Tag: 1990

They Might Be Giants – Flood

ARTIST: They Might Be Giants 220px-Flood_album_cover

TITLE: Flood

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: #75 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Birdhouse in Your Soul (#3 Alternative, #6 UK), Twisting (#22 Alternative), Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (#61 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Particle Man, They Might Be Giants

LINEUP: John Flansburgh, John Linnell, and a lot of people helping here and there with vocals and other instruments.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The major label debut by TMBG may be their peak in their original style and sound.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Songs? Arrangements? Clever and insightful lyrics? All here!

Hooks? Yeppers.

Fun? Satire? Tributes? Reinventions of classic songs? Oh, yes. 220px-TMBG-Flood-Vinyl

Any album that goes from the eclectic new wavish pop of “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, to the social commentary (serious) of “Your Racist Friend”, to the all-time mid-temp polka (I guess) “Particle Man”, and then later to the perfect western of “Minimum Wage”, is well worth the listen. Then all of the other tracks will open themselves up to you. Even with the oom-pahs, and boings, and other sounds. They’re all brilliantly arranged and inserted.

They probably peaked here. That’s OK. This is a definitive statement of…They Might Be Giants.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: UK producers Winstanley and Langer helped produce. 2/3 of the albums budget was used on four tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A live bonus disc,

GRADE A+: “Hang on, hang on tightly…”

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual

ARTIST: Jane’s Addiction 220px-Jane's_Addiction-Ritual_de_lo_Habitual

TITLE: Ritual de lo Haibitual

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: #19

SINGLES: Stop! (#1 Alternative), Been Caught Stealing (#1 Alternative, #29 Mainstream, #34 UK), Three Days, Classic Girl (#15 Alternative, #60 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ain’t No Right

LINEUP: Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery, Stephen Perkins. Classical musicians helped on a couple of tracks

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Split into two sections, Jane’s second album shows both sides of Perry Farrell and the band. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Roaring out of the gate with “Stop!” and furiously blasting through five tracks (ending with the enduring “Been Caught Stealing”), the first half of Ritual de lo Habitual is everything you thought you wanted from an alternative rock band.

Then you get to the second half, and that’s upended. Jane's_Addiction-Ritual_de_lo_Habitual_(clean_cover)

Admittedly, it took me a while to get that second half – four long songs about Farrell’s ex-girlfriend and the suicide of his mother. Moody, ethereal, with the long, intense “Three Days” the highlight, with Dave Navarro’s guitar solo the highlight. It took a big leap of faith for a band known for riffs and volume (for the most part) to branch out like this.

They pretty much imploded after this, and while the band came back (for the most part), it never was the same. How could it?

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Many retailers didn’t want to stock the album due to the cover, so the band produced an alternate cover with the 1st Amendment and a warning about facism for those stores.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: It grows on you. You put it away for a while, and listen to it, and it intrigues you more and more.

The Goo Goo Dolls – Hold Me Up

ARTIST: The Goo Goo Dolls                 220px-Ggdholdme

TITLE: Hold Me Up

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: There You Are (#24 Modern), Just the Way You Are

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, unless you’re a superfan

LINEUP: Johnny Rzeznik, Robby Takac, George Tutuska

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album by the Buffalo punksters-turned-kinda mainstream rockers illustrates that transition, as Johnny Rzeznik takes over lead vocals on half the tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first two Goo Goo Dolls records are pretty much standard late 80’s “punk with some pop influences”, and nothing to write home about. But a life of eating cold canned ravioli in vans (well, I’m conjecturing that anyway) wasn’t in the cards, and the band realized that they could make some bank by adding more pop to their punk and become a hybrid band.

That coincided with Johnny Rzeznik taking over as lead vocalist for at least half the tracks (Robby Takac was more of a traditional punk vocalist) and taking over as more of the lead songwriter. Rzeznik really wanted to be Paul Westerburg, and it shows here.

As for the record, it’s OK. It’s an odd mix with the punk and the pop-punk wrestling for control, even in the same songs. There are hooks, but not on every song. “There You Are” was their first MTV video and it’s more of the direction they’d go in the future. For better, or worse.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They covered “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” by Prince and had Buffalo legend Lance Diamond sing it. It’s probably the best cut.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: Two sides of the band fighting for control, even if the band was in harmony. It’s OK, and better than their first two, which I’m skipping.

Arson Garden – Under Towers

ARTIST: Arson Garden             R-1568194-1305544368.jpeg

TITLE: Under Towers

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well…if you were in Indy or Bloomington, IN in 1990 and went to clubs, sure. Otherwise, this was a hidden gem

LINEUP: April Combs, Clark Starr, James Combs, Joby Barnett, Michael Mann

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the many bands coming from Indiana University over time, Arson Garden straddled melody and grunge – a Midwestern Velocity Girl for comparison.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Small music scenes can produce some interesting material. Indiana University has, over time, produced musicians and bands that are as quality and distinctive as other college / hipster areas. It’s just, well…it was Indiana, you know.

Arson Garden (who I saw several times in Indy in the 90’s and actually had conversations with them before and after gigs – not that they remember me) was influenced by several trends. Grungy, distorted guitars – melodic vocals – minor keys – sonic variations. They combined them into some interesting material (such as “Lash”) that showcases their influences without outright copying them.

This record (coming after long, long gone cassettes and an EP) is a good introduction to the band. The production seems flat (lots of mid-range here), and a few of the songs seem derivative of each other as the record goes on. But if you want to dig on some early 90’s hidden bands, this is one to find.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: April and James Combs were brother and sister, and April married band member Michael Mann

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: They’d improve their songwriting, and the production lets them down a bit, but it’s a worthy listen.

 

Urge Overkill – Americruiser

ARTIST: Urge Overkill                  Urge_Overkill_-_Americruiser

TITLE: Americruiser

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Ticket to LA

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Uh, huh

LINEUP: Eddie “King” Roeser, Nash Kato, Jack Watt

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second record from Chicago alternative trio improves the sound a bit, the songs a bit, but still kind of blurs together.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After a drummer change, Urge Overkill recorded their second album with Butch Vig in controls, and he and the band cleaned up their sound and corralled their influences a bit, which was sorely needed.

The one-two punch of “Ticket to LA” and “Blow Chopper” gives one hope, and those songs definitely are keepers for the band, but then the next six tracks don’t build or diversify, or are kind of half-assed (like “Empire Builder”). It’s also short, too, with eight songs that aren’t that long. King Roeser sings most of the cuts, so that also may be a change for later fans.

They’re on their way to where they’d land, but this isn’t where to start with them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Jack Watt was known as “Jaguar”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C+: There’s enough good stuff here to make you wish there was more, and more diversity.

The Jesus Lizard – Head

ARTIST: The Jesus Lizard                    220px-JesusLizHead

TITLE: Head

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Nooooo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They played Killer McHann at almost every show

LINEUP: David Yow, Duane Denison, David Wm. Sims, Mac McNeilly

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Texas weirdos kick it up a notch and release a full-length album with sinister sounding tunes and David Yow all over.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: David Wm. Sims’s bass is rumbly and menacing, Mac McNeilly pounds the drums and locks into Sims, and Duane Denison’s guitar chars whatever is in its way with riffs and fills. Then…there’s David Yow.

Yow’s vocal delivery ranges from incomprehensible, to distorted, to deranged. Sometimes, in one song, he’s all three. Definitely not for the weak of heart, or those who really insist on melody or something like that. They’re excused here.

The Jesus Lizard’s still trying to figure out their best approach, but this, their first full-length, is getting close. A couple of tracks lumber on where the menace becomes boring. But there’s some classics, especially “Killer McHann”, a concert staple.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the first release featuring McNeilly. They had used a drum machine before.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The CD included their debut EP

GRADE: B+: A step in the evolution of a crazed band.

Yo La Tengo – Fakebook

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo                                220px-Fakebook

TITLE: Fakebook

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Speeding Motorcycle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: It’s a cover record, but there’s not many you’d know besides “Here Comes My Baby” or maybe “Griselda”

LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Dave Schramm, Al Greller

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A quieter folky album of some of their favorite tunes, and a few originals in the same mode.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: By this time, Yo La Tengo had already had a reputation for guitar freakouts and long songs, especially in concert. But the band also had a very diverse taste, and this is the first sense that they were more than a loud alternative rock band.

Kaplan and Hubley’s joy for singing and playing these songs are apparent, as they dive in with glee to these old songs. Old friend Dave Schramm joins the group again on lead guitar, and Al Greller plays double bass.

It’s not going to be among the essential works for the band, but it was the first to show their other sides and pretty darn good for something that seemed to be just for fun.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They covered tracks by Cat Stevens, Pete Stampfel, the Flamin’ Groovies, Daniel Johnston, Rex Garvin, Gene Clark, Ray Davies, the Escorts, John Cale, and NRBQ.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: A fun listen.

The Posies – Dear 23

ARTIST: The Posies                         220px-Dear23

TITLE: Dear 23

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Golden Blunders (#17 Modern), Suddenly Mary

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Apology

LINEUP: John Auer, Ken Stringfellow, Rick Roberts, Mike Musburger

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Moving from acoustic to electric, the Posies major label debut established their power pop credentials.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Adding bassist Rick Roberts and drummer Mike Musburger, the Posies moved toward a power-pop sounds in a mixed bag of an album.

There’s some highly produced songs (“Apology”), some songs that show their love of the psychedelic era (“Flood of Sunshine”), and a few cuts that seem leftover from their acoustic days (“My Big Mouth”). When this album is on point, it’s great. There’s hooks, and harmonies, and definite channeling of Badfinger here (listen to the guitar under the verses in “Apology”).

However, it doesn’t hang together as an album in my ears – it’s a collection of songs, yes, and some are fantastic, but it caught them in transition. They’d evolve fully soon enough.

 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Ringo covered “Golden Blunders” on an album

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+-: I didn’t like the flow of the album, the songs were great but it seemed put together in a haphazard way.

Junior Brown – 12 Shades of Brown

ARTIST: Junior Brown                        51u480XQ3SL

TITLE: 12 Shades of Brown

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: My Baby Don’t Dance to Nothing but Ernest Tubb, Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse, Hillbilly Hula Gal

LINEUP: Junior Brown, Tanya Rae Brown, Steve Layne, Spencer Starnes, Mike Ballew, Donny Dolan, Tom Lewis

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album featuring the guit-steel innovator and husky baritone/bass and sense of humor.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Junior Brown’s legendary guitar and steel playing finally got a showcase of his own with this solo album. His guit-steel, which combines a lap steel and electric guitar, allows Brown the freedom to switch between both instruments easily during a song.

The songs are slight at times, and are more showcases for Brown’s firey guitar playing. He specializes in a Western swing theme (hence his name-check of Ernest Tubb) and doesn’t cotton to current Nashville trends (then or now).

It’s a fun album for the most part. When Brown gets serious, it suffers, but the light cuts will make you smile and the guitar playing will leave you in wonder.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He created his guit-steel in 1985.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  It’s fun (the best songs are the fun ones) and the guitar playing is fantastic.

Tad – Salt Lick

ARTIST: Tad                saltlick

TITLE:  Salt Lick

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Loser

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Wood Goblins.

LINEUP: Tad Doyle, Gary Thorstensen, Kurt Danielson, Steve Wied

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An EP of mass destruction of your ears – heavy duty grunge.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hot on the heels of God’s Balls, Tad Doyle and crew cranked out an EP which built upon and expanded the hard, grungy sound of the group. I kid you not, this is heavy duty, resembling Tad’s stout frame.

The first side of the EP is absolutely vital for any student of this era (“Axe to Grind”, “High on the Hog”, and “Wood Goblins” – one of the best videos of the genre). The other side seems somewhat redundant, which was the problem with the band at the time. Heavy as they were, there weren’t any changeups here.

When this was released on CD later that year, Sub Pop added the single “Loser” – the rallying cry for Tad and the entire movement. Loser’s got nothing to lose.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: If you try to Google “Axe to Grind” to find the lyrics – you get Bastille and Sawyer Brown. Not the same song, not even in the same area code.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Well, when this came out on CD, they added seven of the 10 tracks from God’s Balls (why not make two separate CDs?) and didn’t add the B-side of “Loser”. With the new releases out now, they add that B-side, a great compilation single “Habit & Necessity” and a Black Flag cover.

GRADE: B+:  Four essential tracks. Not a bad percentage.