While the novelty of reunions has passed—no breakup, no matter how bitter, seems insurmountable with a big payday—numerous bands have regrouped despite considerably lower stakes. The template goes like this: Hard-working group tours itself into oblivion, breaks up, then its members realize over the years they miss playing together. They reunite with a dedication to keeping the band a low priority: perform occasionally, record if they feel inspired, but keep the focus on their outside lives.
Such is the case with Michigan post-hardcore outfit Small Brown Bike, which broke up in 2004 after eight years, three albums, and a lot of touring. During its lifetime, Small Brown Bike was a respected member of the indie-punk underground, playing melodic post-hardcore that took the Dischord sound of the late ’80s and ’90s and streamlined it. Less angular and more straightforward, the band’s sound relied on guitars that frequently brooded but mostly surged with punk intensity. It’s a sound favored by a devoted niche audience, but with limited prospects for making a decent living.
Now unburdened of the pressure to do that, Small Brown Bike has found new life as an enjoyable hobby, and Fell & Found ranks among its best albums. A burning desire to prove something to the world can motivate some of the best albums by young bands, but Fell & Found shows they can also happen when a group has long passed that point. Not a step has been lost in the eight years since The River Bed, with all of the elements that made Small Brown Bike one of the best purveyors of this sound still very much in place. Opener “Onward & Overboard” perfectly captures the signature Small Brown Bike sound, and combines with “Rescue Mission” and “Fell & Found (The Walk)” to make a forceful one-two-three punch. Album highlight “You Always Knew Me” finds guitarists Mike Reed and Travis Dopp playing off each other fantastically.
Small Brown Bike’s upcoming schedule lists only a handful of shows (a couple festivals, a couple Midwestern dates) through October, the hallmark of a band whose importance now ranks below its members’ lives. Fell & Found shows the approach serves Small Brown Bike well. As Reed sings in “Rescue Mission,” “Here we are three years later / watching with our hearts / thankful and inspired.”