Old Music Monthly #001 (July 1993)
In the summer of 1994, I had just graduated high school. I had just gotten by first car, a dark red 1984 Toyota Corolla Wagon (I later drove it into the side of a mountain with almost no damage to it). I had a job, as menial as it was. I had a nominal amount of new found freedom, I often looked for any excuse to get away from home. Not that anyone was keeping me there exactly, but you know how parents sometimes don’t understand that need to get out and away.
I was in the local Wegmans, looking at the magazine section. It was so huge, in my mind I’m trying to remember just how many feet long it was, but I just can’t get there. It was seemingly acres and acres of glossy paper, with any number of people (sometimes regular folks, sometimes celebrities) staring out at you alluringly… begging you for your $2.95.
Magazines were still very much a thing in 1994.
They had a great stock of music magazines. All the usual suspects such as Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, and Spin. They had Metal Edge, Circus, Metal Maniacs, and Rip</i> who were struggling to transition from hair metal to grunge, albeit too late. To Rip’s credit they did go all in on Industrial a few times when that hit the mainstream. Wegmans even had Relix, but that was very much not my jam. I think they only music magazine they didn’t have was Ray Gun, because we just weren’t hip enough for that one yet.
Among these offerings, sat the September CMJ New Music Monthly (Remember, cover dates were months ahead of the actual calendar month to appear current longer for customers) with its different, slimmer size. The cover had Velocity Girl on it, and also a little tiny picture of Eddie Vedder in the bottom corner, for some reason. Well, the reason was probably to sell magazines. CMJ was also in a bag with a yellow banner across the top declaring a FREE CD INSIDE!
CDs were also still very much a thing in 1994.
So, I took a chance on it (more on that in a future installment), and became a fan of the magazine. It was more pricey than other magazines at $4.99 ($9.21 in 2021 money), but it did come with a FULL CD every month featuring 15 to 24 tracks, and getting as close 74 (and later 80) minutes as they could. I wound up getting a subscription for the princely sum of $34.95 a year, which is $64.52 in 2021 simoleons. Still, it was a value for the amount of new music (and sometimes old music) it introduced me to.
CMJ began as College Media Journal in 1978 as a bi weekly trade magazine sent to college radio programmers, and eventually with a CD called Certain Damage!. In 1993, a separate, monthly newsstand edition was introduced with a CD included… which was also called Certain Damage (but with no exclamation point), and renumbered as Volume One. I can’t be too mad about that, though. DC and Marvel put out roughly 600 “Limited Editions” from 1989 to 1995, so, you know, monkey see monkey do.
There was a lot of mismanagement. They started missing deadlines and not printing issues altogether, and I let my subscription lapse. The newsstand edition of the magazine ended June 20, 2009 with its final print edition, issue #156. There was a “digital edition” for some undetermined amount of time, but failed miserably it seems, as no one really talks about. I do remember going to the website to check it out, and it had a streaming playlist, but it was pretty short.
The CMJ organization also sponsored the New Music Marathon festival every autumn in New York City for 25 years, with a couple of smaller spin offs in Cleveland that didn’t’ last, ending for good in 2015. The CMJ brand was bought by UK company Amazing Radio, and attempted to revive the New Music Marathon festival in 2020 (rebranded as “The Music Marathon”), but a little thing called a global pandemic threw a wrench into that plan. They did announce plans to move it to digital, and the CMJ website does have a whole bunch of links to sets you can watch… except that they are all just music videos, no sets. The website has no real info on it, so I don’t even know if this was supposed to be 2020 or 2021.
When I moved 450 miles from my home, I gave away all of my CMJ Sampler discs. I had compilation cassettes, saving the ones I liked, and in the early days of CD burners compiled them onto CDs. Surely, those CDs would last forever, right? Alas, no. I did find some of the copies that had survived, and discovered stuff I completely forgot. I then had the magnificent idea to start purchasing the CDs again, so as to maybe find stuff I forgot about, or was too much of a snob to enjoy when I heard it the first time.
No one really wanted these anymore, right? I mean, I should be able to pick up any I find for a song (no pun intended), it’s just clutter in a dead hoarder’s home by now, right? RIGHT?!
That person has been trying to sell that shirt forever.
I lucked into a couple lots, and I have a good run of most of the retail series, I’m still missing about 30 of them. But I’m sure as shit not paying $100-$200 per disc. That is cuckoo bananas. But, perhaps even more cuckoo bananas, is this project of going through all of the samplers and writing them up. I’ll post +/- after the track to determine if it is worth it, to kind of come up with a percentage. There’s some you won’t agree with, but if I give it a negative, that just means it’s not for me. It’s not a personal assault on your tastes (or is it?!).
So, without further ado, here is CMJ New Music Monthly (Certain Damage) Volume #1, July 1993:
Old Music Monthly #001: July 1993
Matthew Sweet – The Ugly Truth
I first heard Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend”, with its anime video. He totally shreds in that song. No other song I’ve heard from him lives up to that promise of guitar skill. I don’t expect him to be Yngwie J. Malmsteen or anything, but it seems that most of his output leans super far into his pop sensibilities, which I suppose is fine if you’re into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I’m not. This track is lousy with violin. (-)
Rocket From The Crypt – Hippy Dippy Do
There’s been lots of talk around this group lately on The Avocado, but I had never heard them before. This is a fine rock song, I like the rough edge of this guy’s voice. Is this typical of their sound? (+)
Front 242 – Religion
It’s always funny to me that Front 242 ended up on Epic, even if it was only for two albums (but in the same year: 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off). In the book for the retrospective Blackbox (Wax Trax! Records: The First Thirteen Years), someone is recounting the first label showcase for Front 242, and one of the major label execs says, “I’m not hearing any SONGS here…” Anyway, I got this from Columbia House, probably around 1995 on clearance if I’m guessing. Scary EBM, ahead of the curve for its time, I think. (+)
Idaho – Skycrape
This is some real sad bastard music. I see the label “slowcore” is attached to them, which… I hate how “core” is added to anything. Shouldn’t “core” music be heavy in some sense since it comes from hardcore? Anyway, at the 2:30 mark, there’s some cool guitar. It came in just in time before I lost interest in it. This band started in 1992 and is still going, but it looks like it was taken over by singer Jeff Martin after the co-founder John K. Berry died in his sleep in 2016. I don’t hate it, though I thought I would. (+)
Paul Westerberg – World Class Fad
I know Paul Westerberg from the Singles Soundtrack. I had no frame of reference for The Replacements, they just didn’t reach my dusty little corner of the world. This is a pop rock song, but it has plenty of great guitar in it. That’s the great thing about popular accessible music from the 90s, unless it’s straight urban or adult contemporary, it’s got a decent guitar track on it. (+)
The Verve – Slide Away
I saw The Verve on the second stage at Lollapalooza 94 (my second concert). I really liked them, not really brit-pop, but kind of psychedelic rock (within reason). I’ve still never bought an album, or even listened to one in full, their music wasn’t so easy to come by until “Bittersweet Symphony”, at least where I lived. (+)
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Saturday Night
You’ve heard this in the Mike Myers smash hit* film So I Married an Axe Murderer. The band was in operation from 1987-1995, then 2000-05, then the original lineup from 2008 to the present. Everything released since 1998 though is compilations, live sets, or re-recordings. (+)
*not actually a smash hit.
Candlebox – You
This band gets a lot of crap, and maybe deservedly slow. Too young for first wave grunge, so they were considered inauthentic, but I don’t think it’s on purpose. They were a few years behind the other Seattle bands in school, and just trying to be like their “big brothers”. But the question is, were they any good? That’s harder to parse. In short, not really. I had seen the video for “You” quite by accident, really late night on MTV (Their next video, “Far Behind” would break them big during the daylight hours). I went and saw them in January 1995 (my third concert), and they were terrible. I really went to see opener, Flaming Lips, but I didn’t hate Candlebox… until I saw them. They were inexperienced, but they were clearly buying into their own hype, and the singer thought he was Jim Morrison. All the same, I do think this is a good song, and in a vacuum, it’s pretty listenable. (+)
Catherine Wheel – Crank
Also known as Iron-Maiden-Singer-Bruce-Dickinson’s-Cousin’s-Band. Rob Dickinson and friends show up a few times throughout the CMJ discography. I bought a cassette from a cutout bin of 1993’s Chrome, where this came from, but I don’t think I ever listened to it before I lost it. This isn’t bad, kind of shoegaze. Catherine Wheel broke up in 2000, and Little Dickinson hasn’t put out any recorded output since 2010. Dickinson founded Singer Vehicle Design in 2009, which is an American company that customizes Porche 911s. (+)
Eve’s Plum – Blue
Here’s a ton of pop culture trivia coming your way. This NYC band is named after the actress who played the original Jan Brady. They only existed from 1991-1998, and ended when singer Colleen Fitzpatrick rebranded herself as a pop singer named Vitamin C, who had two sizeable hits with “Graduation (Friends Forever)” and “Smile” in 1999. In 2000, Mattel released a Vitamin C Barbie doll. She also was a character in EA Sports Triple Play, and has her own shade of Tommy Hilfiger lipstick (?!). Fitzpatrick became the vice president of Music for Nickelodeon in 2012. Oh, you want more? She was also an Ivory Snow baby, appeared in John Water’s Hairspray, and then returned to acting after the breakup of Eve’s Plum, including being a fairly main character in Dracula 2000, of which I have no memory despite seeing it at least 4 times.
Anyway, this is a really great rock song, and Fitzpatrick really sings with some grit. I hadn’t heard this one before now, but I was a regular subscriber by the time they had a track on CMJ from their second, and final, album. (+)
Quicksand – Dine Alone
I have this friend that I’ve been friends with since sixth or seventh grade. In the summer of 1993, we had no internet, and we weren’t going to be getting into CMJ for about another year. He had a job at a grocery store, when most of us weren’t working or still just doing odd jobs. At the store, he would buy all sorts of music magazines, and since he had a sizeable disposable income, he bought lots and lots of tapes based on little blurbs buried in the back pages of those magazines. As a results, he was accidentally in the know way ahead of everyone else. Quicksand was one of those times. You probably already know, but the NYC post-hardcore band is really great… no matter how often guitarist Tom Capone attempts to derail the band. (+)
Engines of Aggression – Illusion Is Real
Engines of Aggression was also one of those finds based on a 50 word blub in the back of Hit Parader. They are an industrial metal act from Los Angeles, who flamed out sometime in 1994 or 95. The band came back with the same singer, but an otherwise new lineup and self-released an EP in 2001, but I think they’ve been quiet since. Their original guitarist now scores video games, which I’m sure is a much more lucrative gig. (+)
(The video version is much more techno than the original recorded version. I think the original album version is much better. How many 90’s cliches can you spot?)
Sheep On Drugs – 15 Minutes Of Fame
This is a group whose name I have seen in print a lot, mostly because of their past affiliation with Martin Atkins’ Invisible Records. This song is like the pouty delivery of Marc Almond on “Sex Dwarf”, with the snotty attitude (so snotty it sunk their career) of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, overtop of a Lords of Acid track. (+)
The Pharcyde – Otha Fish
This is the first time I’m hearing these guys, but I remember the ads for their second album were everywhere. This is like a lot of the hip hop from the era, but it doesn’t directly sample P-Funk, but it definitely has that bass heavy style. These guys have great cadence and flow. (+)
Blind Melon – No Rain
First* time out, and CMJ gets this huge hit on its hands! It’s a shame what happened to Shannon Hoon, but I never want to hear this song again. I’m still going to mark it as a keeper, though, because I recognize it’s a good song, and I liked it back then, and I would’ve liked it if this was my first exposure to it.
*not including all those radio only Certain Damage compilations, of course. (+)
The Point – Hey Jane
This one wasn’t on Spotify, but it was uploaded to YouTube four times. They have 941, 1200, 335, and 18 views. I’m guessing this duo didn’t make it. I’m looking at their picture on this video, and I just want to slap them. They only did one album, Fingernoid Slink, which is a completely terrible title… is it supposed to sound vaguely dirty? The guitars on this track are credited to famed Beatles producer George Martin, not for recording them, but for playing them… in fact his account is responsible for one of the uploads (“Chris Little, Sybil and me on guitar. Best bits on the fade out!!! Where are they now?” Martin says.) All of my complaining about this, the song is actually, mostly, pretty good. Mostly. But this guy’s hat, LOOK AT HIS FUCKING HAT. (+)
Boss Hog – Ruby
Boss Hog is another band I’ve seen in print a whole lot, but had never, ever heard. It’s sort of a dirty blues rock thing, and I think it’s pretty cool, despite the fact that John Spencer is involved, and I generally don’t like his output no matter how many split singles with Melvins he does. (+)
Tsunami – 460
This is pretty rad. Abrasive indie rock (not slowcore!) with two lady lead vocalists. I don’t know about any of these people, but apparently Jenny Toomey is a big deal, being in five bands in three years before Tsunami, and her and co-lead vocalist Kristin Thompson co-founded the Secret Machines label in the apartment, and went on to found The Future of Music Coalition in 2000, which is a think tank dedicated to music and law, including corporate consolidation of radio and intellectual property laws. Anyway, the band only lasted until 1998, but thanks to magic of the internet, many of their recordings are available. (+)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Listenable Tracks: 94%. This seems like I’m afraid to dislike some things, but really this outing is just above average with 17 out of the 18 being listenable. Actually, I’m sure some people will love the Matthew Sweet song, but it’s just not for me.
Canadians: 0%… but 28% English (and 6% Belgian)! I should probably explain this. During the heyday of 95-97, the compilations had a lot of indie Canadian acts on them. So, we’ll see going forward how that increases.
Well, that’s it for now, thanks for checking out this new feature!