, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2008
Founded by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, the Sex Pistols proper began to take form upon the enlistment of Malcolm McLaren as the band’s manager. Recruiting Glen Matlock on bass and John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, on vocals, the band christened themselves the Sex Pistols and began a seemingly ceaseless assault on Britain through countless controversies. Releasing only four singles, one of which, “God Save the Queen”, was considered the “most heavily censored record in British history” and one full-length record, 1977’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the Sex Pistols became the single most important band with regards to introducing punk to the UK. After a brief two and a half years, however, the Sex Pistols ended their reign of terror at Winterland in San Francisco, CA. On January 14 1978, as the band came on to play their encore, Rotten addressed the crowd. Warning that they would only get one encore, after performing the Stooges “No Fun”, Rotten asked, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and walked off stage. -Len Comaratta
Swan Song: “Anarchy in the U.K.”
Life and Death: 1994-2006
Resurrected: Swing by the grave in a couple of years.
Born as the union of members of Heavens to Betsy (Corin Tucker) and Excuse 17 (Carrie Brownstein), Sleater-Kinney made their name on the roaring, punky rock of their early albums, 1996’s Call the Doctor and 1997’s Dig Me Out. Their post-riot grrrl sound thrilled with the pair’s counterpoint vocals, dueling guitars, and often socially aware lyrics, backed by Janet Weiss’s impeccable, thundering percussion. After the stunningly mature (and critically acclaimed) The Woods in 2005, the trio announced an indefinite hiatus on their website; though never defined by the band, the cause of this break is often speculated as Tucker’s desire to focus on raising her new child. -Adam Kivel
Swan Song: “Entertain”