Old Music Monthly #007 [February 1994]

Old Music Monthly #007: February 1994

Sarah McLachlan – Possession

Well, this is easy. I just wrote about Sarah McLachlan, and even mentioned this song! Check it out here, if you haven’t already. I don’t have the magazine, but in the industry trade version (CMJ New Music Report), McLachlan got a brief write up in the Februrary 7, 1994 edition. I bought one of these on eBay for a future artist spotlight, and they are 99.9999999% ads, so they aren’t very useful unless you are a time travelling college radio programmer. (+)

Richard Thompson – I Can’t Wake Up to Save My Life

Londoner Richard Thompson was a co-founder of Fairport Convention in 1967, known for doing electrified versions of folk songs by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. He said, “Nuts to this”, and quit in 1971 and went solo.

This track comes from 1994’s Mirror Blue, and despite having average reviews, the album was included in Guitar World’s “Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994”. If that weren’t enough, “The Way That It Shows” was available as a downloadable track in Rock Band 2. Say what you will about Rock Band and Guitar Hero, they were keeping guitar music alive for awhile. As for this song, it kind of alternates between a middling song and doing some interesting bridges between parts. That being said, Thompson’s voice has a good weathered quality to it, and the guitar solo is pretty good (the outro solo, especially).

Thompson is still out there doing his thing, or he would be if Covid hadn’t canceled his touring plans. (+)

Meat Puppets – Backwater

I have a real love / hate relationship with Phoenix’s Meat Puppets. I think when they are good, they are pretty great, but a good portion of their stuff leaves me flat. But here’s the good news, Meat Puppets signed to London Records two years before they appeared on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York, so they got signed on their own talent. London just happened to benefit from them being on the show/album prior to releasing 1994’s Too High To Die.

“Backwater”, produced by Butthole Surfer Paul Leary, is a great song. Lots of layered guitars and vocal harmonies, more than likely, you’ve heard it.  In the US, it was #11 on the Modern Rock Charts, #31 on the Top 40, and #2 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks Chart… whatever the hell that means. I swear to Christ, Billboard just makes up new charts daily… “This is number 7 on the Purple Sponge of Berlin Chart!”

Meat Puppets broke up in 1996 (we’ll hear more from them before that happens), and singer / guitarist Curt Kirkwood started a new group that ended up releasing material as Meat Puppets for legal reasons from 1999 to 2002. Curt released Eyes Adrift with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic. Meanwhile, singer / bassist Cris Kirkwood attacked a security guard in a bank, got shot twice in the stomach, and then went to prison to two years… which isn’t as fun to listen to as the things his brother was doing during this time. The band did reunite in 2006, and after burning through a series of drummers, brought back founding drummer Derrick Bostrom, and added Curt’s son Elmo Kirkwood on rhythm guitar. (+)

Prong – Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck

In 1986, singer / guitarist Tommy Victor was the sound man at CBGB’s. After getting together with bassist Mike Kirkland, who was the doorman at CBGB’s, they recruited drummer Ted Parsons (Swans, Killing Joke, Godflesh) and formed Prong. Prong started as crossover thrash, but by the time we get to 1994’s Cleansing, we’re at groove metal and industrial metal and alternative metal. Lots of adjectives attaching themselves to “metal”.

“Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” fucking slays, and it comes from their high water mark album on Epic Records. Now, of course getting ground up by the major label scene is pretty cliché at this point, but I don’t think that applies to Prong. Were Prong ever going to be Metallica? Were they ever going to be Pantera? No, not likely.

Epic released 1996’s Rude Awakening, and shortly after Prong ended. Victor went on to play Danzig off and on, before reforming Prong in 2002. I can’t list every person involved with Prong, but they have ties to (It’s like tracking ex-partners when you discover you have an STD) Ministry, Rob Zombie’s solo band, Static X, Fear Factory, and Victor worked with Christian industrial artist Klayton on Argyle Park. Prong is still active, but hasn’t released anything since 2017. (+)

The Clash – Radio Clash

I go back and forth on The Clash. They have some stuff that I think is just amazing, and some where I think, “Eh, do we have to?” One thing I don’t have to do, is tell you about The Clash.

Sony repackaged Black Market Clash as Super Black Market Clash… you know, just like Mario Bros., expanding the original 1980 9 song EP into a 21 tracks. “Radio Clash” is definitely part of their sound, but I really think that “Jail Guitar Doors” or “Pressure Drop” would’ve been a better introduction for people who bought this CD and had never heard The Clash (I didn’t have this one, and I did hear The Clash as a kid, surprisingly, as punk didn’t really exist in my spheres of influence). (+)

Me’Shell NdegéOcello – If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)

I’m going to be completely honest: if I had this sampler when it came out, I would not have been about this track. But today? It’s fucking rad as hell. I don’t love everything she does, but this has got just the sickest bass, and it has that jazz influenced hip hop that was all the rage in the mid-90s, like US3 (“Cantaloop”) and Digable Planets (“Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”). Not only are her lyrics unapologetic, but with the title of Plantation Lullabies… that’s pretty damn confrontational.

The album came out on Madonna’s Warner Bros. imprint Maverick Records (labelmates with Candlebox and Deftones!), and NdegéOcello stated at the time that the label would not push the record because they were trying to punish her for her outspokenness. It seems counterintuitive for a label to shoot themselves in the foot that way, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Although, she did stay with them until 2005.

She’s still out there, doing what she does best. Before her solo career, she unsuccessfully auditioned to replace Muzz Skilligs in Living Colour. No disrespect to Doug Wimbish, but can you imagine NdegéOcello in Living Colour?! (+)

Jeff Buckley – Eternal Life

Let’s do this backwards. Jeff Buckley drowned in the Wolf River Harbor, fully clothed, on May 29, 1997. I remember hearing about him dying, but I had absolutely no clue who he was, but I had seen his record cover in record stores a thousand times, both new and used. 1994’s Grace was the only official studio album he recorded. However, this one comes of the EP Live At Sin-é, which came out 9 months before Grace.

I’ve never heard Buckley before, knowingly at least. I can understand why people felt such a loss at his death. His guitar playing is otherworldly, not in the way that his playing sounds alien, but in the sense that when you hear him play, he means it.

The EP originally had four songs, but naturally, when a musician dies the label raids the vaults. The Legacy Edition is expanded to two full CDs and a DVD. (+)

The Veldt – Soul In A Jar

This North Carolina band has the distinction of being ground up and spit out by not one, but two major labels. The Veldt started as early as 1986, was signed by Capital Records, who shelved an entire album (produced by Cocteau Twins Robin Guthries) and dropped the band with nothing to show for it. “Other black bands were getting noticed, and every record company wanted their Living Colour,” Daniel Chavis said in 2016. “We didn’t fit into that mode. When it’s Kurt Cobain, it’s ‘He knows what he wants’, but we’re ‘difficult to work with’.”

The band then went to Mammoth, and then to Mercury, who released 1993’s Afrodisiac. They have unique makeup, especially in their chosen genre, as they are 3/4 black and 1/4 Asian, and they were formed by identical twins Daniel and Danny Chavis… which seems intentionally confusing. The band is sometimes labeled alternative soul, sometimes shoegaze (there it is again), and college rock. It’s kind of all of those things. The drums are a little flat, but otherwise, it’s pretty good.

The Veldt split in 1998… sort of… the same players continued as Apollo Heights in 2002. They released a series of EPs and singles and one album, White Music For Black People (also produced by Guthrie), which featured contributions from Mos Def and Lady Miss Kier. The Veldt was resurrected in 2016, and has released a series of EPs and singles since then, and has toured continuously. (+)

Love Jones – Li’l Black Book

Was “cocktail nation” ever even a thing? Love Jones seems to think so, as their website brags that they were part of this musical movement, along with Squirrel Nut Zippers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. I suppose that makes more sense than lumping them in with the swing revival. Their site goes on to say that this was a direct response to Grunge music, the <i>rebels!</i> Here’s the thing, people can do what they want, like what they like, it doesn’t have to be in defiance of what other people do or what other people like.

The song is … fine. It does what it says on the tin, but the utter pomposity of it irks me. “We’re unique rebels that appeared in Swingers and The Sweetest Thing!” Truthfully, I would listen to the original stuff from the era before I listened to this again.

Love Jones (the one from Louisville) ran from 1990 to 2019, which is a really good run. There’s also a Love Jones that is a wedding band in Philadelphia, and they sounded better. (-)

The Orb – Perpetual Dawn

Ponder this: The Orb was co-founded with former Killing Joke roadie Alex Paterson and The KLF’s Jimmy Cauty. By 1994, Cauty was gone, and well on his way to burning “a million quid” on the Scottish island of Jura.

The back of the disc sleeve says it’s from an album called Evil Bro ‘93… which doesn’t exist, but Live ‘93 does. That album isn’t a single show, but it’s a two-disc collection of live tracks assembled from a variety of shows.  The track is an ambient/reggae fusion, clocking in at 9 minutes, but it never feels like it. I guess that’s the power of good ambient track, it never feels like forever.

The track reached #61 on the UK singles chart when it was first released in 1991, and #18 with it’s 1994 re-release. Paterson has been running The Orb continually this whole time with different co-conspirators. (+)

Chug – Flowers

In the 90s, no one was worried about having names you could easily search for on the internet. I think there’s about 3 names on each disc that are difficult. Chug is one of them. There isn’t too much out there anyway, but here it is: They were a four piece from New Zealand, with a constant rotation of members, and ended late in 1998. They had releases though New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records, but signed with Kentucky’s Alias Records for seven albums. They only got one, 1997’s Metalon.

“Flowers” comes from their EP Kisser. It’s a good slab of indie punk, it fits neatly in the Breeders-Belly-Juliana box. Plus, it was good enough to be on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. (+)

The Ampersands – Postcards

Not to be confused with Kim Deal’s The Amps (Formerly Tammy Ampersand and the Amps, or Tammy and the Ampersands), this group does have a Kim, but this Kim is a dude. The Ampersands were from Melbourne, and they were self-described as “Sinister Thrash Folk”. Truthfully, that is pretty apt. This track just starts and doesn’t let up for almost two minutes. It’s beautiful.

The Ampersands released one album, 1992’s Half Folklore, Half Lies, which is where this comes from. They released two 7 inches in 1992, broke up in 1994, and a posthumous 7 inch in 1995. In 1996, they regrouped and took another couple stabs at recording an album, but ultimately nothing came of it and they split for good in 2000. But they do have 51 followers on Facebook! Their lack of success and decades of dormancy allowed a number of acts to steal the name and fill that void. (+)

The Ex + Tom Cora – What’s The Story

The Ex is a Dutch anarcho-punk bank that eventually moved into post-punk, jazz, and art rock. Tom Cora was a cellist known for experimental jazz (including with John Zorn).  They played a concert together in 1990, which lead to the collective recorded two albums together, 1991’s Scrabbling at the Lock and 1993’s And the Weathermen Shrug Their Shoulders, which this track comes from.

This song is less than two and a half minutes long, and direct opposition to the track from The Orb, it feels like 100 years. It’s interesting, but I won’t revisit it… which is a shame, because from reading up on it, I had high hopes.

The Ex is still going, still putting out their own albums, and occasionally the team up. Tom Cora died in 1998 at the age of 44 from melanoma. (-)

UI – Ay Nako

Formed in NYC, UI (pronounced ooo-eee) is self-described as post-rock/funk. You look at the instruments listed on the recording: drums, bass, guitar… of course, but then you have bells, tube, recorder, and banjo. But none of that fun stuff is here. This is ok, it’s weird, it’s bass heavy, I’m not sure I’ll be revisiting it.

Drummer Clem Waldmann has been in several bands, and worked with Blue Man Group. Bassist Erik Sanko crafts marionettes, and started experimental rock group Skeleton Key. (+)

Alejandro Escovedo – Ballad of the Sun and the Moon

San Antonio’s Alejandro Escovedo comes from a family of famous percussionists, including his niece Sheila E. Escovedo is a singer and guitarist who started with first wave punk (on the west coast at least) band The Nuns. He then moved on to play guitar in Judy Nylon’s band, then started alt country band Rank and File, and then started True Believers, which was a hard rock with country touches.

This track comes from his second solo outing, Thirteen Years. The playing is fine, the singing is fine, it’s a typical kind of “Chicano Rock” (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) with the blend of Hispanic influences and American music. There’s nothing that makes it stand out in any way.

Escovedo is still going strong today, with 19 albums to his name. (-)

Superchunk – Ribbon

The band began 1989 as simply Chunk, as original drummer Chuck Garrison was listed as “Chunk” in the phone book (insert lame joke about phone books here). They added “Super” to avoid confusion with a jazz band named Chunk in NYC. Also in 1989, bassist Laura Balance and singer / guitarist Mac McCaughan started Merge Records to release Superchunk’s music as well as the music of their friends in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and eventually their friends elsewhere.

At this time, indie rock was more aggressive, and this is no exception. It’s not twee or sad, it’s hyper and rough edged. This is something I can relate to.

This was a stand-alone 7“ single released in 1993, but the song was later included on the compilation of rarities titled Incidental Music 1991-95. We’ll put a pin in it here, because this is not the last we’ve seen of Superchunk. (+)

Grenadine – Don’t Forget The Halo

Here is an indie supergroup from Arlington, Virginia featuring Jenny Toomey (from CMJ alums Tsunami), Rob Christiansen (from CMJ alums Eggs), and Mark Robinson (of Unrest… I don’t know who they are alums with). All information points to them being “lounge-pop”, “1920’s style ditties”, and “an unusual band even by indie standards.”  Were they part of the alleged “cocktail nation”? Well, since I don’t see them as being unusual “even by indie standards”, I certainly don’t think they’re suave enough to be part of that mess. What do you think?

This was released on a stand-alone 7” single, and the only CD appearance is this, and a Teenbeat Records compilation. The group split in officially in 1998. (-)

Now It’s Time For Breakdown:

Worthy Tracks:  76.4% worth keeping; I’m starting to wonder if I’m not being harsh enough? 70.4% for the entire series so far.

Maple Leaf Invasion: Just good ol’ Sarah McLachlan. That brings this disc’s maple syrup content to 5.8%, with a total of 2.6% for the series.

YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: There have been 115 different artists to this date. This time, Sarah McLachlan joins the Two Timer’s Club with Eve’s Plum and Catherine Wheel.

Discogs Stats: 31 people have this disc, and 12 want it. It last sold on September 27, 2021. Its lowest price was $1.98, and its highest was $11.00.