Old Music Monthly #016: December 1994
Cranes – Shining Road (Brauer Mix)
I spoke about England’s Cranes all the way back in #002, so check that out if you feel so inclined. Last time I mentioned the singer’s “baby doll” voice, but that’s less annoying this time, and the song is really good. Not sure how to describe it, it’s further away from “dream pop”, but not exactly anything hard edged. (+)
Oasis – Live Forever
I’m just going to say it: I don’t like Oasis. The best thing about them is their childish antics where they’ve been sniping at each other publicly for 30 years. Their star was already ascending by the time this disc came out, this was their third single. “Supersonic” went to #11 in the US, but “Shakermaker” didn’t chart in the US. I didn’t hear of them until their 10th single, “Wonderwall”. Anyway, the press loved to trip all over themselves to talk about how “positive” Oasis was in relation to grunge, but how positive is it when one of the brothers refuses to perform and heckles the band, and then they call each other “potatoes”?
Maybe it’s my bias against them, but I don’t think the song is anything special. (-)
Catherine – Songs About Girls
It wasn’t so long ago that we talked about Catherine, just back in #012. This song came from 1994’s Sorry. The band liked to play up that they were “noisy”, but if you can’t compete with The Jesus Lizard, you should stop using the word. This song is more of the same from the first time they appeared. It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as one would hope. (-)
Animal Bag – Spirit of Grass
In 1987, Luke Edwards (Vocals / guitar), Rich Parris (guitar), Otis Hughes (bass), and Boo Duckworth (drums) formed Animal Bag in 1987, and almost immediately moved to Los Angeles. L.A. Weekly said that they were reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More… according to Wikipedia, that is. Google turns up nothing. But it doesn’t matter, because this is certainly not that. Never mind that these two groups should never be spoken of in the same breath, but I digress.
In interviews, the band said that this was their most radio friendly, which is why it was a single. But I listened to this, and “Everybody”, and “Everybody” was much more radio friendly… and they both suck. Sorry, that’s harsh. “Everybody” is lame, and this one is better, but it still just doesn’t totally work for me.
The group attempted the Alice In Chains route by recording an acoustic EP, then attempting to go heavier (their words) on the second full album. Image Damage was recorded for Mercury, and was eventually shelved. The group was tasked with recording a cover because the label didn’t hear a single… because hey, it worked for Ugly Kid Joe. Eventually, the band parted ways with the label, but weren’t able to recover. For what it’s worth, I did listen to a song from Image Damage (“Stupidity: For Art’s Sake”) that was YouTube, and it was heavy. Sounded like a completely different band.
The band split in 1998. Edwards started rock / country / bluegrass hybrid Tater, and Hughes started M4Messenger. Duckworth died in 2000, and Parris died in 2010. (-)
Dave Matthews Band – Jimi Thing
I won’t spend a lot of time talking about DMB. It’s kind of weird, “What Would You Say” was released as a single in September 1994, and then this was the second single from their major label debut, but I had never heard it before. I hate it. (-)
Hoodoo Gurus – Nobody
Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus formed in 1981, with the novel idea of having 3 guitars AND NO BASS. This lasted until 1982 when Kimble Rendall quit the band and was replaced by a bass player. Throughout the 80’s and into 1991, the group released albums that charted in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. 1994’s Crank, however, only charted in Australia but it did peak at #2.
I like this song, with it’s refrain of “I don’t want nobody, I don’t want no one if I don’t have you”. It’s kind of a torch song, except instead of unrequited love it seems to be more about love that doesn’t work.. maybe it’s forbidden. The singer and his lover meet, and then return to their own homes and lives, knowing it can’t work. As the song progresses, the vocals become more gut-wrenching.
The band split in 1997, but reformed in 2003 and is still active today. Rendall went onto be a second unit director for the middle two Matrix movies. (+)
London Suede – The Wild Ones
Suede, or London Suede, formed in 1989 in London (England, not Ontario) by Brett Anderson and Justine Frischmann, and joined later by guitarist Bernard Butler. Anderson and Frischmann dated, until they split and she dated Damon Albarn from Blur… which caused her to get fired, apparently. The group put out Dog Man Star in 1994, but Butler left before it was completed because he couldn’t get along with Anderson.
Frankly, I think it’s dull. The production on it sounds like a late 80’s U2 B-Side.
(London) Suede’s label dissolved and they signed with Sony, they spent 2 years recording A New Morning, which everyone hated and the band split in 2003, only to reform in 2010. Butler formed a number of projects, and Frischmann formed Elastica with the sole purpose of ripping off Wire… but more on them later. (-)
Bryan Ferry – Mamouna
I am a latecomer to Roxy Music. Bryan Ferry started his solo career while Roxy Music was still an ongoing concern, but really the closer you get to the end of Roxy Music, the more it just sounds like solo Bryan Ferry anyway.
This song has contributions from former Roxy Music members Brian Eno and Neil Hubbard, but it doesn’t matter because this song is trash. It’s just a run of the mill pop song that follows the 90’s template of being obsessed with middle eastern sounds. It falls flat.
Ferry has continued his solo career, and Roxy Music was resurrected in 2001, and ended again in 2011. (-)
Portishead – Sour Times
I didn’t have this magazine / CD back in the day. When this song made a big splash on MTV, I still didn’t have cable, but I was a teenager hanging out in other friends’ houses where they had MTV on. When I heard this the first time, I was struck by how different it was. My tastes (partially thanks to this magazine) were broadening at this time. One of my very best friends, his little brother who would’ve been about 12 at the time, he said, “You like weird music, I bet you like this song.” I said, “Yeah, I think it’s an interesting song, I don’t know their other stuff, though”.
Singer Beth Gibbons (no relation to the monkey, I presume) left her family farm to pursue a career as a singer. Instrumentalist Geoff Barrow played in several bands and worked as a DJ in hip hop groups before he was working as an engineer and producer, when Massive Attack let him use spare studio time to get ideas on tape. Gibbons and Barrow teamed up and named the group after the town Barrow moved to after his parents’ divorce.
Portishead split in 1999, but reformed in 2005 and are still going today. Their last album came out in 2008, and they’ve released two non-album singles, one in 2009, and the other in 2021. (+)
Portishead will be back, but I don’t want to wait to talk about this. I had an ablation on my heart, and I was under for over 6 hours. So, that evening, because I had been in a drug induced sleep all day, I was awake most of the night in the hospital. I was trying to do anything to keep myself entertained, and I stumbled upon this cover of “Black Sabbath” by Gonga with vocals by Gibbons, and retitled “Black Sabbeth”. It’s so, so very good. It took me some time to find it, I’m surprised it’s not more well known. I wondered for a long time if it was a fever dream, was it even real at all?
Big Audio – Looking For A Song
I’m going to make this as simple as possible. After Mick Jones was fired from The Clash, he formed Top Risk Action Company (TRAC), which became Big Audio Dynamite (BAD), which then became Big Audio Dynamite II, which became Big Audio in 1994… but by 1995, was back to being Big Audio Dynamite.
I’m not really into it, I suppose I’m tainted by The Clash association, that casts a long shadow. Ranking Roger’s (R.I.P.) parts are ok.
Jones teamed up and formed Carbon/Silicon with Generation X / Sigue Sigue Sputnik member Tony James, and also worked with Gorillaz from 2010-2011. (-)
Dink – Green Mind
It’s easy to kind of forget that industrial (rock / metal) was really on the rise in the 90’s. With grunge, brit-pop, and nu metal crowding the decade, we can see why. Ministry scored big with their 1992 industrial metal opus Psalm 69, and Nine Inch Nails ruled 1994 with The Downward Spiral and all those singles and videos. Record label A&R folks were burning their flannel shirts and equipping black boots so thick and heavy as to make Doc Marten’s look like jelly slippers.
By 1995, Marilyn Manson is going to break wide open with the Eurythmics’ cover, Foetus (of all people) is going to be on a major label, and bands like Dink are going to be a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, there are no prizes for being early (or barely on time). These guys… they want so badly to be accepted by their heroes. Their Wikipedia page is loaded with name drops. The song is just not good. If you replaced the flat industrial beat with a hip hop beat, and the “bass solo” with a record scratch, you’d have 1998’s biggest nu metal hit 4 years early… but that doesn’t really help. I feel bad for them, there isn’t enough post-punk or kraut rock in the mix here to make it interesting.
Dink released one self-titled album on Capitol, and four EPs from 1993-96, but their second album was shelved by the label and the band was dropped. (-)
Orbital – Are We Here
This electronic duo (who are brothers) are from Otford, Kent, England. Starting in 1989, they recorded their first single on their father’s cassette deck, which became popular at raves, and somehow landed them on Top of the Pops. By 1994, they had headlined Glastonbury, and played Woodstock ‘94.
Honestly, this does nothing for me. I like some electronic music, but this leaves me cold. I’m sure in a live setting, I would feel different. The album version is over 15 minutes long, this version is just under 4 minutes, and the only one on YouTube is on the official video. The problem with having electronic artists on these, is that in trying to go back, there are hundreds of remixes to sift through, and I’m never quite sure which is the right one.
Orbital split in 2004, reformed in 2009. Then split in 2014, and reformed in 2017. They are still active, that is, until the end of this sentence. (-)
Pop Will Eat Itself – Ich Bin Ein Auslander
Speaking, just a moment ago, about the rise of industrial in the 90’s, Interscope was so incensed that they let Trent Reznor have his own imprint, called Nothing. English band Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI) found a second life after turning more industrial in the 90’s, and released Dos Dedos Mis Amigos on the label.
“Ich Bin Ein Auslander” is a meld of rock, rap, and industrial and rallies against racism and a certain group of shitheads that murdered millions of people, and they just won’t go away no matter what we do. So, I kind of like and kind of hate this song. On one hand, their speaking out against racism and ultra-right-wing tactics. On the other, I’m not sure a white dude should be saying he’s being ethnically cleansed.
PWEI fizzled out in 1996, briefly reunited in 2005, fully reformed and 2010 and has been active since. (+)
Ass Ponys – Little Bastard
Ass Ponys have returned, I talked about them way back in #005, so go there if you feel so inclined. I gave the last one a passing grade, and I like this one, too. I didn’t want to, it has a lot of things that annoy me when they are on their own, but I find it just so charming. There’s a real down trodden, working class vibe that they pull off here, and the twang in both the guitar and the vocals helps. (+)
Spell – Superstar
Out of the ashes of The Fluid, who you may know from Sub Pop 200, comes Spell. Drummer Garrett Shavlik worked on Spell during downtime with The Fluid, but when they broke up in 1993, he dedicated his time to Spell full time with (then) married duo guitarist Tim Beckman and bassist Channin Floyd.
The song has that sort of edge that the lighter Sub Pop bands had, where the guitars are thick but they have a pop sensibility.
After Island Records released their only album, Mississippi, Spell split. It appears that the members are all stick active in the Denver music scene, or were at least. Spell and ’57 Lesbian reformed to play a benefit for The Fluid singer Rick Kulwicki, who had died in 2012. (+)
Magnapop – Lay It Down
We just talked about Magnapop back in #012. Here there are again with their second track from Hot Boxing… the label must really have a lot riding on this one. Ok, the last one passed and this one does, too. It really rocks more than I expected, and the vocal harmonies are great. It sounds like I definitely need to explore this album. (+)
Silkworm – Couldn’t You Wait
Andy Cohen, Joel RL Phelps, and Tim Midyett formed Silkworm in Montana in 1987, but moved to Seattle in 1990, where they met up with drummer Michael Dahlquist, who finalized the lineup.
The song has a real nervous energy, and a sense of urgency to it. I couldn’t tell you what the lyrics are about, though.
The band ended in 2005, when Dahlquist and two other musicians were killed in a car accident. The remaining members went on to other projects. (+)
Bunnygrunt – Favorite Food
This group… kind of duo, but not… formed in St. Louis in 1993 by guitarist Matt Harnish and drummer Karen Ried. They have had a rotating cast of bass players but their most recent, Eric Von Damage, has been with them since 2005.
This comes from their EP Standing Hampton. It’s a little twee for my tastes, but there is a certain appeal in it’s lo-fi presentation.
Bunnygrunt split in 1998, but reformed in 2003 and are still going today. (-)
Built To Spill – In The Morning
So many bands from Boise, Idaho. Built To Spill and Caustic Resin, and there is a little overlap in members there. I had never heard Built To Spill before, but I had seen them in print a lot. I’m not into it, I kind of expected them to be more like Superchunk. I like Caustic Resin more, I think, based on what turns up from them later.
Built To Spill is really just Doug Martsch, He’s been running the band from 1992 to… today. (-)
Betty Please – Song For Evelyn Hamburger
This is the striking mystery band of this installment. There is nothing about this band out there. The only thing I found links to The Harvard Crimson on March, 23, 1994. It’s some sort of reprint of a column of some sort, but it’s not entirely clear. The group only released 3 seven-inch records across 1993-94. The mystery is the best thing about this band, the song is kind of intriguing, but it’s about 3 minutes too long. This video only has 252 views! (-)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: (8/20) 40% worth keeping, lowest showing to date! 65.2% across the series.
Maple Leaf Invasion: Zero, ZERO DAMMIT. 2.08% over the entire series, so far.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and 700 Miles are leading the pack with three appearances each. This time, we get four artists making their second appearances. Catherine, Ass Ponys, Magnapop, and Cranes join Matthew Sweet, Sarah McLachlan, Eve’s Plum, Catherine Wheel, Therapy?, Jeff Buckley, Beastie Boys, Engines of Aggression, Luscious Jackson, and G. Love & Special Sauce as members of the Two-Timers Club. There have been 273 unique artists to date.