Old Music Monthly #020 [April 1995]

Old Music Monthly #020: April 1995

Elastica – Car Song

Former Suede members Justine Frischmann (singer / guitarist) and Justin Welch (drummer) formed Elastica in 1992 in London with Donna Matthews (guitar) and Annie Holland (bassist). I probably don’t have to tell you much about the group, they were really huge for a minute. Their self-titled debut entered the UK chart at #1, and peaked at #66 in the US, #34 in Sweden, and #20 in New Zealand.

“Car Song” is the fifth and final single from the debut record, but what’s weird, is that it wasn’t released as a single until January 1996. So, this is Geffen Records planting the seeds in the US, as the album came out March 13, 1995, but “Stutter” (November 1993), “Line Up” (January 1994), and “Connection” (October 1994) were already hits in the UK.

Like the star that shines twice as bright and lasts half as long, after a solid year of touring, Holland quit and was replaced by Abby Travis (a journeyman bassist who worked with Beck and Spinal Tap prior, and would go on to KMFDM, Eagles of Death Metal, and Cher). In 1996, the group entered the studio, but couldn’t get it together. Matthews quit, and was replaced by Linoleum guitarist Paul Jones, and Travis was replaced by a returning Holland. We’re going to see Elastica again in 2000, so I’ll put a pin in this for now. (+)

Juliana Hatfield – Universal Heartbeat

Ms. Hatfield is a back with a track from her 1995 album, Only Everything. I really like this song. Her vocal melody is good and her guitar playing is even better. (+)

PJ Harvey – Down By The Water

Do you know who Polly Jean Harvey is? Of course you do, because she is a fucking queen. Harvey got her start in Automatic Dlamini when joined the exising band in 1988, but they band split in 1992 and Harvey started a trio called “PJ Harvey”, and then I guess it became an Alice Cooper situation.

1993’s “Rid of Me” was already a pretty big deal, but I had never heard it… still haven’t, actually.* This is the first thing I ever heard from her, except for the last few seconds of “50 ft Queenie” being on Beavis & Butthead once when I was flipping channels. Anyway, this is a cool tune, pretty weird sounding, not what I would have expected. I saved it back then, but somewhere along the way it got corrupted and I forgot all about it.

Harvey is still out there, she released a metric shit-ton of demos over the pandemic. Surprisingly, she is still signed with Island Records. (+)

*yes, yes, I know. I did buy a handful of singles at the start of the pandemic but then I moved, and I haven’t found them yet. I was starting by collecting myself up some B-Sides.

Chris Whitley – Oh God My Heart Is Ready

We talked about Chris two installments ago, in #018. Here he is, just barely missing that rare two in a row that Digable Planets had. I have zero recollection of this song. This is better than the last one, but I still wouldn’t buy it. (-)

Morphine – Honey White

Hailing from Cambridge, MA, we have Morphine. The group was formed out of the ashes of Treat Her Right, when bassist / singer Mark Sandman (what a great surname) teamed up with drummer Jerome Duepree, but when Duepree left for health reasons, Treat Her Right drummer Billy Conway stepped in.

This is filed under “alternative rock”, but it’s kind of a reductive catch all. I wasn’t into this in 1995, but I think it’s pretty cool today. Normally, I don’t go for saxophones, this this one works. Was this song in a movie? I feel like it was.

Sandman died on stage after suffering a heart attack in Italy in 1999. In 2009, surviving members Duepree and saxophonist Dana Colley formed Vapors of Morphine. Conway died of liver cancer in 2021. (+)

Charlie Sexton Sextet – Dark

San Antonio’s Sexton got his start bouncing around a number of new wave bands and as a session player, before releasing his debut album Pictures For Pleasure in 1985, which had a sizeable hit in “Beat’s So Lonely”. He also opened for David Bowie, and joined him on stage several times to play covers of The Stooges and Velvet Underground.

Here, the Sextet (actually a quartet) is kind of just on cruise control. The percussion is cool, but as a song, it’s just kind of limp. Not as cool as his new wave endeavors.

It seems like this was just a diversion, as he went on to play with Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Don Henley among many others, and also got into record producing. (-)

Royal Trux – You’re Gonna Lose

Hey, remember when Nirvana showed up, and every major label said, “I gotta get me one of those!” Well, here is one of those. In 1985 (maybe), guitarist Neil Hagerty joined Pussy Galore, but it was just a job for him. By 1988, he had formed Royal Trux with his girlfriend Jennifer Herrema and they released their self-titled debut. They put out 4 total albums, then Virgin Records came calling, offering a 3 record deal for $1 million.

This comes from Thank You, their first for Virgin. I didn’t keep it back in 1995, and I was on the fence about this. It hardly sounds like a band that would be championed by Sonic Youth. But it’s kinda cool and laid back, and you’d never hear it in a Starbucks… if that’s not a measure of acceptability, I don’t know what is.

They put out one more album on Virgin, then returned to Drag City before breaking up in 2001. They reformed in 2015 and are still going, and in 2018 their entire catalog (minus the two Virgin albums) was reissued. (+)

Once Upon A Time – God

Here’s a mystery for you folks. There are, at minimum, four groups with this name, and I think two of them are from Australia. This largely a mystery, but here’s what we have: Once Upon a Time was formed in Sydney, and singer Elia Bel was in a few groups prior to this. They released a self-titled EP in Australia in 1993, which was expanded into an album in the US in 1995, which is where this came from. This is a good song, it’s like a sort of damaged and abrasive pop tune (but the video is a time capsule of some of the worst the 90’s had to offer, visually).

The band put out Cog, also in 1995, and apparently broke up sometime around 1998. Singer Elia Bel went solo, and it looks like all the OUAT stuff is rebranded under her name. She is on Spotify… she has 12 monthly listeners. (+)

Lida Husik – Persinthia Lawdro & John

This Washington DC singer got her start playing drums in a variety of punk bands. She started releasing albums solo albums in 1991, varying between folk and psychedelia. This song came from her sole album with Caroline Records.

I had to really think about this. I wasn’t so hot on this track, it comes off as a sub-Luscious Jackson song, but that voice really struck me. As the song progressed, it really won me over.

She appeared to quit music in 1999, but then she released an EP in 2016 and an album in 2018, and now she’s also a yoga therapist. (+)

Waterboys – Medicine Bow   

Scotland’s Waterboys formed in 1983 and split in 1993, so what the hell are they doing on a disc from 1995? Well, the collection The Secret Life of the Waterboys 81-85 had just come out, and it included this semi-rare extended version of “Medicine Bow”.

I had never heard Waterboys before…. Or since, actually. The get described and Celtic and folk, but I’m not really hearing that here. I had this magazine, so I’m not sure why I was remember thinking they were “new”, but new to me I guess. Maybe the Celtic-ness comes from the violins in the background? Anyway, I do like this song and maybe it’s time I looked into them further.

The group reformed in 2000 and have been going since. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Wickham played violin on US’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and has also recorded with Elvis Costello and Sinead O’Connor. (+)

Jill Sobule – I Kissed A Girl

Ok, let’s get out in front of it. Yes, it shares a title with Katy Perry. Sobule was pretty reserved about it, but she did eventually say that the person who signed Perry also signed Sobule in 1995, and she didn’t think it was a coincidence, so she jokingly said “Fuck you, Katy Perry”, which did not go over well. She apologized and said she was happy to be free from the burden of being the “I Kissed a Girl” girl.

In 1990, Sobule released her debut on MCA Records, produced by Todd Rundgren. It didn’t sell, and she recorded a follow up produced by Joe Jackson (as in New Wave British guy, not terrorizer of the Jackson 5), but it was shelved never to be seen again. She was signed in 1995 to Atlantic, which is where this comes from. The song is a little twee for my liking, but you know what? That’s ok because not everything is meant for me. Plus, the solo at 1:52, short as it is, is pretty decent.

I remember some minor pearl clutching over this song and video, but it wasn’t enough to build a career upon… not a big career, anyway. Sobule had one more album on Atlantic before returning to the indies, but she’s still playing and touring today, releasing her most recent album in 2018. (+)

Popa Chubby – Palace Of The King

You might know this Bronx blues player by his given name of Theodore Joseph Horowitz… but maybe not. Horowitz got his start backing up Television’s Richard Hell, before he went on to self-release a series of blues albums as Popa Chubby. Horowitz was signed to Epic, and released 1995’s Booty and the Beast, which no doubt caused Sir Mix A Lot to slap himself for not thinking of it first.

This is exactly what you would hear at a dive bar at Bike Week or Sturgis. A bar like the bar from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but you get hepatitis from sitting on a stool. The production is a little too clean, and the organ is a little overbearing, but this is really good for what it is. Which why it pains me to fail it, because I would not keep this in my collection and I would never make a point to listen to it again. But I can’t deny the talent involved.

Guess what happens next? He gets dumped by Epic… it really seems like Epic are the worst at this, but I also am under the impression every disc is 50% Canadian, so what the hell do I know? Anyway, getting dropped didn’t stop him. From 1995, including his debut, he has released 31 albums. (-)

Face To Face – Debt

This punk group started in Victorville, CA with Singer / guitarist Trevor Keith and bassist Matt Riddle who were high school friends. The floated through a number of bands before have some measure of success with Face To Face.

Their second album, Big Choice, was a breakthrough for them, and this is where this song comes from. The vocal harmony on this really sets it apart from other skatepunk of the day. This album also had “Disconnected”, which Wikipedia says was a sizeable hit, but I’ve never (knowingly) heard it.

After the touring cycle for Big Choice ended, Riddle left the group and joined No Use For A Name. He was replaced with Scott Shifflett, who is the brother of current Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shifflett. The Shifflett brothers are members of punk super group cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Scott and Trevor Keith also formed Viva Death in 2002, and I can only speak for their first album, but it’s really good. (+)

Foetus – Verklemmt

Who is JG Thirlwell? Does he even exist? No one knows for sure. Well, we all do, but that’s not very mysterious. Thirlwell has a number of aliases, such as Clint Ruin, Phillip Toss, and Frank Want. He also used to rename the Foetus projects every so often (Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath, Foetus Interruptus). He has worked on albums by Lydia Lunch, Pig, Boss Hog, Melvins, Coil, Nick Cave, and so many more. He has also recorded as Wiseblood, Steroid Maxiumus, and surprisingly, JG Thirlwell. You probably know him best as the composer of the theme to The Venture Bros.

If you’ve ever heard Foetus before, you realize how completely insane it is that Gash came out on Columbia Records. I think it says a lot about the state of the music industry that this even happened. The race for the next big thing was so out of control, that this happened. I don’t know how much his album cost, but Thirlwell is definitely going for it here. While he played the bulk of the instruments, he is also employing full horn sections. The song is great, but the entire album is just this bizarre dirge with horns and harmonicas and snarling vocals. Highly recommended.

Once Columbia sobered up from whatever substances they were on, they said, “What the fuck is this?” and canned Foetus. Thirlwell is still working, but there has been no Foetus release since 2013. (+)

St. Johnny – Scuba Diving

Do rock bands come from Connecticut? No. Never. But this one did. St. Johnny formed in 1989, and by 1995 were on their third album. There isn’t much available as far as history for this band, but Trouser Press has a scathing review of, well, the band as a whole. Calling them lazy, lackadaisical, obnoxious, and they said about this particular song: “hip-hop/skronk hybrids so lame even Sonic Youth wouldn’t touch ’em”.

A glowing endorsement if I ever heard one. I haven’t heard the album, or anything else by this group, but I do like this song (but the video doesn’t do them any favors). The whistling is a little annoying, but I’m here for the distorted guitar, and I love the lyric, “I hope judgment day don’t come this weekend”.

St. Johnny broke up pretty much immediately after this, but singer guitarist went on to form Grand Mal. (+)

Medeski, Martin & Wood – The Lover

This trio started in 1991 Brooklyn, apparently as a jazz trio that formed into “avant-groove”… ok look, they are a jam band, ok? I don’t care what anyone says. One time when I was in Chicago, this girl took me to this jazz coffee house hole in the wall. They didn’t have a band, but it had walls and walls of vinyl, and customers just took turns choosing from the selections and putting on old jazz records. It was awesome. This is the opposite of that. (-)

hHead – Answers

This trio formed in 1991 in Ontario, Canada. Canada!! The independently released Fireman in 1992, and criss-crossed the country (Canada) playing anywhere they could, sometimes opening for Stone Temple Pilots, Dinosaur Jr., and My Bloody Valentine. They then won a radio contest for $100,000 to record a new album, and they got signed to IRS Records in 1994, and they released Jerk. It’s some quality alternative rock.

IRS went bankrupt in 1996, and hHead released their final album, Ozzy, on Handsome Boy Records. hHead called it quits in 1997. Singer / guitarist Noah Mintz is now a recording engineer, and bassist Brendan Canning is co-founder of Broken Social Scene, and at some point he was in Len (“Steal My Sunshine”). (+)

Pest 5000 – Fault

Are you paying attention? Because this band is from Montreal… Canada. That’s all I can find, and that’s all that matters! But really, there’s not much out there. Former member Patti Schmidt has hosted a number of shows on CBC Radio. If you skip to 34:50 of this live set, you can hear the song. But be forewarned, it’s not very exciting, and it’s not a great recording… but I needed to keep another Canadian in the count. (-)

Caterpillar – Swim Away

This is a 90’s band, but there was a 70s prog band named Caterpilla, Social Caterpillar, CATERPILLARS, The Caterpillar Big Band, and City of Caterpillar. But this isn’t on Youtube, so who cares. (O)

Tarnation – It’s Not Easy

Tarnation was fronted by Paula Frazer, who was one of the Faith No More singers sometime between 1983 and 84 when they were having different, random singers. Frazer bounced from band to band across San Francisco, before stabilizing Tarnation.

This isn’t anything special, but when the backing vocals came in at 1:12 I actually laughed, so, make of that what you will.

Tarnation lasted from 1992 to 1997… a lot of these bands last for five years before going kaput. Frazer went solo, then resurrected the group as Paula Frazer and Tarnation. Maybe they’re still going, maybe they aren’t, but they released something at recent as 2017. Frazer is also a professional weaver. (-)

Further – Quiet Riot Grrrl

Brothers Brent and Darren Rademaker started with Shadowland, but when Shadowland ended in the early 90’s, they formed Further in Los Angeles. They ended up putting out 4 albums and several EPs and singles, like a staggering amount.

This comes from 1994’s Grimes Golden. It sounds like Weezer playing at half speed on a the cheapest transistor radio you’ve ever heard. I want to like this, but I just don’t.

The band would squeak out another album in 1996, but split soon after. The members went on to form The Tyde and Beachwood Sparks. (-)

Henry’s Dress – ‘A’ Is For Cribbage

This indie rock band was from Albuquerque and then San Francisco, and only ran from 1993-96. They released a series of single and EPs and one album, but this comes from their self-titled EP, released in 1995. This is even more lo-fi than Further, which I wasn’t sure was possible. I like rough edges, I like a little noise, but this is bordering on unintelligible. I like it more than Further, but I still derive no enjoyment from it. (-)

Now It’s Time For Breakdown:

Worthy Tracks: (13/21) Volume 20 is 61.9% worth saving, bringing the series to 64.7%

Maple Leaf Invasion: This disc is 9.5% Canadian! This brings the entire series to 2.25% Canadian. It’s not an invasion… maybe more of a scouting party?

YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: Honorable mention to Juliana Hatfield for the Two-Timer’s Club, she was on with The Juliana Hatfield Three way back in installment #003, but I’m not going go count her because they were two distinct entities when they appeared on their respective discs. But this time, Chris Whitley joins the Two-Timer’s Club and is rubbing shoulders with Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Quicksand, Digable Planets, Adam Ant, Catherine, Ass Ponys, Magnapop, Cranes, Matthew Sweet, Sarah McLachlan, Eve’s Plum, Catherine Wheel, Therapy?, Jeff Buckley, Beastie Boys, Engines of Aggression, Luscious Jackson, and G. Love & Special Sauce. 700 Miles and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the only ones appearing three times… so far. There have been 345 unique artists to date.