Old Music Monthly #009: April 1994
Matthew Sweet – Devil With Green Eyes
The last time Matthew Sweet graced this column, I did not give him a favorable rating. Will this time be any different? Yes, it will. I really like this one, it’s more downbeat than the last offering. But, it’s strange to be that the label submitted another track from Altered Beast 9 months after giving CMJ the first track from the album. (+)
Live – Selling The Drama
Uh oh, here come those placenta-mongers, Live! Live were formed in York, PA, which as of the 2010 census had less than 45,000 residents (about 108,000 including surrounding municipalities). I think that’s kind of cool, they came from such a small area and were huge, even if only for a moment. York’s other contributions to music are: 1.) The York Factory Whistle, which Wikipedia tells us “holds the world record for the loudest music without amplification from a non-musical instrument,” which is incredible specific, and 2.) Astro Lasso, an electronic indie pop band from York managed by Malcolm In the Middle’s Frankie Muniz.
This comes from Live’s second album, Throwing Copper, which is an album I really like. I don’t care about Live outside of that, but more on that in a minute. Live seemed to really jump into that void of self important rock n rollers that was created when U2 reinvented themselves as Eurotrash. The video is simply ludicrous in the 90’s way, where everything means something maaaaaan, but none of it really means anything. But, hey, were doing the best we could with what we had.
Singer Ed Kowalczyk left the band in 2009 and they band split, until 2012 when they were joined by Chris Shinn. Shinn was prior the vocalist for Unified Theory, which was formed after Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon died. Two members of Blind Melon got together with former Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krusen, and put Shinn up front. They lasted 3-4 years. Shinn joins Live and then gets the boot in 2016 when Kowalczyk comes back. What shitty luck that guy has.
I saw Live in what was early 1995. Their openers were Sponge and Love Spit Love, and it was in a university gym. They were really good, they were still young and hungry. The whole time, there was a young lady behind us screaming for the song “Waitress”, after every damn song they played. They left the stage, but the lights didn’t come up, signaling there would be an encore. Well, she left, and they came back and the first song they played was “Waitress”. I saw them again at Woodstock ’99, and it was obviously at least one of them had a super inflated ego, so that wasn’t very fun. (+)
Latin Playboys – Chinese Surprise
LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-Latin Playboys! This group was formed when Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo was working on demos for the next album, and producer and keyboardist Mitchell Froom thought they were interesting enough to support their own side project. They roped in Louie Perez from Los Lobos, and producer / drummer Tchad Blake.
I actually really like this, it’s pretty weird. I saw “Los Lobos”, and this is not at all what I expected, and I see why this needed to be this own thing. I’m not even sure how to describe this, it’s this weird minimalist song with distorted vocals. It builds into a “kind of” latin rock thing, but just sort of abruptly stops when it gets there.
The group existed until 1999, and released two albums in that time. Afterwards, they all went back to their day jobs. (+)
Smithereens – Miles From Nowhere
Much is made of Nirvana slaying hair metal and kicking down the door and allowing grunge and other alternative rock bands to flourish and crawl out from under the rocks they’d been living under. However, in the fray other artists suffered as casualties as well, including The Smithereens.
The Smithereens formed in New Jersey in 1980, under guise of college rock, power pop, whatever college kids were listening to when I wasn’t even in school yet. They had two EPs, but their first full length didn’t come out until 1987. Even though they were featured in the film Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and had a few minor hits in “Blood and Roses” and “In a Lonely Place”, the crater impact caused by Nirvana messed things up for them. Originally slated to start recording in 1992, they were delayed so the label could prioritize Smashing Pumpkins. Then, producer (and Garbage member) Butch Vig was tapped to produce 1994’s A Date with The Smithereens, but once he lost interest in producing, Capital Records dropped the band. RCA came two weeks later and scooped them up.
This is ok, it’s not groundbreaking or challenging, but it’s also not annoying, so that has value, I suppose.
The Smithereens are still going, as a three piece. Guitarist / singer Pat DiNizio had some health problems that began in 2015 with some nerve damage that prevented him from using his right arm, he died in 2017. (+)
Ben Harper – Whipping Boy
Californian Ben Harper began playing guitar and started putting on concerts at 12. This track comes from his debut album, Welcome to the Cruel World. Frankly, this is a slog. It’s boring. I saw him open for Pearl Jam in the summer of 1998, and he was really very interesting. He was playing lap steel the, barefoot, and just going crazy on guitar. This is not that. I think part of it is that I know he can be better than this.
Obviously, I’m out of step with the rest of the world. But I still think he should be punished for unleashing Jack Johnson on the planet. (-)
Milla – Gentleman Who Fell
Better known as actor Milla Jovovich. I am always weary of actors getting into music, it usually feels like and ego trip. Milla followed the Grace Jones school of success, by going Model -> Actor -> Singer, except that Jones seems to be more successful as a singer, where Milla is more successful as an actor.
Milla’s voice is really nice. This song reminds me of someone, and I can’t put my finger on it, who does this song remind you of? I’m posting the video because the album cover has (artful) boobies on it. The video is like a student film, but Milla’s makeup looks like she’s in a silent film, which I find interesting.
Milla released two albums, 1994’s The Divine Comedy and 2000’s The Peopletree Sessions, plus a couple digital singles in 2012 and 2013. I guess she’s done with music for a while, but who has the time when you’re in 48 Resident Evil movies? (+)
Material Issue – Kim The Waitress
Here is the extent of what I know about Material Issue: Inside a promo single for Melvins’ “Revolve” was a mini-tour diary. It said [paraphrased], “We just received 500 Material Issue shirts by mistake. They make great rags for checking the oil in the van.”
“Kim the Waitress” was originally by The Green Pajamas, and Material Issue recorded it for their fourth album, Freak City Soundtrack. I mean, honestly, they should sue Gin Blossoms for taking their sound. Anyway, Mercury failed to promote the album, so the band and label parted ways.
Material Issue began recording songs for the follow up, but singer / guitarist Jim Ellison committed suicide on June 20, 1996. The work was finished and they released their final album in 1997, titled Telecommando Americano. In 2011, the surviving members regrouped as Material Reissue, and they play scattered shows every now and then. (+)
Stabbing Westward – Nothing
Alright, I’m going to get some shit for this. I think Stabbing Westward’s first album, Ungod, is really, really good. I was duped… I shouldn’t say “duped”, because I did like it, but I was… drawn to it by our good friends at Columbia House, when they said that it existed between the music of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. It’s not completely inaccurate.
The group started in 1985 with singer / guitarist Christopher Hall and keyboardist / programmer Walter Flakus in Chicago. They added Wax Trax! stalwart Stuart Zechman on guitar who worked with Ministry alums Chris Connelly and Paul Barker’s Lead Into Gold, and zoomed off to London to record their debut. “Nothing” was the song the label put forward on all the compilations and soundtracks. It’s probably them most accessible song on Ungod, but it’s far from the best.
Hall and Flakus would shuffle the lineup again before their next CMJ appearance, coming up in 1996. But more on that later… (+)
Sister Machine Gun – Wired
Speaking of Chicago and Wax Trax!, here is Sister Machine Gun. Chris Randall actually formed the first version in New York City, then went to be a stage tech for KMFDM. After relocating to Chicago, Randall created a member with Die Warzau. The demo was given to Sascha Konietzko, who passed it onto Wax Trax! (where Randall already worked in the mailroom), who signed Sister Machine Gun.
“Wired” comes from 1994’s The Torture Technique. While the outfit is Randall’s baby, the album features contributions from James Wooley (Nine Inch Nails), En Esch (KMFDM), Jim Marcus (Die Warzau), and Charles Levi (My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult). Marcus gets the only writing credit on the song, and it’s more atmospheric than the usual aggro stuff this group puts out. Plus, it’s mostly Randall spooky whispering “cocaine Jesus” for over five minutes.
Sister Machine Gun will be back next year, so they will have a chance to redeem themselves. (-)
G. Love & Special Sauce – Blues Music
This group comes from Philadelphia… you know what, I fucking hate this. HATE IT. I like the idea of it being a little sloppy and a little off the cuff, but this is the precursor to what I call “easy listening hip hop”, where it’s some rudimentary guitar, usually acoustic (but this isn’t), and some white dude is just talking about how great life is because he got a parking ticket in the car he lives in, but things are looking up because now he can use that parking ticket to roll a joint that’s mostly stems and seeds. Fuck off with that shit, man.
This self-titled debut was listed in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and if I ever work through and write up that book, I will listen to it, but God help me I will not enjoy it. (-)
Marcellus Hall – I Was Sleeping
Mr. Hall was part of Railroad Jerk, and they were written up before. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to exist on Youtube, so this is a no-score. (0)
Versus – Silver Vein
Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups formed Versus in NYC in 1990, and named their band after Mission of Burma’s album Vs. While ostensibly being an indie band, they get a little loud sometimes, which causes some people to place them into noise rock. The are also known for being part of a wave of Asian-American bands, as they always have 1 Fillipino-American member, sometimes as many as 3 (Richard Baluyut and his relatives Edward and James).
“Silver Vein” comes from their third EP, Let’s Electrify! It’s a cool track, it has a little muscly guitar that these things don’t always have.
The group broke up in 2001. And since everyone of these bands are functionally boomerangs, they reformed in 2009 and are still going today. (+)
Toast – Lantern Man
Toast was an indie band from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a band name impossible to search. They put out 3 EPs in 1993, and a split single in 1994. And they aren’t on YouTube, so this gets a big, fat No Score. (0)
The Coctails – Wicked Ways
This group is from Chicago but formed at the Kansas City Art Institute when all the members were students there. They ran from 1988-1995, and based on their name, they got lumped into the prior mentioned “Cocktail Nation” of lounge lizards, but that was not their sound.
This four-piece plays self-described “garage jazz”. Sounds cool, right? Prepare to be disappointed. It’s trite and boring. There’s a harmonica about three-fourths of the way in. I hate harmonicas, but I was so happy to hear it because it caught me off guard.
Member Archer Prewitt founded indie group The Sea and Cake, and is an illustrator. He has had comics appear in Kansas City Star, Drawn & Quarterly, and BLAB! He was also a colorist for Marvel Comics for an unknown amount of time. (-)
Fluf – Sticky Bun
San Diego’s Fluf began when singer / guitarist Otis Barthoulameu and bassist Johnny Donhowe had a break up of their previous band, Olivelawn. They recruited drummer Miles Gillett. They released a series of seven inches, and then their debut album Mangravy (gross) in 1993.
This comes from their second album of 1993, Home Improvements. See, this is the kind of pop-punk that’s worth listening to. It’s a little rough, the vocals are pretty good, and it’s upbeat and even has some hooks.
We’ll see Fluf again, but it will be in about 3 years, after they’ve signed with major label MCA. How do you think that will work out? (+)
Freakwater – Lullaby
Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day) and Catherine Irwin formed “Alternative Country” group in 1989, in Nashville. I guess it’s alternative in that it sounds pretty old-timey, and not like the slick country stuff we’ve all be suffering through for the last 3 or 4 decades. This isn’t terrible. In the context of the CD, it would be an interesting break. But as I was working on this, The YouTubes autoplayed into the next songs, and it was just more of the same. I wouldn’t expect them to Zappa or anything, but a whole album of it wouldn’t work for me.
Freakwater is still going. They merged into a supergroup with The Mekons, forming Freakons, where they performed cover songs and originals about coal mining in Appalachia, England and Wales. It’s oddly specific, but it was a benefit for Kentuckians For the Commonwealth. (+)
Milkmine – Skelch
This is the perfect entry for this series. No Wikipedia page, none of the members have gone onto to do any other music (that we can hear, anyway), and the song has been uploaded to Youtube twice, but they don’t even total 750 views together. A true “lost” band of the 90’s.
Milkmine hailed from Cincinnati, and were a three piece comprised of two bassists and a drummer. I know it’s “unique”, but this is at least the third group doing this here… and Boys Against Girls has yet to show up! Anyway, this is a heavy mess of chaos, right up my alley.
They released 2 seven inch records, this song was on Super M. In 1994, they released an album on Choke titled Braille. It appears the band was swallowed up with Choke Records folded. (+)
This Kind of Punishment – Overground In China
Here is another great example for this series, the song is uploaded 3 times, and less than 1,000 views. This Kind of Punishment (great name!) was a New Zealand post-punk band, and they’ve got real strong Wire vibes here.
The band ran from 1983-1988, the members moved on to many other projects. They released 3 albums, one compilation (the reason for its inclusion here), 1 EP, and 1 live album (cassette only). In 2016, a single was released, but it looks like it’s two tracks that were previously unreleased. (+)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: 12/16; 75%! I wasn’t so easy this time, there were a few on the fence. For the most part, however, I truly like the ones I gave passing grades to. 67.5% for the entire series.
Maple Leaf Invasion: ZERO! I swear, it seemed like there were always so many more! Our friends to the north currently sit at 3.2%.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: There have been 152 different artists to this date. Matthew Sweet joins the Two-Timer’s Club with Sarah McLachlan, Eve’s Plum, Catherine Wheel, and honorary members Beastie Boys.
Discogs Stats: 35 users have this, 20 want it (including myself). The lowest this disc sold for was $12.00, while the highest was $12.09., the median price was $12.00. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…