Old Music Monthly #031: March 1996
Uncle Iggy graces the cover… for as much Iggy as they put through this mag, it’s a wonder I never took to him sooner. But then again, the magazine never made a case for The Idiot. It’s a good article, especially the last two paragraphs.
I don’t want to get in the habit posting entire articles every week, but this Wire article (which may even have more words devoted to it than the cover story) is worth it.
We’ve got this lady who is a staunch defender of Cheap Trick, maybe a little too much. Is Cheap Trick merely a cult band? They have 3 platinum albums, 2 gold albums, and Live at Budokan is 5x platinum. But even then all of that was over by 1985 (with one more platinum album in 1988). Platinum records were easier to get then because 1.) people bought music, and 2.) there were only like seven bands. I don’t say these things to disparage Cheap Trick, I saw them in 1992 at the New York State Fair (State Fair shows were a hallmark of your career being over… back then) and they were great. But can a band that barely made it have a “comeback” at all? Anyway, read all this nonsense.
More Iggy content! (sort of)
In My Room
Weird Record of the Month
I think I might need this one…
Weird Promo Item of the Month
Best New Music
What’s interesting to me is the takes these reviews take. Ministry’s Filth Pig was pretty well hated upon release, but this review is brutal. I think the album has aged well. Skinny Puppy’s The Process was largely seen as lackluster at the time, but the review is pretty positive. I think the consensus today is that The Process (and all post Goettel albums) are just Ogre solo records.
On the Verge
More like Kitten Power!
The Amps continue to rule. From last month, Mr. Bungle moves up to #23, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drop to #68.
Let’s visit Austin, Texas with Tim Stegall of The Hormones.
Without further delay, the CD:
Iggy Pop – Heart Is Saved
We saw Iggy Pop back in #003. Here, Pop is promoting his 1996 album Naughty Little Doggie. The album got middling reviews, and I haven’t heard the album, but this is a permanently cromulent hard rock song. This song might be better than anything The Stooges reunion produced. I didn’t save this song back in the day, but I still remember it. I can’t recall a single thing from The Stooges reunion.
We’ll see Mr. Pop again 6 months from now. (+)
Bad Religion – A Walk
In the faraway times of 1980, for Los Angeles high schoolers started a punk band. Greg Graffin (vocals), Brett Gurewitz (guitar), Jay Bentley (bass), and Jay Ziskrout (drums) put together a tight 6 song set that became their first self-titled EP, which was released on Epitaph Records which was the label formed by Gurewitz to put it out to begin with. Ziskrout left before the completion of their first full length (How Could Hell Be Any Worse?), and was replaced by Pete Finestone.
In 1983, Finestone and Bentley were out, and the group went prog inspired hard rock and released Into the Unknown. Later, Gurewitz joked that the label shipped out 10,000, but received 11,000 back. It wasn’t initially well received (but has been re-evaluated prositively), and the group split. By 1985, Graffin, Bentley, and Finestone were back as Bad Religion, but Gurewitz had stayed out to focus on running Epitaph, but he did produce the Back to the Known EP.
The band would continue to release 4 more albums, Gurewitz would come and go. The band signed with Atlantic Records. This song comes from their second album for the label, The Gray Race, which Gurewitz (who was out at the time) called “uninspired”… which did not stop Epitaph from reissuing it in 2008. I think it’s a good song, but for me, all Bad Religion albums sound very similar.
Bad Religion would stay on Atlantic until returning to Epitaph in 2002, which is pretty remarkable they lasted that long on a major. Three fourths of the original lineup are still together, but they’ve had a lot of changeover throughout the years including guitarist Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Redd Kross), drummer Lucky Lehrer (Circle Jerks, Redd Kross), and drummer Brooks Wackerman (Infectious Grooves, Suicidal Tendencies, Avenged Sevenfold). Original drummer Jay Ziskrout went on to become founder of Grita! Records, managing director for Epitaph Records Europe, and at some point became Chief Operating Officer of CMJ.
We’ll visit with Bad Religion again in 1998. (+)
Cast – Alright
Singer / guitarist John Power formed this group in 1992, which a almost constant rotation of members. He formed the group to perform his songs after frustration grew with his previous group, The La’s, because they were constantly having aborted recording sessions and had been playing the same set of songs since 1986. Power formed the band, signed a deal, then by 1993 he had already disbanded the group, and got himself dropped from his label.
Here, we’re with the group on their debut which was released in 1995. I wouldn’t say this is bad, but there’s nothing about it that’s really special.
The band split in 2001, but came back in 2010 and are still around. (-)
Aimee Mann – Sugarcoated
Mann was born in Richmond, Virginia and had a desire to learn bass guitar, but her family made fun of her. Well, jokes on them, because she caught mono at 12 and learned to play her brother’s guitar while she was bed-ridden. Mann then went to Berklee, but dropped out and formed new wave band Young Snakes, but they split when the others in the group thought she was writing “love songs”. She then joined Ministry for a short spell, which said gave her some education on songwriting structure.
Of course, after that she formed ‘Til Tuesday. They lasted from 1982 to 1989, and released 3 albums in that time. You’ve all heard “Voices Carry”. The group broke up when Mann wanted to solo, she felt that acoustic guitar was more where she was at, and didn’t have an interest in pop music.
“Sugarcoated” comes from her second album, I’m With Stupid, which as you would expect was critically cherished and commercially less to. This is a very 90s sounding song, the guitar is pretty good, but her voice is great here.
She’s still going, she released Queens of the Summer Hotel in 2021. (+)
Marry Me Jane – Twentyone
New York’s Marry Me Jane were formed by singer Amanda Kravat and drummer Richard Pagano in 1993. They rounded out the group from other local bands, but principal songwriter Kravat was losing faith in their music.
Turns out, actor / director / writer Johnathon Schaech (who has done 100,000 things and the only thing I saw was the 2008 Prom Night, and it fucking sucks) had a copy of the demo and loved it. He was directing his movie If Lucy Fell (with a staggering 18% on Rotten Tomatoes), and wanted the band for the soundtrack. Sony Pictures wanted a heavier “grunge” soundtrack, but Schaech persisted.
In interview with The Virginian-Pilot in March 1996, guitarist Tim Beattie said, “We didn’t want to be known as a soundtrack band”, and singer Amanda Kravat added, “It’s meant a lot of attention and tie-ins, and there’s been great focus on the live shows. Movies, though, go away.” Way to bite the hand that feeds.
The film features 10 songs by the band (9 of which are on their debut), and as a result of the film the band was signed to (Sony owned) Epic Records. Now, kids, what happens when you sign with Epic Records? Well, Marry Me Jane beat the odds and managed to put out a second record on the label, but the band dissolved over that old chestnut “musical differences”. Kravat put out an album in 2001, but you can’t even buy it on Discogs. Anyway, this song is about as exciting as flushable toilet wipes. (-)
Possum Dixon – Emergency’s About To End
We talked about Possum Dixon way back in #004. We’re catching up with them on their second album. I really like what they’re doing here, although I can’t shake the feeling the multi-layered vocals on the word “bullwhip” (1:23) is some kind of inside joke.
We’ll catch up with them for the last time in 1998. (+)
Jars of Clay – Flood
The members Jars of Clay are from Nashville, Tennessee but met at college in Greenville, Illinois. Seems backward, doesn’t it? The band’s name comes from the Bible, Corinthians to be exact. The members first bonded over their mutual love of Toad the Wet Sprocket. The groups started as a project for music classes, then evolved to coffee houses, and eventually to winning a gospel (?!) competition.
King Crimson’s Adrian Belew was so impressed he offered to produce their debut album, which is where “Flood” comes from. As it turned out, he only produced 2 songs, and this was one of them. Maybe that’s why I like it? But I will say, that I never did and wouldn’t bother tracking down the album. It’s a good song, but it’s not that good. Lead singer Dan Haseltine told NPR that their songs are written to be more accessible to people “put off by religion”. Well, partial credit because it was a popular song, but it’s about as subtle as a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.
This song became one of, if not the biggest mainstream song by a Contemporary Christian artist. The group opened for other Christian acts, but also for secular acts like Sting and Matchbox Twenty. Guess what? This caused significant backlash in the Christian community. I assume they returned to Christian music ghetto, because I haven’t heard from them since.
But I’m not all sour grapes. Haseltine founded non-profit organization Blood: Water Mission, which raises awareness of poverty and AIDS in Africa. The name is derived from the two things Africa needs, clean blood and clean water (ok, that’s not great). The group has built 1,000 plus water wells on the continent. (+)
Gravity Kills – Guilty
See, here’s the thing about Gravity Kills. Unlike those snobs in Marry Me Jane, Gravity Kills says, “put us on all the soundtracks!” They were on the soundtracks for Seven, Mortal Kombat, and Escape From L.A.. Two of the three are on TVT, their label. So… SYNERGY?!
Anyway, they come from St. Louis, and recorded and released “Guilty” as a single in 1994, which had become a sort of regional hit. They signed with TVT and released a self-titled debut. It’s fine, I guess, for fourth wave industrial (or whatever wave 1996 was on). The video below has Matt Pinfield reading some ad copy, I don’t think he believes it. Every one of these groups invokes “early Nine Inch Nails”, and it’s important that it’s “early” to avoid any allegations of selling out, but it also has to be Nine Inch Nails by virtue of being the most popular. Trying to have their cake and eat it, too, these cats.
Gravity Kills broke up in 2003, reunited in 2005. They attempted a new album, but broke up in 2012 before any work was completed. (+)
Cassandra Wilson – Until
Cassandra Wilson was born in Jackson, Mississippi to a father who was a jazz musician / music teacher, and a mother who was a teacher who loved Motown, so the interest was there from the beginning. In college, she worked with R&B and Funk cover bands and in 1982 she joined up with the M-Base Collective in New York where she focused on scatting while emerging as a leader in the scene and breakout of jazz standards and working on originals.
In 1985 she went solo, but here we catch up with her on her twelfth album. She has a great, smoky voice that’s easy to get lost in. I do think this song goes on a bit too long, it feels a little aimless, might be her free form background.
She’s still performing and was won a billion awards, as well as worked with many other artists including Wynton Marsalis and The Roots (separately). (+)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – My Comfort Remains
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born in Pakistan, and came form a very long line of musicians. Khan is credited as the one who introduced qawwali music (Sufi devotional songs) to international audiences. He has had a huge influence on South Asian music, including Bollywood, but came to prominence when he worked with Peter Gabriel and was signed to Gabriel’s Real World record label.
I can’t pin down exactly which album this comes from (Night Song), but he did 67 albums between 1978 and 1996, and this one isn’t even listed. Khan has a nice voice, but the song is crushingly repetitive, and at over six and a half minutes, it’s just too much.
Sadly, Khan died in 1997 of cardiac arrest. At the time of his death, he weighed over 300 pounds and was being treated in London for kidney and liver problems. (-)
Howlin’ Maggie – Alcohol
If you’re not even interested in 90’s bands that never made it, what are you even doing here? Columbus, Ohio’s has their roots in Royal Crescent Mob, who put out 6 albums from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. When that band resolved, Harold Chichester gave up his bass to pick up a guitar and front his own band.
Howlin’ Maggie signed with Columbia and released Honeysuckle Strange in 1996. They also had a song appear on the soundtrack to Beautiful Girls, but they never found time to complain about it. I haven’t heard their album, but I do like this song. There’s a real desperation here that really suits it. Guess what happens next? Chichester split with Columbia, and the band split apart. With a new lineup, they released an album in 2001.
Chichester went solo, and he was also a founding member of The Twilight Singers. Howlin’ Maggie reformed exactly once more, in 2010, for a benefit concert for a number of children’s charities. (+)
Cyco Miko – Save A Peace For Me
We chatted about Suicidal Tendencies back in #011, but here we have Mike Muir’s Cylo Miko, which is more or less a solo project. Lost My Brain! (Once Again) was the first under this banner, Suicidal Tendencies broke up after losing their record deal (but reformed later in 1996), and Infectious Grooves still technically existed. Anyway, this album has drummer Greg Saenz (Excel… the band, not the program), and guitarists Steve Jones (Sex Pistols, Neurotic Outsiders), Adam Siegel (Excel, Infectious Grooves, future Eels), and Dave Kushner (Danzig, future Velvet Revolver). Not all guitarists play on every song, but all three on are on this one. The CD version is a little bit different, this video is the album version with a longer intro.
Muir still records as Cyko Miko on occasion, and one time toured Cyko Miko with Infections Grooves and Suicidal Tendencies because he is a tireless, crazy person. (+)
Combine – Know Regrets
We got to know Combine a little bit back in #018, and here there are again with a song from their final album. I didn’t save this one back in the day, and I don’t know why. It’s good blast of punk rock with a real sense of chaotic urgency. (+)
Therapy? – Misery
We saw our Northern Irish friends way back in #008 and #011. Here on <i>Infernal Love</i> was the band actively trying to push against their earlier sound which was being pigeonholed as “Metallica meets Depeche Mode”. Frontman Andy Cairns felt this album was a misstep at the time, but today he says that he gets the most comments from people saying this album is their favorite.
Therapy? put out one more album for A&M Records (1998’s Semi-Detached), and after that they floated from label to label. However, they still persevere. Founding drummer Fyfe Ewing left after the release of this album, and it did hurt Therapy?’s sound, but only a little. Their 2015 album Disquiet is excellent. (+)
Salif Keita – Africa
Salif Keita was born to the royal family of the West African nation of Mali, but was cast out because of his albinism which was considered unlucky. After deciding to pursue music, he went to the capitol city Bamako where he sang in the The Rail Band (or Super Rail Band, or Bamako Rail Band, or Super Rail Band of the Buffet Hotel de la Gare, Bamako) and launched his music career. In the early/mid 70’s, Keita joined Les Ambassadeurs, but soon the group fled Mali due to civil unrest, and settled in The Ivory Coast… then fled to Guinea, then fled to Paris, France.
In Paris is where Keita started to grow his world music career internationally, and somehow received criticism for his albums being both too polished, and too rough and uneven. Here we’re are caught up with his fifteenth album. It is so far out of my wheel house, but it’s good for what it is.
Keita is still alive but has announced his retirement from recording albums, his last album out in 2018. He returned to Mali at the turn of the millennium. (+)
Bush Chemists – Righteous Dub
I am not high enough for this shit…
Bush Chemists are a UK Dub Reggae group, this is from their second album, but first released in the US. Founder Dougie Wardrop told the magazine, “People aren’t interested in the orthodox style of music. They only want the stuff that’s dancey. It’s bollocks, really.” No! It’s not bollocks! Give me dance music! This is nothing! (-)
(The) Mysteries Of Life – Going Through The Motions
This Evanston, Illinois group plays a kind of indie-pop, the core of the group being bassist / singer Jakes Smith and drummer / singer Freda Love (later Freda Love Smith, as the eventually married). CMJ’s coverage of the band only talks about how Freda changed her drum setup while recording this album 8 months pregnant. That’s it.
This just isn’t for me. It’s quite toothless, and it tries to rock out on the chorus, but it just can’t get there.
I don’t know what’s going on, they broke up, maybe, but are back now. Freda also plays in Blake Babies, Antenna, Sunshine Girls and Some Boys. (-)
Chisel – Theme For A Pharmacist
Chisel formed on the campus of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1990, with members from the DC area punk scene and the NYC All Ages scene. By 1992, they were releasing singles and appearing on compilations, as one does. After a few additional EPs, they recorded their debut 8 A.M. All Day. I like the primitiveness here, but it does kind of border on emo, as if the whole thing were just being held together by a non-descript sad feeling.
Singer / guitarist Ted Leo formed The Pharmacists after the split of Chisel. Also, in a weird accidental twist, he also formed the duo The Both with Aimee Mann in 2013. (+)
Desmond Simmons – Counterpane
As a teenager, Desmond Simmons was great friends with a certain Colin Newman of Wire. Together, they would listen to records and read NME cover to cover. They started a “group” as teenagers, called CNDS, which was their initials… and even though Newman’s name came first it was Simmon’s baby. In a 2013 interview with The Quietus, Newman explained their relationship:
Of course being in a band with Des had its ups and downs, Des would regularly threaten to leave (just exactly how you leave a duo I’m still not entirely sure) and I would spend hours begging him not to. Student of the NME that he was he’d announce that we needed to “get our heads together in the country” like all the bands did. He would say it with such confidence, as if it was entirely obvious what needed to be done to improve our music. I was as usual fairly confused, especially when that actually translated to doing the same things we normally did. In spite of all that, while we were at school we spent a lot of time in each other’s company. Des had a wicked sense of humour and could often reduce a captive audience to hysterics with little more than the occasional prop or a few well chosen words.
Going to different schools started to pull them apart, but they worked hard to continue their “group”. After going to college, Newman found himself in Wire, a band very much like what Simmons was trying to accomplish, but without Simmons. Wire split in 1980 (the first time), and Simmons ended up in Newman’s solo band, which was awkward for the both of them.
In 1981, Simmons only album, Alone on Penguin Island was released and it was produced by Wire members Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis. This song is a weird little thing, not unlike some other Wire-like diversions. The album was reissued in 1995.
Wire reformed in 1985, and Simmons attempted several times to record a follow, recording demo after demo that never amounted to anything. I’ll refer to Newman’s words on the rest:
His eternal modesty stopped him from ever really pushing himself forward in the way his talent demanded but he still remained a prolific writer and – increasingly – performer… At one point I suggested to him that he should just get on and make his own record and put it out himself. He could easily sell it at gigs. I though no more of it until just over a month ago a copy of Blue Country landed on my doormat. Here he finally has his band (the Poachers), his signature style and his latter-day modus operandi in songwriting brought together in a package he could truly call his own. A lifetime’s obsession with Neil Young and his own unique take on music finally bore fruit. I don’t know whether to weep for what he might have achieved or rejoice in the fact that he got to make a record that finally represented him.
Blue Country was never officially released on any label. Simmons died in 2013. (+)
(The) Coctails – Cast Stones
We actually talked about them all the way back in #014. This isn’t bad, I like the lo-fi presentation of it, but it’s maybe a little too long. (+)
Now It’s Time For Breakdown:
Worthy Tracks: 70% worth keeping this time… but I was pretty easy this time also. 63.79% across the series.
Maple Leaf Invasion: None! But 5% Nepalese, and 5% West African, that counts for something, right? 2.63 Canadian across the series.
YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster: Iggy Pop, The Coctails, Possum Dixon, and Combine become part of the two-timer’s club. They are in league with Rocket From the Crypt, Pharcyde, Gene, 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, Paul Weller, Radiohead, Ramones Stabbing Westward, Sister Machine Gun, and Superchunk. Thearpy? joins the three-peaters with Catherine Wheel, 700 Miles, and Matthew Sweet. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the only group to appear four times. Over the 31 installments, there have 536 unique artists.