Old Music Monthly #034 [June 1996]

Old Music Monthly #034: June 1996

The Cover

I guess it was impossible to know in 1996 that Everything But the Girl had already peaked.

Hey, wanna read about Cocteau Twins?

The Letters

Here we have a Philadelphia defender, a right winger who thinks the magazine is too PC, and old head who thinks no good music has been made since 1960 (WTF is this person doing reading this magazine?).

Tours We’d Like To See

Quick Fix

Are you ready for “Mana Mana” to be stuck in your head? Again?

Weird Record of the Month

This sounds amazing, this is exactly the weird type of shit I would love to find while crate digging. This label only ever released this disc. Starting at $14.25 on Discogs.

Disturbing Sign of the Times of the Month

I’m huffing an’ puffing over here.

Mix Tape!

Fire up your fax machines! Is this person depressed?

Best New Music

In retrospect, it’s weird to me that Soundgarden is here. I loved Down on the Upside from the day I bought it, but literally everyone else I knew was put off by it. I’m not sure if they were expecting “Spoonman” or “Hunted Down”, but in Soundgarden fashion, it was neither.


The Genres

Top 75

I owned 9, how many did (do) you own?


There’s something really cute, quaint, and attractive about getting a magazine on a CD-ROM. The future was wide open and periodicals could be interactive! Now they’re all just trapped behind a paywall and cluttered with pointless ads.


Let’s check out Boise, Idaho. I want to go to CD Exchange… if it still exists.

Without further delay, the CD:

Super Deluxe – She Came On

Hailing from Seattle, this group formed in 1993, and to hear it told, it was like mana from heaven clearing away the scourge of grunge. I love the early Seattle sound (even the pre-grunge explosion), but it is kind of interesting how the bands in the aftermath of that steer so hard away from that sound.

They released their debut in 1995, which was picked up and then reissued on (Warner Bros. subsidiary) Revolution in 1996, hence its inclusion here. You may have heard “She Came On”, it was in the movie Kingpin. I have no memory of it in any form, it’s pleasant enough sounding, but not very memorable.

It’s kind of nebulous, but they broke up after their second album in 1997, but reformed in late 2004 and released their third album in 2005, before splitting again. But we’ll see them again in 1997. (-)

Fastball – Make Your Mama Proud

Singer / multi-instrumentalist Tony Scalzo and drummer Joey Shuffield played in a number of Austin bands before striking out on their own, and forming Fastball with Miles Zuniga. The performed as Star 69 (it’s been done), Magneto (copyright issues), Magneto USA (lesser copyright issues), Ed Clark’s Business Bible (this was a keeper), and Starchy (meh). They became Fastball when they signed with Hollywood Records. It’s brilliant in a way, as it’s so generic that it could be anything.

This is from their debut, with the same title. This is a lot more punk-ish than their big 1998 breakthrough, “The Way”. Wikipedia tells us that as of April 1998 (a month after their huge breakthrough) the album has sold a whopping 5,500 copies.

You already know they had a huge hit with “The Way”, but by sometime after 2000 they were dropped from Hollywood. All the same, the band is still together, still with the same members, which is pretty impressive after being a platinum selling band and then very nearly dropping off the face of the Earth. (+)

Lifter – 402         

Singer / guitarist Mike Coulter and bassist Jeffrey Sebelia formed Lifter after they met in rehab in 1992. They picked up drummer John Rozas and released a few singles, which got them signed to Interscope Records in 1994, but Coulter returned to rehab again before recording their debut.

Melinda (Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt) was named after Coulter’s ex-girlfriend (obviously) and worked as a catharsis for him. Keanu Reeves said it was one of his favorite albums that year (he was doing Dogstar at the time, so people asked him this kind of stuff). The whole album is pretty good, if dour. “402” really resonated with a friend of mine back then, so he went and bought the whole album. I was 20 at this time, he was about 26, and just kind of lost in life. The line “Why can’t I leave this town and tell my mom I tried?” really struck him, but at that time I was too young to get it. I get it now.

After the album cycle was done, the group found new drummer Angie Scarpa and entered the studio with producer Bob Marlette, who was a smaller and more compact Bob Marley. The complete 5 songs which they sent to Interscope, and the label didn’t respond. You’ll see sometimes where the label will just stop responding to the artist, like a high school significant other who just acts funny and uncomfortable so you’ll break up with them because they don’t want to do it. This caused the band to ask to be released from their contract.

The band split up in 1998 because Coulter was just unable to maintain his interest in music. The band posted their 1998 demos on a new website in 2004, but no real reunion took place. Sebelia auditioned for Project Runway in 2006, was chosen for the show, and came in first place in 2007. He used his $100,000 winnings to start his own brand, and Lifter recorded one new song (“Swing”) which was used at Olympus Fashion Week. Sebelia was also chosen to design a Bratz live-action film, but was fired from the project for calling the dolls “slutty”.

Lifter announced a new album in 2006, but nothing ever came of it. (+)

Todd Snider – I Believe You

Mr. Snider was born in Oregon, when to college in California, and then moved to Memphis. He signed with Jimmy Buffet’s Margarittaville imprint on MCA. Jesus Christ, you know that bag of dicks just has a rubber stamp that says “Margaritaville” and walks down the aisle of a store stamping stuff for more product ideas. Snider got some minor attention when his single “Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” peaked at No. 31, took potshots at grunge… in 1994… when it was almost already over. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go write a piece making fun of Quibi.

I’m just going to say it, and it comes as no surprise, but the ultra-glossy “Americana” is not my style.

Snider played a private show for MCA executives in early 1998, where he got on stage high as a kite and insulted all of them, and then left. Even though major label’s won’t touch him, he is undeterred and continues to self-released and release albums on indie labels. (-)

BR5-49 – Me ‘N’ Opie    

This Nashville group named themselves after a phone number in a skit from Hee Haw. They played a mix of Country, rockabilly and Western Swing, which means they got dumped into the category of “alternative country”. They formed in 1993, and by 1995 were signed to Arista Nashville, and released their first offering, an EP called Live From Robert’s.

It’s pretty cheeky in the lyrics department (and maybe a little much), and the song is just some old school, traditional country, which I’d take over country-pop any day.

They were dropped by Arista in 2000, but continued on until 2006, and reunited from 2012-2013. The members all have other solo projects now, and they racked up 3 Grammy nominations from 1996-99. (+)

Sammy – Possibly Peking             

We see a lot of bad band names in this feature, but this is among the worst. Anyway, Sammy is the collaboration between Jesse Hartman (Richard Hell & The Voidoids) and Luke Wood (ex- Girls Against Boys). The band was signed to Geffen, where Wood was Director of Publicity / Director of Marketing at the time.

This is far from the worst thing on these discs, but there isn’t much to recommend this. They’re going for cool detachment, but instead they sound disinterested in their own music. Robert Christgau gave it an “A-“, and Trouser Press called it “powerful and loads of fun”. Spin called it a “cutout-bin regular” and New Zealand’s Waikato Times said, “not quite bad enough to become a cult classic, but not quite good enough to buy,” which is where I am at with it.

The duo split just after this album’s release. Hartman formed Laptop in 1997, and then went solo and signed with Island Records before issuing two singles and going indie. He’s currently a filmmaker and actor. Wood went on to be vice-president of Geffen Records, and eventually president of Beast Electronics and was responsible for acquiring the music service that would be rebranded at Beats Music. (-)

Patti Rothberg – Inside

New York City’s Patti Rothberg had no aspirations of being a musician, she studied to be an artist. She was busking in the subway when she was accidentally discovered. God bless the post-Alanis signing boom! Rothberg was inspired by Joan Jett and Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons) and was terrified of being lumped in with the “Alanis clones” as she said, but what really happened was she got rejected by labels telling her, “we already have ONE Liz Phair”.

Rothberg played all the guitar parts and bass parts on her debut album on EMI, and while I haven’t listened to the entire album, I did bounce around in it. There are better songs than this one, this song is just kind of the easiest to market as a single, though not angry enough to be Alanis.

Naturally, she got dropped by EMI for the follow up, but she’s still out there releasing albums, releasing her “pop-metal” album in 2019. She also was the vocalist for the all lady Ramones tribute Rockaway B*tch (I’m sure the picture on her Wikipedia page is from this), and she seemingly gives an interview to anyone who asks, and the ones I read were pretty engaging. (+)

Beach Boys – I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times            

There has been so much ink spilled on The Beach Boys, not to mention just Pet Sounds… If you were to print the Wikipedia page for the album, it would be 66 Pages. This doesn’t include the at least 6 tribute albums that exist, Brian Wilson’s live album of Pet Sounds, or the 4 CD box set that this comes from.

The box set was supposed to be out in May 1996 (hence the inclusion here), but it was delayed until November 1997. Apparently, all of the Beach Boys were varying degrees of unhappy with it, but especially Mike Love was pissed off because he felt the liner notes downplayed his contributions to the album and none of his quotes were used. But it’s Mike Love so who fucking cares.

The song was written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, and it details Wilson’s feelings of not fitting in and having to follow his own path and leaving loved ones behind. It almost didn’t make the final album because Wilson thought it was too raw and too real.

Well, anyway, Wilson contributed to the group but quit touring intermittently, and Love orchestrated a hostile takeover and even corrupted John Stamos with his schemes. (+)

Self – So Low

Brothers Matt Mahaffey (singer / guitarist) and Mike Mahaffey (guitarist / keyboards / bass) formed Self in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1993. Matt helped form the label Spongebath, which starting with Self’s debut, made a name for itself with partnering up with bigger labels (for Self it was Zoo Entertainment).

The song is the sort of thing that could only happen in the mid-90s. An alt rock song combined with a sort of advant-pop, it’s somehow both.

Self is still going, but Matt has quit. Spongebath collaborated with DreamWorks for Self’s 1999 album, Breakfast With Girls. (+)

Since Self won’t be back in these pages, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their 2000 album, Gizmodgery. The album was recorded entirely with toy instruments, and has this really good cover of Dobbie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes”.

Vernon Reid – Saint Cobain         

I can remember the first time I ever saw or heard Living Colour. I had stayed up late to watch Saturday Night Live and they were the musical guest. They absolutely blew my mind, and when I saw my cousin a few days later, he enthused, “They have the best guitar player in the world!” and then he told me about a dream where he went into a dimension where they never invented clothes.

Living Colour broke up in 1995 (but reformed in 2000), and Reid briefly went solo. Here, Reid is sample heavy, with DJ scratches, and of course, guitar noodling. It’s not all that different than some of the experimental stuff he did in the margins of Living Colour. I’m not sure if calling it “Saint Cobain” is in bad taste or not, I can’t really find any reason for it, but he did tell Request in 1996: To me, it’s always something that I’m not playing. Even the baddest cat, someone totally great, like Allan Holdsworth, one of the poets of a certain style of guitar, could not play what Kurt Cobain played. Or George Benson, or Buckethead, or Pat Martino. They’re each poets of a certain style, and I’ve heard someone say that Cobain was a great songwriter but a mediocre guitar player. And I said, “Stop. He’s a great guitar player, because his songwriting doesn’t exist without his guitar playing.” A song like “Lithium,” it’s like, “How come I couldn’t think of that?” (+)

Bang On a Can All-Stars – The Manufacturer Of Tangled Ivory

Bang On a Can began in 1987 by three composers, and they became “famous” for their marathon concerts with eclectic mix of musical pieces, once playing for 26 hours.

Bang on a Can All-Stars are a sextet that is designed to be a touring version, but with set instruments. They appeared on a seventeenth season episode of Arthur, that memeable cartoon about a hamster or guinea pig or whatever they are.

This is just art for art’s sake. I can’t imagine anyone listening to this on purpose. This is music played in the background while looking at glass sculptures in a gallery, where you’d never buy one, and you couldn’t afford one if you’d want it. You really just want to go home and eat microwave taquitos under a soft blanket while you watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia reruns. (-)

Love And Rockets – Sweet Lover Hangover

The roots of Love and Rockets start with Bauhaus, which is true of all bands after Buddy Holly. Peter Murphy (vocals), Daniel Ash (guitar), and brothers David J (bass) and Kevin Haskins (drummer) formed in 1978 as S.R. Initially, Ash didn’t want J in the band because he wanted creative control, but J joined anyway and renamed the band Bauhaus. But by 1982, the band was nearly over. Ash and Haskins started Tones on Tail and J was working on solo material, which both of these projects were off to the races when Bauhaus split for good in 1983.

By 1985, Tones on Tail had split, and Haskins and Ash brought J back in and three quarters of Bauhaus were now performing as Love and Rockets, named after the comic by Gilbert Hernandez. You undoubtedly know them from their song “So Alive”, which was on everyone’s favorite album Batman Präsentiert: Powerhits.

Anyway, we’re nearing the end of Love and Rockets’ first term with their sixth album, Sweet F.A., which wasn’t really well received. It’s fine, it sounds like Love and Rockets on auto pilot.

Love and Rockets broke up in 1999. Then Bauhaus got back together in 2005, but split in 2008, and Love and Rockets got back together in 2007, but split in 2009. Ash said in 2009, “We’ve worked together since 1980. I really want to work with new people, I’m sure everybody feels the same.” Then, the three of them got back together with Murphy on a Bauhaus reunion in 2019 that’s still going. (-)

Primitive Radio Gods – Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand              

This California group began as The I-Rails and self-released 4 cassettes between 1987 and 1990, and eventually they got tired of being ignored and broke up. While the other two members smartened up and pursued day jobs, bassist / singer Chris O’Connor continued work on demos “inspired by Public Enemy” (serious side eye here), and sent a bunch of demos out to radio stations. No one gave a shit, so he retired from music… for a few months.

Later in 1994, O’Connor stumbled upon a box of unused demos that were in storage for a few years. He then mailed demos to every label he could think of. The strength of this track got him a publishing deal and he ended up signed to Columbia Records. The album, Rocket, went gold from the strength of this single.

O’Connor brought back his other two member of The I-Rails to begin work on the follow up in 1997, when lo and behold, Columbia dropped them. It seems like they might still be going, but in 2020 they released Untitled Final LP as a download, so maybe not.

The song is pretty good. It was pretty big with some of my friends, but not big enough for me to buy the album. (+)

Magnapop – Open The Door      

We talked about Magnapop way back in installments #012 and #016, both with favorable selections from Hot Boxing. Here, we catch up with them for the final time for their 1996 album Rubbing Doesn’t Help. It’s ok, I don’t like it as well as the previous two, but it does detail the lives of their deceased friends, and the video was heavily edited because MTV is a bunch of prudes when it comes to dour depictions of drug abuse. That’s worth something. (+)

Buzzcocks – Totally From The Heart

Bolton, England’s Buzzcocks formed in late 1975 by vocalist Howard Devoto and guitarist Pete Shelley. Devoto and Shelley went to see Sex Pistols after reading about them in NME, and got them to play Manchester, which is where Buzzcocks played their first gig in July 1976. The group released their debut EP, Spiral Scratch, and Devoto left shortly after. Devoto went back to school for a little bit before forming Magazine.

Shelley took over vocals and kept playing guitar, and the group signed to United Artists. Their first single “Orgasm Addict” did not do so well, but the second single, “What Do I Get?” peaked at #37 in the UK, but since then you’ve heard it endlessly in video games, movies, and a cell phone commercial… which was where I first heard it.

The band was working on a fourth albumin 1981 when they split and Shelley went solo, guitarist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher formed Flag of Convenience. Shelley and Diggle reformed the group numerous times with different lineups since 1989, and here we’re with them for their second reunion album, All Set. The album was well received, and this song is great.

Shelley and Devoto reteamed in 2002 as Shelley Devoto, which sounds like a person’s name which is funny. They released one album called Buzzkunst. There have been many members over the years which have included Danny Farrant (The Alarm, Spear of Destiny), Garth Davies (Dirty Looks, Temper Temper), Barry Adamson (Magazine, Visage, The Birthday Party), Mike Joyce (The Smiths, Suede, Public Image Ltd), and Tony Barber (The Alarm, The Creation).

Shelley died in 2018, the group continues with Diggle on vocals and guitar. (+)

Unwritten Law – Denied

It’s not the Laurel Canyon Sound, it’s the … San Diego… County… Sound. I got nothin’. They formed in 1990 and have been continual this whole time. They’re pop punk, skate punk… Wikipedia also lists them as Nu Metal which is either a prank, or something that has to be heard to be believed. Anyway, the group released a demo tape and a seven inch, and then their debut, Blue Room. Their debut gained them the attention of Epic Records who released Oz Factor, which is where this comes from.

This wasn’t a keeper for me back in the day, it’s not bad… but there’s very little to recommend it. There are about 40,000 bands like this in California at any given point in time.

Alright gang, what happens when you sign to Epic Records in the mid 90’s? C’mon, kids, you know this! That’s right, they got dropped. But fret not, they signed with Interscope and that lasted until at least 2001, and then onto Universal subsidiary Lava. They bounced from label to label until landing on the label where all bands go to die, Cleopatra, for 2022’s The Hum. (-)

Cocteau Twins– Tishbite

#003 is the last time we heard from Cocteau Twins, and now we’re catching up with them on their final actual album of new material, Milk & Kisses. I mean, it sounds like Cocteau Twins, doesn’t it? (+)

(The) Blackeyed Susans – Mary Mac

How is it this name wasn’t already taken for a 3rd tier glam metal band? Well, it was. When Britny Fox frontman “Dizzy” Dean Davidson quit, he formed Blackeyed Susan in 1990, and split in 1992, yet still managed to release two albums, one on Mercury. But who cares.

This is The Blacked Susans from Australia who formed in 1989. The innerwebs says that a shifting lineup is part of their appeal, so there’s really no point getting into that. From the group’s third album, Mouth To Mouth, we have “Mary Mac”. I’m going to be a Debbie Downer, I don’t think it’s very interesting. You could swing a stick and hit 16 of these bands with your eyes closed. It’s that late 80s / early 90s “college rock sound” from before grunge, Pixies ran concurrently with this sort of thing, but were much more interesting.

Members Warren Ellis and Jim White split off eventually and formed Dirty Three, so that’s something. (-)

Whorgasm – Numb

Whorgasm doesn’t have a lot out there, as in anything. They were a small band on an impossibly small label, the fact they made it on CMJ at all is impressive.

Look, I didn’t like it then, and I can barely stand it now. It’s cashing in on “industrial” too late. It makes Gravity Kills sound like Skinny Puppy. The worst band you ever heard on Invisible or Cleopatra just became A Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste era Ministry. It makes Godhead sound like Front Line Assembly.

The band never did anything else after this. Bassist Andrew Goodsight worked as a session musician for Black Eyed Peas, Tricky, Cypress Hill, Mazzy Star, and Bush. He was also bassist and back up vocalist for Irish band Black 47 from 2001 to 2006. Jimmy Harry was a multi-instrumentalist and (maybe) vocalist for Whorgasm, and since the end of this group he has been a credited writer, musician, producer, and/or mixer for Kylie Minogue, RuPaul, Vitamin C, Doro, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Santana, Pink, and seriously about 100 other artists. (-)

Karate – Bad Tattoo

Boston’s Karate formed in 1993 and are known for their fusion of Indie, emo, jazz, post-hardcore, post-rock, and Post Raisin Bran. Gotta stay regular, my dudes. Anyway, they stayed together with the same lineup (except for when they were a 3 piece and expanded to a 4 piece in 1995) for the entire time, which is pretty rare. I can definitely hear some of the post-hardcore influence, and the vocals are kind of emo-ish.

Karate broke up in 2005 due to singer/guitarist Geoff Farina suffering some hearing loss from touring. They did reunite this year for a tour, not indication how long it will last. (+)

Charming Hostess – Dali Tzemi

The Wikipedia page for this groups is a spectacular blend of word salad. To wit:

The music of Charming Hostess primarily springs from three women with an emphasis in the body—voices and vocal percussion, handclaps and heartbeats, sex-breath and silence… Stylistically, Charming Hostess incorporates doo-wop, Pygmy counterpoint, Balkan harmony and Andalusian melody… The music often explores existing text and overlays the composer’s (Jewlia Eisenberg) own questions of authenticity, montage, and the effect of music on non-verbal languages.

But wait, there’s more:

The pre-2002 Charming Hostess (also known as Charming Hostess Big Band) was a rock band that embraced a genderfuck sensibility (the women often wore mustaches while the men wore dresses… Charming Hostess was founded in the fertile anarchy of Barrington Co-op (aka Barrington Hall), and nurtured by the West Oakland arts community… The final effect was of a hoedown where bodacious babes belted the blues in Bulgarian while a punk-klezmer band rocked out in accompaniment.

I can’t do any better than that. I don’t think the music actually meets the promise of its batshit Wikipedia page, but I’m also basing it on one song. That being said, this is strictly in the “jazz up a mixtape” territory for me. I appreciate how just completely out of left field it is, but I definitely would not listen to this for fun.

This was originally self-released, but was reissued on their 1998 album, Eat, with alarming cover art. (+)

My Favorite – The Informers

My Favorite formed in Long Island in 1991, but since bands don’t get signed on Long Island, they migrated to Brooklyn and Queens. Here, they’ve only got 2 singles under the belts, and their Smiths and New Order influence is on display. And it’s ok, I’d rather listen to this than solo Morrissey because they are presumably not racist ass-hats.

They plug away at singles and EPs, and put out their first full length in 1999 (and we’ll see them again when that happens), but they broke up by 2005. They did reform in 2014 and are still going. Of note: The Roots’ Captain Kirk Douglas played guitar in an early version of the band, and a few tracks with him can be heard on the compilation Love at Absolute Zero / Death In Suburbia. (+)

Now It’s Time For Breakdown:

Worthy Tracks: 63.63% for this volume. 63.29% over the series.

Maple Leaf Invasion: ZERO! How embarrassing for me. 2.68% for the series.

YEEEEAAAHHH, Here Comes the Roster:

Cocteau Twins are now part of the Two-Timer’s Club. They are in company with Cowboy Junkies, The Spinanes, Idaho, Cracker, Iggy Pop, The Coctails, Possum Dixon, Rocket From the Crypt, Pharcyde, Gene, Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Echobelly, Ben Harper, Hum, Bracket, Chris Whitley, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Quicksand, Digable Planets, Adam Ant, Catherine, Ass Ponys, Magnapop, Cranes, Sarah McLachlan, Eve’s Plum, 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, Superchunk, Lida Husik, Bad Brains, and Blind Melon.

Magnapop becomes a three-peater joining Therapy?, Catherine Wheel, 700 Miles, Guided By Voices, and Matthew Sweet.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the only group to appear four times.

Over the 34 installments, there have been 588 unique artists.