Old Music Monthly #028: December 1995
Our good friends Smashing Pumpkins adorn the cover this month. The article inside is written as a listicle (before there were such things), and it’s titled “28 Reasons The Smashing Pumpkins Are Cooler Than a Bomb-Pop, Craftier Than Your Class Valedictorian, and More Important Than REO Speedwagon”. Jesus Tap-dancing Christ, I hope the writer got a bottle of mouthwash for his hard work in fellating all of them. Also, not that I’m defending REO Speedwagon, but taking pot shots at them in 1995 isn’t really edgy or cool. Leave the old folks alone.
In case you were wondering, the complainers have always been with us. One doesn’t think the RIYL is good enough, the other doesn’t understand how the lead in time of print media works (worked).
In My Room / In My Stocking
I didn’t know Cracker Barrel had restaurants, I only knew about the cheese. So, when Melvins talk about getting free food from Cracker Barrel, I was a little confused.
Weird Promo Item
I can just imagine this thing smeared with fly guts. Gross.
Tours We’d Like To See
Weird Record of the Month
I think Klezmer sounds real neat.
Fire up your fax machines! I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single one of these songs.
Best New Music
I don’t usually go deep on these, but Superchunk is of interest to many of you. I’m going to talk about For Squirrels down below, but I also wanted to highlight Supernova. Everyone knows “Chewbacca” from Clerks, but the description of a Devo/Ramones hybrid is pretty apt.
Paging I, Ron Butterfly… Mr. Butterfly to the Review Section.
This review for Saturday Morning’s Greatest Hits is kind of lame, but I will say that line about having a dodgeball with Sponge’s name on it… I can’t see the band Sponge without thinking about that line for nearly 30 years. If you ever find this in a bargain bin, scoop it up. Most of it is serviceable, but the Butthole Surfers and Reverend Horton Heat tracks are amazing.
Sidebar: Butthole Surfers are really having a moment. We’re less than a year from “Pepper”, but “Who Was In My Room Last Night” was in a Nintendo commercial, Gibby Haynes is singing with Johnny Depp (more on that later), and Paul Leary played on Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple and Flaming Lips’ Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, and he’s about to (partially) produce Sublime’s self-titled album that’s going to blow up in a big way.
The Holiday Gift Guide
The guide itself is mostly just albums, but here are some highlights.
Here is the Comic Strip Club crossover you didn’t know you needed.
I used to thrift store shop a lot, and as it became more mainstream, there was less, cool weird stuff.
Weird Records are always a good gift (to me). At this time, vinyl was very nearly dead. I can’t tell you how many records I bought at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, 3 for $1.00. Near pristine copies of Shaf, Saturday Night Fever, Led Zeppelin IV, and on and on. I can remember some friends getting original press vinyl of things like Superunknown, but none of them had a turntable to play them on.
I think this is actually a pretty handy guide for the holiday season of 1995. However, I think the people who subscribe don’t need it, unless they are going to tear it out and strategically place it in their mother’s most recent issue of Look! magazine.
Cathedral is a band that I like the idea of more than I actually like.
None of this impacts me in anyway, does this matter to you?
This seems to be in the vein of holiday gift giving… for ones’ self. Here’s what’s going on in home video and comic books.
I know this is alternative, and we’re not talking Nirvana or Pearl Jam here, but has Seaweed had any lasting cultural impact? I don’t mean that as a dig, it’s just not a band I hear anyone talking about, ever. Anyway, how many did you own?
This is pretty interesting to me. I didn’t know any of this about Pete Shelley’s album. I don’t remember these CD ROM add-ons being so wide spread… but I didn’t have a computer in 1995. I remember Clutch’s Elephant Riders had a neat little animated notebook with drawings and what the songs were about. If you had these CDs today, would you be able to even use them with Windows Infinity or whatever the fuck operating system we’re on now? Anyway, as with all things, major labels would eventually use this technology to trojan horse software onto computers prevent people from copying CDs.
This actually appears way earlier in the magazine, but I wanted to put this here to juxtapose the Tech page. The magazine mentions a “ghost track”, as if it hasn’t been around for a few years.
New Zealand musician Chris Knox takes us on a tour of Auckland. Flying Nun alert!
Again, the ads are mostly for albums, but there are a few worth talking about.
This is for DGC Records. It’s similar to the one on the first installment that I had an actual magazine. Intead of album covers making mock gig posters, here we have all the bumper stickers for the label’s current lineup. Naturally, it’s on a big gas guzzler, so retro appeal for the grunge kids.
Is this the most 90’s ad you’ve ever seen? It has to be close. I could never see these things, and I still can’t.
Here is the Gibby Haynes / Johnny Depp project P. They’ll be discussed below, so I’m not going to get into it here, but I am 99.9% sure the slogan “P is a band. Not a liquid or a fruit” is all Gibby.
We’ll talk about Spookey Ruben in a little bit, but what I like about this is that it’s kind of like outsider art and that he couldn’t decide on an actual album cover so he just used all of them. His actual album cover is the third one down on the left, the second one down on the right is the cover for the “Wendy McDonald” single. More on that later.
There’s not much to say about this, except it’s a cool, full color, full page Spider-Man.
Without further delay, the CD:
The Velvet Underground – Ocean
How does it go? Only 1,000 people bought their albums, but all of them started their own vegan bakery? I don’t know, something like that. I don’t really have to go into this, everyone already knows all there is to know about them, and if you don’t know, it’s very easily available. Why, just yesterday I saw their biography on the back of a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. Weird that General Mills would include a flexi-disc of “Heroin” as a promotion.
Anyway, this is a previously unreleased track that was promoting the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See. Look, Velvet Underground has never been my jam. That being said, the music on this is ok, but Lou Reed’s vocal delivery leaves me cold. (-)
David Bowie – The Hearts Filthy Lesson
Another mega-artist that needs no explanation, we have another reinvention of David Bowie. My first exposure to Bowie, like many in my age group, was Labyrinth. I dressed up as my own version of Jareth as Halloween one year, but I didn’t have the crotch to support the costume. The next year, The Glass Spider Tour had a prime time special on ABC. I didn’t realize it was the same person at the time, I don’t think, but I was terribly bored by it. I had to sit through it because my mom was videotaping it for my bad step dad.
I thought this was a really cool song. Even then, there were accusations by some that Bowie was jumping on a bandwagon. My friend and I had no idea about his reputation as a chameleon, and that Bowie was always accused of stealing styles. My friend said, “I think this is the type of music he would have always done if the technology had been there.” I think that’s kind of true, you can decide if the Berlin Trilogy (plus Iggy Pop’s The Idiot) prove or disprove the idea.
I think Outside. is a pretty solid album, I like it better than the full on drum n bass direction he took after this. (+)
Thurl Ravenscroft – You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
If I could pick any name for myself, it would be Thurl Ravenscroft. I mean, how fucking cool is that? Ravenscroft was a singer and voice actor, contributing to many Disney movies and his voice was used on many early theme park rides. He was also the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger until 2004 (he died in 2005 at the age of 91), and occasionally commercials still use old recordings of his voice.
In 1995 the Grinch soundtrack came to CD for the first time, after only being released on LP and Reel-To-Reel in 1966, and then never again. Do I have to tell you why this is awesome? (+)
Ramones – Spider-Man
We last heard from Ramones waaaay back in #006. They’re already released their final album, ¡Adios Amigos!, and they’re about half a year from breaking up. This is a different version than what’s on that last album, this one is here to promote the compilation Saturday Morning Cartoon’s Greatest Hits. The disc has some good ones, this is one of them. (+)
Loud Lucy – Down Baby
This Chicago band began in the indie rock scene in the early 90s. At one point, a friend of the band had made a video of Skin Yard when they came through. He sent the video to Uncle Jack Endino, along with the Loud Lucy demo. Endino sent the tape to his manager, and then the bidding war started. The band recorded their debut with Endino, but ultimately scrapped it for sounding “too polished”.
Not sure that’s possible. This is a good song, but the album is a bland and sanitary effort. It leaves almost zero impact on the listener.
Loud Lucy broke up in early 1997, after Breathe failed to make an impact. Singer / guitarist Christian Lane retained the record deal with Geffen, which resulted in nothing. Lane now works making music for film and TV, and shows up doing backing vocals on Veruca Salt songs every so often. (+)
The Amps – Tipp City
At the end of 1994, The Breeders were out of steam and “taking a break” from near constant touring for almost two years. Kim Deal started producing a Guided By Voices album that never came to be, so she started demoing her own material for a solo project. After her sister Kelley was busted for heroin use, Kim brought her in as a distraction and decided it was now a band. Kelley ended up splitting to go to rehab, and Kim enlisted bassist Luis Lerma (The Pleasures Pale), guitarist Nate Farley (future Guided By Voices, future Breeders), and drummer Jim MacPherson (Breeders, future Guided By Voices).
First Tammy Ampersand & The Amps, then Tammy & The Amps, then just The Amps. They toured with Foo Fighters and played additional shows with Mike Watt, Bikini Kill, and Helium. By 1996, Kim was ready to reform the Breeders, and was waiting for Josephine Wiggs and Kelley to come back, but they just said, “Nah, sis.” So The Amps became the Breeders.
You already know how good this, and the entire Pacer album is. I always chuckle at the 0:55 mark when Farley just kind of stops singing backup for no reason, and looks shocked. (+)
Menswe@r – Daydreamer
Allmusic says that Menswear (I am not doing the “at” symbol) was “one of the most popular Brit-pop bands of 1995″. Eurocados, is that true? I don’t remember them ever doing anything here, they were on this disc, an ad in this issue, and then nothing. Wikipedia says that the group was “the best unsigned group” before they even existed, and they were on the cover of Melody Maker before they released *any* material. I didn’t know that then, but I must’ve sensed it, because I had an instant dislike of them.
I didn’t give it the time of day back then. It’s mostly awful, it’s sub-Elsatica in it’s ripping off of Wire. It’s like someone took Pink Flag and photocopied it. The first photocopy was Elastica, then they photocopied Elastica, and Elastica’s copy, and on and on until photocopy #74 gave us Menswear. It’s droll, but I’m going to pass it simply because the guitar that comes in at 1:36 is really cool… but I don’t know if I will ever listen to it again.
The band ran from 1994 to 1998. Singer Johnny Dean went solo, and then he reconstituted the band with a totally new lineup in 2013 (people love that, just ask Axl Rose), but even that fizzled out by 2015. (+)
P – Michael Stipe
This is really loaded. P was the project of fallen teen idol Johnny Depp and Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes. The group also included 21 Jump Street actor Sal Janco on drums, and guitarist / songwriter Bill Carter. Sometimes also including Flea and Sex Pistol Steve Jones. This is also really difficult to research, because naming your band “P” is not easy to google. If I were a betting man, I’d say Haynes came up with that name.
There was a lot of pearl clutching by the punk rock elite that Haynes had “gone Hollywood”, and we’re still less than a year from “Pepper”. I wonder how Depp and Haynes got connected, if I had to guess, I’d say Austinite Carter (whose songs have been covered by Waylon Jennings, Robert Palmer, and Counting Crows among others) is the missing link here. Anyway, the reviews were pretty unkind, but one that stuck out that was from Newsweek or Time or some other mainstream mag, said (paraphrasing), “It’s not the Butthole Surfers, but it’s not not the Butthole Surfers,” which is incredibly apt. This song is really, really good. Honestly, this song, “I Save Cigarette Butts” and “The Deal” are the best of the album. There’s a cover of “Dancing Queen” which is… the nicest way to put it is that it’s “inessential”. The rest of it is dreck.
Fun Fact: P was playing Depp’s Viper Room when River Phoenix overdosed. Rad!
Fun Fact 2: Depp was recently playing a cover of Killing Joke’s “Death and Resurrection Show” with Jeff Beck, which is weird, and it doesn’t make me like him at all. He attempts to win me over have failed. (+)
Lotion – Marijuana Vietnam
Lotion was a New York City indie rock band that created a big lie about Thomas Pynchon doing the liner notes to their second album. That’s it. That’s the most interesting thing about them. The song is bad and they should feel bad. By the time the song finally does something, the listener no longer cares, and the constant “CLINK CLINK CLINK” of a single piano key through out the chorus is annoying to the point of distraction.
Don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz. The band broke up in 2001. (-)
Stabbing Westward – What Do I Have To Do?
We last heard from Stabbing Westward all the way back in #009, with the release of their debut Ungod. Now were catching up with their sophomore album, Wither Blister Burn + Peel. Since then, guitarist Stuart Zechman has left, but the band is continuing on as a four piece with singer Christopher Hall and drummer Andy Kubiszewski fill in on guitar.
The band is still good here, but you can see their shift to a more radio friendly sound.
They will be back in 1998.
(In a 2014 interview, Zechman gave some insight into his departure. He stated that the label was trying to position the band as the next Alice In Chains, and that they were actually poorer on Columbia than before they were signed. The label tried to get them to appear on a CD that was being put out by Taco Bell [I have so many questions about this], and Zechman was totally against it. He up and left without telling anyone, and moved to New York. He later was served papers telling him he was not entitled to any of the band’s equipment [obviously, the only thing they had to their name at that time], including the guitar used to record Ungod, which was customized by Killing Joke’s Geordie Walker. For his part, Zechman does not think he his blameless. “Imagine being around that fucking every day. And all of what goes into that, that kind of psychology and that kind of problem,” Zechman said. “Ultimately, there was a lot of anger created because of things I did.”) (+)
Sister Machine Gun – Hole In The Ground
Also last appearing in #009, also from Chicago, Sister Machine Gun. Main dude Chris Randall cobbled together a lineup with cast offs from Die Warzau, Chemlab, and Filter. There is an official music video, but the mix is drastically different than the actual album version. This one is even slightly different than the one here. The verse rap vocals are really, really bad, but I like the chorus hook.
Sister Machine Gun will return in 1997. (+)
For Squirrels – 8:02 P.M.
Florida’s For Squirrels joined up for a love of music, and got their name because they loved music so much, they would play it “for squirrels” even if no people liked it. The band self-released an album and an EP before being signed to Sony Records. The review above says the album has “semi-industrial, baby Trent” moments, but I’ve never heard that. They are firmly in an REM / Nirvana / Replacements lane. The whole album is pretty good.
In September 1995, while coming back from the CMJ Music Marathon, the band’s van wrecked killing singer Jack Vigliatura, bassist Bill White, and their road manager Tim Bender. By February 1996, they hired school friend Andy Lord on bass and guitarist Travis Tooke took up vocal duties in addition to guitar, and toured minimally as For Squirrels. Later in 1996, they changed their name to Subrosa and released their only album, also on Sony, in 1997… more on that later. Subrosa ended in 2001, and all members are still active in the Gainesville scene. (+)
Capsize 7 – The Safe
Let’s take a trip to North Carolina and visit with Capsize 7. Part of the Chapel Hill scene, the band started in 1991, and released their first 10” EP (Recline and Go) in early 1995. They then signed with Caroline and released Mephisto later in the same year. They were going to record a new album in 1997, but Wikipedia says they got dropped. I’d be willing to bet that they were another casualty from when Caroline folded, like so many other CMJ alums.
This song is so great, it has this tension and frantic energy about it. I have the album and the EP, and I can’t say anything has ever grabbed me the way this one does.
Singer / guitarist Joe Taylor went on to a few other projects, but now he runs a cacao farm in Belize. (+)
7 Seconds – See You Tomorrow
Reno’s 7 Seconds was started by two sets of brothers, Kevin Seconds & Steve Youth, and Tom Munist & Dim Menace, in 1980. Munist & Menace left in 1981 to form Section 8, and drummer Troy Mowat stepped in, and the trio is still the core of the band today.
This comes from the seventh album, their only major label release on Epic Records, The Music, The Message. After the band had done some exploring musically, they were returning to their punk roots here. Truthfully, it’s pretty run of the mill, songs like this are a dime a dozen in this era, but they were one of the first, so points for that I guess.
The band kept going until 2018, when they called it quits, but they reformed in 2021. Kevin Seconds is also a folk-punk solo artist. (+)
Superchunk – Hyper Enough
We saw these Chapel Hill alums back in #007. Here we join back up with the band for Here’s Where the Strings Come In. There’s a lot to like about this. The guitars are great, Mac’s voice is great.
We’ll visit Superchunk again in 1997. (+)
The Goops – Build Me Up, Buttercup
There is next to nothing concrete about this band out there, which is kind of surprising. This song is on the Mallrats soundtrack, and it seemed to be everywhere for a little while. I listened to a podcast about them, and I kind of relate a little bit. The nucleus of the band, singer Eleanor Whitledge and guitarist Brad Worrell hadn’t really even heard of punk until getting into college, and then Worrell was pissed that it existed all this time and he didn’t know. Whitledge was a fan of Devo*, but it wasn’t really punk in the traditional sense.
This is a fun cover, I can’t speak to the rest of their catalog. On their Facebook page (411 likes), I’m not sure if they put out a new EP in 2016 or if it’s old stuff, and they have been threatening a new single for a few years, but nothing seems to have come of it.
*Remember when burnouts would tattoo “OZZY” on their knuckles with an electrified BIC pen and cigarette ashes as ink? I remember Eleanor having a photo in a magazine where she had “DEVO” written across her knuckles. I still think of that. (+)
Spookey Ruben – Wendy McDonald
Ottawa’s Spookey Ruben got his start playing classical guitar, and by 13 he was playing in a variety of hardcore bands. He eventually played in prog thrash band Transilience, which I haven’t heard, but I am curious about it (it was reissued in 2006). He moved onto to this lo-fi pop thing, at which some people referred to him as a “mad scientist of pop”.
I think this is a pretty cool. I did buy the “Wendy McDonald” single, it had a bunch of live tracks on it, and I wasn’t into it. Maybe today I’d feel different.
Spookey is still out there, and I’m not sure if he’s resurrected Transilience or reissuing stuff on Bandcamp. His last single was 2011, and his last album was 2016. (+)
Chris Knox – Half Man/Half Mole
New Zealand’s Chris Knox was a member of Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs, and later The Enemy. He is also a comic artist and writer (“Max Media”). His 4-track recorder was used for most of the early Flying Nun singles, he is pretty known for his lo-fi aesthetic. In 2009, he had a stroke, but still plays live shows very, very rarely.
I like the line “tell me your secret herbs and spices”, and that galloping drum beat. (+)
Tracy Chapman – Give Me One Reason
We all know who Tracy Chapman is. She’s very talented, and she does a lot of social activism, but I never want to hear this song again. (-)
Radiohead – Just
We last saw Radiohead January 1995 (#017), and now we’re going to close out the year with them. Now, we’re promoting The Bends. I have a bunch of Radiohead records, but The Bends is the only one I really listen to.
They’ve had the same lineup since 1985, and that’s pretty cool. Rumors are saying they’ve split, but who knows. (+)
Jonathan Fire Eater – When Prince Was A Kid
This band were a bunch of friends from a Washington DC junior high, they formed a ska group The Ignobles, and out of the ashes of that group comes Jonathan Fire Eater. Moving onto indie rock, the group signed with Third World Underground (before eventually moving on to Dreamworks).
I really like the lo-fi feel of this, just fuzzy and loud. It’s got a weirdness like Possum Dixon, but the edges aren’t sanded off… this isn’t as pristine.
We’ll see them again in 1997 (I feel like I’m saying this a lot), but I want to wrap this up now. Three members went on to form The Walkman, the bassist moved on to journalism, and singer Stewart Lupton went on to The Childballads and The Beatin’s. Lupton passed away in 2018. (+)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: 85.71%! A series high! 63.51% across the series.
Maple Leaf Invasion: 4.76% Canadian! WHOOO! 2.7% Canadian across the series.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: For December, Radiohead, Ramones, Stabbing Westward, Sister Machine Gun, and Superchunk make their second appearances. They are in company with Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Echobelly, Ben Harper, Hum, Bracket, Guided By Voices, Chris Whitley, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Quicksand, Digable Planets, Adam Ant, Catherine, Ass Ponys, Magnapop, Cranes, Sarah McLachlan, Eve’s Plum, Therapy?, Jeff Buckley, Beastie Boys, Engines of Aggression, Luscious Jackson, G. Love & Special Sauce, Green Apple Quick Step, Letters To Cleo, Big Audio Dynamite, Eve’s Plum, Greta, and Paul Weller. Catherine Wheel, 700 Miles, and Matthew Sweet are the Three-peaters. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the only group to appear four times. Over the 28 installments, there have 485 unique artists.