Old Music Monthly #018: February 1995
Veruca Salt – Number One Blind
Formed in Chicago, by singers / guitarists Louise Post and Nina Gordon, after being introduced by mutual friend Lilli Taylor. You know, Lilli Taylor? Unfortunately, there is no clip of “Joe Lies” from Say Anything on YouTube. Anyway, the pair wanted to have an all woman rock group, but they didn’t have any applicants they liked. Instead, they added Jim Shapiro (Gordon’s brother) on drums and Steve Lack on bass. The released the single for “Seether” ahead of 1994’s American Thighs.
When “Seether” was out, I really didn’t like it. Yes, it’s a great song, and I can admit it now. However, at the time I guess I was a purist and I thought they were a Breeders rip-off band. People would say to me, “Did you hear the new Breeders song?” and I would lose my shit. But when I heard this, I thought it was really good, but I never did get into the album or the band proper. About 3 years ago, my wife was asking about Veruca Salt because they were on SiriusXM, somehow she had never heard them. So, I ended up buying American Thighs decades after its release.
One thing they did as a group, Post and Gordon would each bring songs totally completed, then they each would sing the songs they wrote and they each got the same number of songs on each album to keep it even. Seems like a real tenuous grasp on keeping the group together, if you ask me. They released and EP called Blow It Out Your Ass It’s Veruca Salt in 1996, but we’ll save the rest of the juicy stuff for their next appearance. They come back with their second album in 1997. (+)
Throwing Muses – Bright Yellow Gun
Formed in Rhode Island by step-sisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly in 1983. After a series of releases and some band turnover, Donelly worked with Kim Deal in Breeders, before leaving both bands and forming Belly (and taking then Throwing Muses bassist Fred Abong with her). By the time we catch up with the band in 1995, they are on their sixth album and Hersh is the last original member. But who cares?
“Bright Yellow Gun” was the first national “hit”… so says Wikipedia, but I’ve never, ever heard it in the wild. It’s a great song, and the guitar really propels the thing forward. I read the drummer never used cymbals, but I didn’t notice because the guitar and vocals are so front and center.
The band ended in 1997, but reformed by 2002 and are still going today. I don’t know what the hell Tonya Donelly is doing. (+)
Bettie Serveert – Crutches
So, I looked into their history, but there isn’t much there. The singer’s dad was Dutch, she was born in Canada so English was her first and only language when the family moved back to the Netherlands. The band formed and played one show in 1986, but then broke up forever. Until 1991, when they got together again. I don’t know if I’d call it a “reunion” since I don’t think a single performance makes a “band”.
Anyway, this comes from their second album, Lamprey. I really like this album cover, it’s ugly in a way that you just don’t see very often. The song itself is good, too. Layered guitars and it’s kind of melancholy. Exactly what I needed in the February of ‘95.
The group is still going today, although they seem to be much bigger in Europe than they are in the states. (+)
Chris Whitley – Narcotic Prayer
This singer / songwriter / guitarist was bornin Texas, started playing guitar at 15, and by the early 80s he was busking in New York and then moved to Belgium where he played in a number of groups. By 1991, he had released his debut album <i>Living with the Law</i> on Columbia Records.
This comes from his second album, Din of Ecstacy. The guitar on this is good, maybe great, but as a song, it’s just kind of bleh.
Whitley continues to perform and record up until his death in 2005 from lung cancer. (-)
Simple Minds – She’s A River
More than once Simple Minds have been referred to as Scottish U2, in a derogatory way. I am not that well versed in Simple Minds, but what I do know of both bands, I’m not hearing it. The core of Simple Minds formed in 1977, as punk band Johnny & the Self-Abusers. The played a lot and released a single, but broke up the day it came out. By 1978, the group was formed and settled into a stable line up by the end of that year.
Earliest stuff is described as post-punk and art-rock, but by 1995 the band was full on pop. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although, as a single, it peaked at #9 in the UK, I think this song is really flaccid. I mean, everyone loves “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, and I might even like “Alive and Kicking” more, but this just feels like it has no spark.
The group has been going non-stop since 1977, so that’s 45 years of ex-band members. To learn more about Simple Minds, visit your local library. (-)
Stone Roses – Love Spreads
Manchester band Stone Roses formed in 1983, and in 1989 released “one of the greatest British albums ever.” That’s a lot to live up to.
I would’ve been about 13 when their first album came out, so I had no idea about them. I remember when Second Coming came out, people were just going on about how it took 5 years for it to come out… back then the touring cycles were shorter, albums were shorter, so they got cranked out more frequently. I also remember reviews were very uneven. This song went to #2 in the UK, and it’s fine, but it doesn’t cause me to feel anything.
Stone Roses broke up in 1996, but reformed in 2011 and broke up again in 2017. They’ve shared members with Primal Scream, The Fall, and The Smiths. (-)
Kitchens Of Distinction – Now It’s Time To Say Goodbye
Formed in 1986, this English alt-rock / dream pop / shoegaze band is also known as Kitchens O.D. and Bathrooms of Destruction. Also, singer / bassist Patrick Fitzgerald was a medical doctor who quit to pursue the band, which is some serious dedication.
This track comes from their fourth album, Cowboys and Aliens, presumably no relation to the comic that won’t be released for 11 years. The song is ok, but the guitar at 3:04 is really cool sounding, which kind of elevates the whole thing if you wait for it.
The group disbanded in the summer of 1996, and pursued a number of other projects. They reformed in 2012 and are still going today. (+)
Cold Water Flat – Magnetic North Pole
This Massachusetts group formed in 1990 and released a few singles before releasing their debut, Listen, in 1992. They signed with MCA and released a self-titled record in 1995. This song is pretty good, I’m not sure why I didn’t keep this one when I had the disc originally. It might be because the vocals are not my favorite, but today as an oldhead, I think the song succeeds despite the vocals because the music is really strong.
Per usual, the major label machine killed them. They broke up sometime around 1997. Drummer Paul Harding became an author, and his debut book Tinkers won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. (+)
Prick – Animal
Now, this is one you may have heard before. I’m always surprised when people know this one, but apparently it was farther wide spread than I realized. Singer / multi-instrumentalist Kevin McMahon started new wave act Lucky Pierre in Cleveland in 1974. The group released a series of singles until 1984, but after a decade of struggle they called it quits. The group reformed in 1988, and added one Trent Reznor on live keyboards just before Pretty Hate Machine broke. Lucky Pierre split in 1990, and by 1992 McMahon had formed his own industrial rock band, Prick.
In a staggering display of nepotism, Reznor signed Prick to his Nothing imprint on Interscope Records, which released 1995’s self-titled album. It probably helps that the song samples NIN’s “Closer”, so I’m sure Reznor get’s some publishing there. But all snark aside, it’s a reliable industrial rock song right at home in 1995. As I said a few installments back, these sorts of groups are going to be plentiful.
McMahon moved to London to start the follow up, but that didn’t pan out and his good buddy Trent dropped Prick from the label. Drummer Andy Kubiszewski went on to work with Stabbing Westward, but came back for Prick’s 2002 follow up The Wreckyard. Instead of continuing Prick, the duo resurrected Lucky Pierre. Reznor continued making millions of dollars per second. (+)
Mista Grimm – Situation: Grimm
Have we talked about how shitty Epic Records has been lately? It’s probably been at least five minutes. For your consideration: Mista Grimm. His first release was a song with Warren G and Nate Dogg, “Indo Smoke”, on the Poetic Justice soundtrack. Then, we have this track that was on the Higher Learning soundtrack. This isn’t really special, it’s an example of hip hop from the era, but not a particularly interesting one. It’s really trying for that G-Funk sound, but it seems to fall flat.
The female vocal hook is performed by an uncredited Val Young. She was discovered by George Clinton, and toured and / or performed with The Brides of Funkenstein, The Gap Band, and Roy Ayers. Rick James took her and launched her a solo career in 1985, but she got dropped when James had a dispute with Motown. She found a second wind in her career appearing in tracks like this, and working with Dr. Dre, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and many, many more. In 2014, she became a member of the new line up of The Mary Jane Girls.
Meanwhile, Mista Grimm completes his debut album, Things Are Looking Grimm, and releases the first single “Steady Dippen” which did so bad that Epic shelved the album in definitely and dropped him. Geez, give the guy a chance. Anyway, he released a single in 2007, and seems to have disappeared completely since. (-)
Combine – Cattle My Rage
Hailing from Norfolk, VA, this three-piece “brought the Norfolk sound to the global stage via their 2 critically acclaimed releases”. Sure, ok. I can’t name another band from Norfolk, so maybe they are onto something. The band formed when guitarist / singer Brian Parfumi and bassist Xavier Daniel Lewis worked together at a screen printing factory. Both were between bands at the same times, and decided to jam. They brought in drummer John Corbett, and Combine was born.
The song was a keeper for me back in the day, and, I think it’s still a keeper now. It’s ostensibly “punk”, but I think it hews closer to noise rock. It’s got this energy of just barely holding on… like riding in the back of a pickup and the driver turns to sharp and you almost fall out. The part from 2:03 to 2:10 is like a little post-hardcore for you, and the band sort of has the redneck hardcore vibe that Clutch was doing around Transnational Speedway, but that’s not to say they really sound like Clutch in any way.
After being signed to Caroline Records, the band toured non-stop for 5 years, and released a second album in 1996, but Caroline was sold. The band lost their management, and disbanded. “We wanted to get signed by a decent independent label, and we wanted to tour, so by that standard – we were wildly successful,” Parfumi said in 2020, “Unfortunately – we didn’t have the squeaky cleanest reputation, and I am positive that factored into making it difficult to find us a new home. Hard drugs were ubiquitous in Norfolk at that period and were definitely burning their way through all the local bands… Life expectancy for a Norfolk guitarist was plunging and my name was definitely moving up the dead pool.” Parfumi runs a studio in L.A., Corbett plays local gigs in Maryland, and Lewis is still part of the Norfolk scene. (+)
Sons Of Elvis – Soaking It In
This group formed in Cleveland, Ohio, but three fourths of them moved to The Bronx for college. I don’t know what that has to do with anything. They signed with indie American Empire, but the label folded before their album was released. Priority Records scooped them up, and released Glodean.
This track I definitely remembered from owning back then, but I know I lost some files so it never made it into my more recent rotations. The guitar is really cool here, and even the little soft pop break sounds good. I don’t know that I would spring for this album, but I’m sure it’s still haunting some bargain bins… if you can find a used CD store.
The dates are fuzzy here, but it looks like they split in 1995. They played a reunion show sometime around 2011, just because a guy asked them to. They probably wouldn’t have lasted past 1996 anyway, when Priority… the label whose first big seller was the California fuckin’ Raisins… dropped their entire rock division to focus entirely on hip-hop and rap. But no matter, bassist Dave Hill became a comedian and author, and the other members still work in their music scenes. (+)
Digable Planets – Graffiti
You’ve all heard “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” from this Brooklyn trio, and that’s awesome. This comes from their second album, Blowout Comb, which is a pretty cool album title. This one features an uncredited Jeru the Damaja (uncredited on this disc, anyway). It’s a cool song, it’s pretty bare, mostly a beat with some jazz horns at the end.
We’re going to see them again next week, for the rare CMJ two consecutive tracks in a row appearance. But let’s just do it now. The trio split in 1995 citing creative differences, but reformed from 2005-2011, and from 2015 to the present. The members all embarked on solo careers, and Ishmael “Butter Fly” Butler formed Shabazz Palaces. (+)
Subway – This Lil Game We Play
This is straight up mainstream R&B, which is kind of jarring, considering what these discs look like. Subway was four young men from Chicago, and they were signed by Michael Bivins (Bel Biv DeVoe, New Edition), and when looking at the group with their matching outfits, it seems they are being molded into the New Jack Swing model, but this song doesn’t have any “swing”. This song also features girl group 702 (also signed by Bivins). Look, they are very, very talented, all of their voices sound smooth as butter, but this is so far out of my zone, and I’m never going to listen to this again. It looks and sounds like it should, but it lacks the song.
What’s interesting here, is anyone else going to listen to this again? The group’s sole album went gold, but they ended in 1996 and 702 is still going… I have no recollection of this song, and I would absolutely bump some Bel Bive DeVoe or Boys II Men if I am in the right mood. It seems too niche to have made the impact that they were going for. However, this song did peak at #15 and was on the Billboard chart for 20 weeks. (-)
Certain Distant Suns – Bitter
Also, hailing from Chicago, and also flaming out after one album (but zero Billboard hits) we have Certain Distant Suns. The group began with Justin Mroz (guitar / vocals) and Lance Stewart (bass / vocals), and they self-released a few cassettes. They expanded to a full band and signed with Warner Bros subsidiary, Giant. “Bitter” was released on an early EP, but was later included in their album, Happy On the Inside. I wasn’t going to pass this one, but the solo at 2:42 is pretty good, and I do like the chorus.
The band were dropped by Giant, of course, and the lineup was shaken up in 1996. They released one more EP before calling it quits for good.
(The video also has a Milton Berle cameo, which is somehow even more perplexing than his cameo in Ratt’s “Round and Round” video.) (+)
Laughing Hyenas – Just Can’t Win
This garage rock / punk band formed in Ann Arbor in 1985 by Negative Approach front man John Brannon. After self-releasing a cassette, the band signed to Touch and Go, who they stayed with through their entire career. Brannon was joined by guitarist Larissa Strickland (Stolarchuk), bassist Kevin Strickland (Munro), and drummer Jim Kimball… the Stricklands were not related, it’s not even their real last name. They just chose the same surname for shits and giggles.
I didn’t save this one back in the day, and I’m not sure why. The guitar is some real garage riffing, the vocals sometimes are a little bit more than what the song needs, but it’s still a fun listen.
After 1995’s Hard Times, the band split. Brannon went on to front Easy Action, and after that reformed Negative Approach. Kimball did a stint with Jesus Lizard, and formed the Dennison/Kimball Trio (which was actually a duo). Strickland died of a drug overdose in 2006. (+)
Rich Kids On LSD – Betrayed
Often known as RKL, this punk band started in 1982. Remember how Scott Caan was a rapper a few installments ago? Well, Josh Brolin was apparently RKL’s drummer before they got signed. Can you hear this band playing in Barbara Streisand’s garage? And you know he was dressed in his stunning gray sweatsuit / red bandana ensemble from The Goonies. Anyway, they ran from 1982 to 1989, then reformed in 1992.
This song came from 1994’s Riches to Rags, which was their last proper album. I don’t think I really knew what the difference was between punk and metal back then, but I knew this was heavy, and I liked it.
The group split in 1996, and reformed in 2002. There’s been a lot of turnover over the years. Five former members went on to form Lagwagon, but RKL ended in 2006 when singer Jason Sears died at an inpatient rehab facility. Drummer Derrick Plourde (who also played in Lagwagon and The Ataris) died by suicide in 2005. (+)
Jenn Vix – Devils Chasing Angels
I’m just going to say, I respect the hell out of Jenn Vix. She started playing drums at 3, and then piano by 8. She played in a one of group with Adam Yauch whom she met from going to their hardcore shows before they converted to hip hop. She released her self-titled, self-released debut in 1995, which is where this comes from. She has self-released two more albums, as well as singles and collaborations with Reeves Gabrels (Bowie, Tin Machine, The Cure), Andy Anderson (The Cure, Iggy Pop), Dave Barbarossa (Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Republica), and Ali Score (A Flock of Seagulls). She also is apparently constantly trying to collaborate with any and every one who has TikTok. She has been grinding and working and putting herself out there for decades, and even if she never breaks big, she hasn’t given up.
A lot of what she gets filed under is darkwave, trip-hop, alt-rock and the list goes on. This is a little bit of all of those. I didn’t keep this back in the day, I had zero recollection of it. Hearing it today, it’s not bad, but it sounds too me like a sound that was already out of date by the time this was out. That being said, Vix has a pleasant voice and this could’ve been on an early 4AD release. (+)
Alison Statton & Spike – Mr. Morgan
Alison Statton was born in Wales and got her start with Young Marble Giants, and then moved on to front a jazz group called Weekend. She then decided music and performance wasn’t for her, and she took off to be a chiropractor. But, it was too late, she had already been bitten by the music bug. She went on to form a duo called Devine and Statton, and then moved on to work with “Spike”. Don’t really know who the fuck Spike is.
It’s got this retro 60’s organ thing going on. Statton has a nice voice, but this song should be crammed into a sub-Napoleon Dynamite indie feature.
This partnership ended sometime after 1997. Young Marble Giants reformed for a number of shows between 2007 and 2015, and Statton released a new album with Spike in 2018. In the meantime, Statton is still a practicing chiropractor. (-)
(The) Revels – Intoxica
Here we have a surf rock group formed in California and they were active anywhere from the Mid to late 50’s through to the early 60’s. The group’s music was featured in Pulp Fiction, which probably spurned the creation of the 1994 hits record this comes from. This is some cool shit. I’m sure I thought I was too cool for it when I heard back then, but I was a stupid kid. (+)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: (14/20) This month is 70%, making it 64.7% over the series.
Maple Leaf Invasion: Let this category stay and illustrate my shame and ignorance! 1.8% Canadian across the series.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: For two weeks in a row, there are no additions to the Two-Timer’s Club or the Three-peaters. However, to date: 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 311 unique artists to date.