No Magazine again (we’ll get there in a little over a year, I think), but I did catch that the months were off. They actually skipped September, but I missed it. So, with December, we’re back on track. But because it took me a week longer than I anticipated, this gem popped up in my email from Discogs:
Old Music Monthly #005: December 1993
Kate Bush – Rubberband Girl
Lots of ink has been spilled over Kate Bush. I know who she is, but I really couldn’t pick her out of a lineup. This track comes from her 1993 album The Red Shoes (certified platinum in the UK), and would be her last studio album until 2005. This song just sounds like an off-kilter 80’s pop song, and I just don’t care for it.
That being said, her 2011 album Director’s Cut has her reworking songs from The Red Shoes and 1989’s The Sensual World, including this one. That version is much improved. (-)
Counting Crows – Mr. Jones
How do I even do this? How do I fairly assess a band that is fronted by a man who looks like a muppet cosplaying as a Southern lawyer, yet still managed to screw his way through the entire cast of Friends? Well, I’m not going to be fair. Adam Duritz has a net worth of $60 million, so he’ll be just fine.
“Mr. Jones” was released by Geffen on December 1, 1993, so this is actually out a few months early. Since the post date is November, this could’ve been out as early as September. The song went to #2 in the US, #1 in Canada, and … #28 in the UK. This disc probably didn’t contribute to the band’s success all that much, because the circulation wasn’t as wide yet, but it certainly didn’t hurt. At any rate, the band would never need CMJ again.
Oh, the song? You’ve heard it a million times. It doesn’t work for me, it didn’t work for me when it was new. Does it work for you? (-)
Cowboy Junkies – Floorboard Blues
Who had Cowboy Junkies as the first Canadian artist in the pool? Anyone? Yeah, me neither. This Toronto band is still going after starting in 1986, they’ve also had the same original lineup for 35 years. The list of bands that have had the same lineup for that long, or longer, is incredibly small. U2 and ZZ Top… although I guess ZZ Top no longer counts.
As much as I’d like to sit here and talk about ZZ Top, they aren’t on this disc.
“Floorboard Blues” closes out the band’s final album of new material for RCA records. I can’t even tell you what number album it is, because their first album is all covers but one song, and cover albums aren’t typically counted. Then, they released their second album which is 50% cover songs. So, let’s just say 1993’s Pale Sun, Crescent Moon is their fifth release and call it square. The thing I like about this song is its simplicity. It’s basic (until the harmonica shows up), and it really showcases Margo Timmins’ smoky vocals. (+)
Catherine Wheel – Show Me Mary
Here we have our next two-timers, UK’s Catherine Wheel. I wrote them up here, if you want to read up on them.
This comes from the group’s third album, Chrome. I bought this on cassette out of a discount bin. I don’t know whatever happened to it, I listened to it exactly once before it disappeared into the void of my 1990 Toyota Tercel. It probably got thrown out with a bunch of Burger King cups or something. This is an up-tempo number, as far as shoegaze goes. It’s a good listen. (+)
De La Soul – Lovely How I Let My Mind Float
This Amityville, NY trio have been running since 1988 and are considered pioneers of alternative / progressive hip-hop. They are also well known for going against the style of gangsta rap at the time, and drew criticism from Ice Cube and Tupac. They also won a Grammy for their collaboration with Gorillaz on “Feel Good, Inc.”
This song samples Prince’s “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”, Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”, and Biz Markie’s “The Def Fresh Crew”, among others. It also features Biz and was a b-side to “Ego Trippin’ (Part Two)”. De La Soul is still active, but they haven’t released anything since 2016’s and the Anonymous Nobody…. The group has had a highly publicized battle for control of their catalog for a few years now. It was under the control of Warner Bros. who would not clear the samples for streaming, then purchased by Tommy Boy, then Reservoir Media. As of August 2021, they apparently gained ownership of their music, but nothing has made it to streaming yet. (+)
Majesty Crush – Grow
Like many groups in this series, Detroit’s Majesty Crush only lasted a few years, from 1990-1995. The four piece, like the majority of the bands on these discs, is labeled as “shoegaze” but they kind of liked to describe themselves as post-punk. No one ever likes the labels that are placed upon them, but they are more shoegaze than what we’d think of today as post-punk. Anyway, this has a little more “oomph” than what normally graces these samplers.
The band only had one album, Love 15, but had a series of singles and EPs. A collection was released in 2007 with some rarities. Singer David Stroughter moved to Los Angeles and continued to pursue music. Stroughter was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and was killed in an altercation with the police in 2017. (+)
Rise Robots Rise – Strange Brew
“Ready For the 90’s Steely Dan?”; this is the headline trotted out by Los Angeles Times on a 1992 piece on the group. The quickest way to get me to hate something is to equate it with Steely Dan. Anyway, Rise Robots Rise is comprised of two NYU grads, Joe Mendelson and Ben Nitze. The group cites influences such as Sly & the Family Stone, George Clinton, James Brown, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, Public Enemy, Soul II Soul and early Genesis. You will find none of that here.
This is actually a b-side of the single for The Bottle / Strange Brew, “The Bottle” being on Spawn (not affiliated with Todd McFarlane’s cash cow in any way). Here’s the good news: it doesn’t sound a thing like Steely Dan. Here’s the bad news: it still sucks. Everything I’ve read about these guys, it says they layer samples and samples and samples “like Public Enemy”. I’ve heard Public Enemy, and you are no Public Enemy, sirs. Anyway, they start with samples and add instrumentation to it. Frankly, this comes out like a template for all that lame, easy-going, laid back, white boy rap with acoustic guitars. The difference is it has the foil of female vocals that hip hop had at the time. I then went and listened to “The Bottle”, thinking this was a fluke, but it’s more of the same.
The duo dissolved after 1994’s Circular File, Nitze has gone on with some production work but Mendelson appears to have left music altogether. But, their minor hit from 1992, “If I Only Knew”, was covered by Tom Jones in 1994, so the royalties from that probably bought them an Egg McMuffin each. Maybe a hashbrown, but they’d have to share it. (-)
Dig – Believe
This was MTV’s Buzz Bin when that was a thing. I never saw the video, I never heard the song. I did hear “I’ll Stay High” from the same album, the self-titled debut. At the time, I thought I was above the song.
The band formed in Los Angeles, singer/guitarist Scott Hackwith also had/has a career engineering and producing. Up to this point, he had produced Ramones’ Acid Eaters, and later did albums for Spiritualized, Circle Jerks, and Agent Orange. In this climate, there was a lot of hostility toward newer bands from the press and other bands as well. It was hard to tell when a band was a real band, and not just something created to capitalize on the Seattle boom. Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd has some bad things to say about Dig (which I couldn’t find), they were probably the most recent band he saw in print or on TV so they were fresh in his mind. “I think it’s great because we are being talked about, you know,” Hackwith said. “If Soundgarden is so bored that they have to sit there and talk about Dig, I think that’s fucking great.”
I mean, he’s got a point.
The song is good, solid rock music. It’s not as good as other songs from the album, such as “Unlucky Friend”, “I’ll Stay High”, and “Fuck You”. You know, obviously, the last one wouldn’t make it as a single in the music video era.
This isn’t the last we’ve seen of Dig. (+)
Ronny Jordan – The Jackal
London’s Ronny Jordan was a big mover in the acid jazz movement, when he was blending hip hop beats with jazz and funk elements. He first gained prominence by contributing to Guru’s (Gang Starr) first solo album and also from his cover of Miles Davis’ “So What”. This track features poet Dana Bryant, who had worked with PM Dawn, Zap Mama (who my freshman math teacher, who looked suspiciously like Gimli, had a poster of in his classroom for some reason), and Arrested Development.
Truthfully, Jordan doesn’t really do a lot here until almost five minutes in, where he gets to show off his guitar skill. But, it’s a little too much “smooth”, and not enough “Acid”. It’s what you expect to hear in an upscale gift shop with severely over-priced trinkets you would buy for someone else to show you were thinking of them, but you would never want to receive yourself. For what it’s worth, I did listen to his cover of “So What”, and it is much more interesting. Unfortunately, it’s not on this disc.
Jordan died in 2014 at the age of 51, no cause of death was ever revealed. (-)
Green Apple Quick Step – Feel My Way
Now here, we have another late comer to the alternative rock scene, but they don’t have nearly the negative stigma that Dig had. But, here’s the thing, they were from Seattle and share management with Pearl Jam. Setting that aside for a moment, the song isn’t terrible. The interplay with the male and female vocals is nice, but the female vocals are highly reminiscent of Seattle’s own Hammerbox. I’m sure that isn’t on purpose, but that’s what comes to mind to me. Interestingly, at the time of this writing, the YouTube video had only 125 views.
After 1993’s Wonderful Virus, they recorded their follow up with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard co-producing. Reloaded came out on 1995, and as you can already guess, the label (a Warner subsidiary) lost interest and didn’t really push it. The band split in 1998, and (male) singer Tyler Willman, very briefly fronted Devilhead (with members of Malfunkshun and Hater… which is a band founded by Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd), and sang for other Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready’s $10,000 Gold Chain. Drummer Geoff Reading has been in a ton of other bands, including Duff McKagan’s Loaded and The Disciples with Son of Sam’s Todd Youth.
As with all things, the band reunited in 2009. (+)
Hollyfaith – Delicacies
The reoccurring theme in most of these groups, and will continue through this entire series, is artists getting destroyed by the major label machine. Singer/guitarist Rob Aldridge is quoted as saying, “Getting signed ruined our career.”
This Atlanta band made their career on the Southern touring circuit and independently released Chameleon in 1991. After getting scooped up by Epic, they released Purrrr in 1993. It sank like a fucking brick. This song… look, maybe they have other songs that are good, but this just plays out like a hair metal band trying to play that kooky grunge music all the kids want to hear… like when Trixter covered “Terrible Lie”. When I used to write up my Release Radar playlists at another site, I liked to point out how many monthly listeners an artist had on Spotify, and Hollyfaith has 19. On YouTube, this track has 678 views over nine years.
But don’t fret, laddie. Aldridge is still making music. In fact his most recent project put out an album in 2012 and hit band features members of Drive-By Truckers. So you, know, I give him credit for never giving up. Also, he at one time owned a barbecue joint, Rockin’ Rob’s, which has since closed. (-)
Sarah McLachlan – Hold On
Lookee here, the Canadians are calling reinforcements! Everyone knows McLachlan from those incredibly depressing ASCPA commercials, did you know she was also a singer? She also founded Lilith Fair which was sort of a woman focused Lollapalooza. (L7 famously hired a plane to fly overhead of one of the concerts with a banner reading, “Tired? Bored? Try L7!”). McLachlan is known for her philanthropic works as well, and “Hold On” not only came from her album “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy”, it was included in the No Alternative compilation which was a benefit for AIDS relief. The song actually details the relationship of a marriage where the husband contracts AIDS and the wife cares for him up to the end. It’s beautiful, it’s bleak.
I had gotten No Alternative from our good friends at Columbia House, which means probably none of the money went to charity. The album also features tracks by Nirvana, Breeders, Beastie Boys, Matthew Sweet, and a Soundgarden song written by… Ben Shepherd. (+)
The Whooliganz – Put Your Handz Up
Every so often, working on these things brings a gift. The Whooliganz were a hip hop duo from Beverly Hills, consisting of Mudfoot and Mad Skillz, whom you might know as Scott Fucking Caan. Caan and Mudfoot met as teens, and the duo began performing as early as 1991. They got their big break when Caan was a roadie for Cypress Hill and House of Pain, when these connections led to Whooliganz being signed to Tommy Boy.
“Put Your Handz Up” was produced by DJ Lethal (House of Pain, Limp Bizkit) released as a single, but failed to make an impact. A second single was planned, but then dropped, and their debut album was shelved. In 1995, a UK only single was released by EMI Records (appropriately titled “Whooliganz”) by the duo had already split by then. The beat on “Handz” is ok, but it’s like Kris Kross but white and not really any fun. The video is a neat time capsule of early 90’s hip-hop… but with a serious lack of any person of color.
Mad Skillz went onto be Scott Caan, and Mudfoot became The Alchemist. The Alchemist has worked with huge number of hip-hop artists, he worked on the score to Grand Theft Auto V, and is currently Eminem’s DJ. (-)
Ass Ponys – Earth To Grandma
Ass Ponys is either the worst name I’ve ever heard, or it’s so brilliant as to be above me. This Cincinnati band blends Americana and alt-country with indie rock, to make… indie-country? No, not really. It’s much more indie with an American heartland slant. It’s very likeable, alternating twangy licks with some psychedelia.
As always, Ass Ponys were grabbed up by A&M for 2 records before being dropped, then hobbled across the finish line with 2 indie releases before calling it quits for good in 2005, with the exception of two reunion shows in 2015. Singer/guitarist Chuck Cleaver started Wussy in 2001, which is still going today. (+)
Small Factory – So What About Love
Unfortunately, this is not a mash up of Ministry’s “So What” and Heart’s “What About Love”. Small Factory was an indie rock band from Providence, Rhode Island. They only ran from 1991-1995. The good news, they never signed to a major, so they didn’t get ground up in the machine like 97% of all other artists. Anyway, “So What About Love” was a stand alone single, and it’s kind of charming in its primitiveness, but I don’t like it. There isn’t really anything that makes me sit up and take notice.
They are all credited with their instrument plus vocals, so I don’t know who is really “the singer” in the band, but all members carried on in other bands. Seemingly none of them made a splash. However, guitarist Dave Auchenbach later engineered noise rock band Lightning Bolt. You don’t have to write that down, it won’t come up again. (-)
Zeni Geva – Disgraceland
Let’s have a warm round of applause for Tokyo, Japan’s Zeni Geva. The name very loosely translates as “Money Violence”, which is just awesome. This is a group making noise rock / hardcore / progressive / metal / math rock. This song is firmly in the noise rock category. The group is associated with labels Alternative Tentacles and Neurot Recordings, been engineered by Steve Albini, are connected to The Boredoms, and in the future will share a drummer with The Mars Volta (Blake Fleming), yet somehow I have never encountered them before now.
This comes from their Alternative Tentacles debut, Desire For Agony. The guitar sounds like a wailing possessed child. It’s pretty amazing. I love when countries other than the US and the UK explore heavy music, they have a unique perspective.
The band went from 1987-2003, and resumed activity in 2009, but their last studio album was from 2001. I will definitely be exploring them more outside of this feature. (+)
The McTells – Alice
Well, here’s a speed bump. This track isn’t on YouTube or Spotify, so there’s nothing for me to do here. I did listen to another song and it was kind of a low-fi pop. I might’ve liked it, but I’m not going to score this for obvious reasons. (0)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: 50%! Not bad at all, because they will get so much worse. As far as an overall percentage, the series stands at 70.7%.
Maple Leaf Invasion: It has begun! We’ve got 2 Canadian artists, totaling 11.7% of this disc, and 2.4% of all artists covered so far.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: There have been 82 different artists to this date. But now Eve’s Plum and Catherine Wheel are tied for most appearances, with 2 each.
Discogs Stats: 22 people have this disc, and 28 want it (I’m one of those). It last sold on December 27, 2018. Its lowest price was $6.61, and its highest was $9.00. Much better than the $30 from last time… but then some fool is trying to sell it for $500.