By Benjamin Leatherman
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Few things sicken me as much as band-reunions-for-cash, whether it's the Sex Pistols' appropriately named Filthy Lucre tour a few years back or the constant barrage of '70s outfits like Black Sabbath hitting the stage again. I saw the Sabbath reunion its first year at Ozzfest, in 1997, and it was just sad. Eagles, anyone?
Just recently, though, I heard about a local reunion I can get excited about. This band's aim isn't simply to earn some bucks or get your attention; it's actually in it for the music. The Impossible Ones -- singer/guitarist Neil Impossible, bass man Gentleman Jon, and drummer Raubnoxious -- are back in the studio, and will soon hit some small stages around town. Here's the catch: It's unlikely you'll hear about the shows unless you're really committed. They won't be advertising the gigs; you'll just have to be in the know.
That sort of reunion I can respect.
The Impossible Ones first hit the punk scene here in April of '96, and were fast favorites with the sneers-and-beers set. Neil's snotty, high-pitched vocals and the rhythm section's barreling dynamic defined the Impossibles, but to my dismay (and the dismay of others), the band imploded in '99.
They've since reunited, not once, but now four times (once with a different drummer and an additional guitar player, when Raubnoxious left to play with hardcore stalwarts the Mob 40's). This time is different, though -- where most bands would be milking the attention that an old favorite's reappearance inevitably draws, these three are being coy about their intentions.
There are no shows scheduled, and the record they're in the studio working on won't be out for some time still, but that doesn't mean you won't be able to catch them out -- this week, even, they tell me -- playing an unannounced show at a local bar. For me, that's an incredibly refreshing change compared to other bands that spend more time promoting their shows than playing music.
For previous reunions, "People wanted us to play and paid us the right amount of money," Raubnoxious tells me, referring to the band's last appearance, opening for the Buzzcocks at the Marquee Theatre. Not so for this round. This time it's all for fun, a selfish endeavor that's simply for the love of the music and good company.
"We didn't start out to reunite," Neil says. "We just wanted to play again together, and it ended up being the Impossible Ones again."
Each band member already has serious commitments with established bands -- Neil plays with the New Romantics, Jon is in Johnny Blood and the Transfusions, and Raubnoxious now rocks with the Smoky Mountain Skullbusters. They've got shows booked with those bands, tours scheduled, releases to pimp, etc. The Impossible Ones is a break from those obligations. And a chance to make the album that they never realized in previous incarnations.
"We want to do a real fuckin' album," Raubnoxious says. "The CD that we put out [Anthology, in 1999] was a bunch of different studio sessions all put together. We wanted to go into one studio and finally put out just one album where it's the same recording. We're also older now, better musicians, so why not? It's fun; we love hanging out with each other."
On the new album, which is being released by May Cause Dizziness Records on CD and vinyl, and live (if you happen to catch an unannounced show), you'll see that the Impossible Ones have a new aesthetic this time around. Where previously they wore their influences on their sleeves -- "the best synopsis was three Teengenerates sticking their Stiff Little Fingers up their Toy Dolls asses,'" Jon tells me -- the latest manifestation of the Impossible Ones embraces a horror-inspired B-movie theme.
"I've been writing a bunch of songs lately that don't fit into my other band," Neil says. "Since I don't play a lot or do much, I watch my dumb B-movies all the time; it's all I do. That's what I've done forever anyway, but now it's in my writing. All my new songs I'm writing are based on B-movies, like a mix between Toy Dolls and The Cramps."
It's a far cry from the old late-'90s days when the Impossible Ones were playing at venues like Tempe Bowl, constantly hammered. "I was just asking a friend of mine the other day to tell me some stories, give me some memories," Jon says. "Do we remember half of the shows we did? No. The last month of our existence we played 12 shows. We were trying too hard, getting nothing out of it. And getting fucking pissed. But everybody needed an opening act."
I'm hoping that some of the younger musicians and bands around town are taking notes on the Impossible Ones' latest tactics. Ten years after the band's inception, they've discovered what made it special -- the camaraderie, the actual process of making the music, and the sense of accomplishment they're feeling now that the recording's almost complete.
By leaving fans in suspense about where and when the band can actually be seen onstage (they've had several offers to play organized shows already, all of which they've turned down), they've built a buzz that's going to make the surprise appearances all the more exciting for those who catch the show.