Tag: 1991

Blur – Leisure

ARTIST: Blur                                      220px-LeisureUK

TITLE: Leisure

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #7 UK

SINGLES: She’s So High (#48 UK), There’s No Other Way (#82 US, #5 Alternative, #8 UK), Bang (#24 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sing

LINEUP: Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, Dave Rowntree

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dour shoegaze album which didn’t win a lot of hearts and minds outside the singles.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bands don’t always start off well. Blur is a great example of that.

Despite charting well and having a couple of hit singles, most of the record was turgid and boring. Yeah, Blur was boring – and they really sounded like any other shoegaze band except for a few moments of inspiration, and sometimes a boring track would have a minute where it seemed OK but then went right back to minor-chord turgidness. When they did wake up, they sounded like the Stone Roses’ little brothers.

This is about the last thing you need from Blur if you’re in an exploratory mode. Yeah, a few songs are OK but as the record goes on, you want to escape the minor key mud.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Sing” was on the Trainspotting soundtrack.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some different running orders in the US and Japan.

 GRADE C: They got a hit, but they knew they needed a re-think.

Kyuss – Wretch

ARTIST: Kyuss                   220px-Kyuss_Wretch

TITLE: Wretch

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, Josh Homme fans MAYBE

LINEUP: John Garcia, Josh Homme, Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri. Chris Cockrell played bass on two cuts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from stoner desert metal band has a few good riffs but a flat production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s some decent riffs here and there in this debut album from Kyuss. Coming out of the desert in California, the band was tight and had some power behind them, but a flat production did them in.

John Garcia’s vocals are distinctive and rise above the stoner sludge put down by Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri. Some of the tempos are faster than the normal stoner rock drones, yet the faster ones aren’t as effective as the down tempo ones. The drop tuning guitars sound better slower.

Better things would be in store for Kyuss, but this is a completist record for fans only.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Originally, the band was called Katzenjammer, then Sons of Kyuss.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: C+: Eh.

Mudhoney – Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

ARTIST: Mudhoney                        220px-Mudhoney_Every_Good_Boy_Deserves_Fudge

TITLE: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #34 UK

SINGLES: Let It Slide (#60 UK),

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not unless you were a grunge head.

LINEUP: Mark Arm, Steve Turner, Matt Lukin, Dan Peters.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Perhaps Mudhoney’s finest album moment, when they wrote the most consistently without diverting into slovenly noisy weirdness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Of any of the Sub Pop bands from the era, the word ‘grunge’ fits best with Mudhoney’s guitar sound in the early days, especially on “Let It Slide” from this album.

Here, Mudhoney focused on the album as a whole and wrote several tracks that are among the best of the era, with a track like “Into the Drink” featuring a great riff, the right attitude, and enough hooks to keep it in your mind.

Mark Arm’s vocals aren’t all just shouting here (he almost croons on “Good Enough”), and while there’s still some too-long meditations, overall it’s a punchy record that stands up even now.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: EGBDF – the treble clef mnemonic – actually is “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour”, but I like fudge better.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: Probably the most consistent Mudhoney album, and one of the better grunge albums on Sub Pop.

I Love You – I Love You

ARTIST: I Love You                            R-1746023-1323621424.jpeg

TITLE: I Love You

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Hang Straight Up

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Jeff Nolan, Chris Palmer, Tom Sweet, Mike Kossler

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Psychedelic tinged rock band’s debut sounds great, but is a victim of wrong time / wrong place.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With some heavy duty guitar riffs, a varied arsenal of songs that add psychedelic touches and interesting changes, and a decent amount of hooks, there should have been no stopping I Love You’s debut from climbing the charts.

Except the time, and place (and the fact the name of the band probably wasn’t such a wise idea…)

Their sound wasn’t grunge, punk, or hair metal – mostly straight rock-and-roll that would have fit in ten years before or after. Even with a killer single “Hang Straight Up” which got them on some TV shows and MTV, the record didn’t sell and now…good luck googling it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They evolved out a band called the Sinful Pigeons.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: A good-to-great rock record that’s kind of lost to time. Not streaming, either.

Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite

ARTIST: Spin Doctors              220px-Spindocs_pocket_kryptonite

TITLE: Pocket Full of Kryptonite

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (#17 US, #2 Mainstream, #23 UK), Two Princes (#7 US, #2 Mainstream, #3 UK), Jimmy Olsen’s Blues (#78, #8 Mainstream, #40 UK), What Time Is It (#26 Mainstream, #56 UK), How Could You Want Him (#102, #28 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A lot of people bought this, but I doubt if many of those could recognize the filler

LINEUP: Chris Barron, Eric Schenkman, Mark White, Aaron Comess. John Popper makes an appearance.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Benign jam band hits it big, and backlash ensues almost immediately.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Spin Doctors were definitely a jam band – live they could noodle on and on and on, but some of their material worked as shorter rock /pop songs (sort of a jam band lite). Some of their material doesn’t work so much in this milieu, though, as they’re mainly sketches of songs meant for jamming over.

The personality of the group comes from lead singer Chris Barron, a happy sounding pothead, though bassist Mark White adds some elements of funk and soul to the mostly generic jam band riffs and solos.

Several songs start with similar riffs or drum lines, so much that it takes a little bit to recognize the actual song, which probably added to the burnout factor of casual fans. If this album had been a modest seller and not take over MTV, it may be remembered more fondly.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had released a live album before this. It’s not streaming but many of the tracks wound up on their next live album anyway.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, several editions (Europe, anniversary, etc).

GRADE: B-: It (and they) have a bad rap, but the album’s just OK with just a few standouts, and a lot of same-same or song skeletons.

Tad – 8 Way Santa

ARTIST: Tad                                   220px-Tad_8_Way_Santa_Alternate

TITLE: 8-Way Santa

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: Hell, no.

SINGLES: Jinx, Jack Pepsi

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, sadly.

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

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Tad and Butch Vig unleash holy hell.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thick, fat riffs. Vocals that will (for the most part) scare your grandmother. Surprisingly complex musicianship underneath the clatter. This may be the grungiest album in all of the Seattle scene. 220px-Tad_8_Way_Santa

Surprisingly, there are a couple of tracks where Tad Doyle actually sings instead of yowls. But that’s neither here nor there. Most every song has a huge riff that carries through the song, and surprisingly hooks enough for you to have the tracks embedded in your brain.

The album kind of winds down into a couple of the quieter tracks., but still with a great guitar tone and melody. Butch Vig does great work letting Tad be Tad. Essential grunge here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was a good thing Sub Pop had the points from the Nirvana album, since Tad was involved in two suits. First, the original cover (of the long-haired guy cupping his ol’ lady’s breast) was a photo the band found at a yard sale, and the couple didn’t appreciate it.

Then, the fantastic track “Jack Pepsi” was a single, but the cover parodied the famous Pepsi logo. Pepsi did the ol’ cease and desist.jackpepsi

Oh, and the title is a reference to a type of LSD blotter.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos, b-sides, and outtakes. They all are just as heavy.

GRADE: A+:  This may be another ‘homer’ call, but it encapsulates grunge before it all went strictly commercial.

The Magnetic Fields – Distant Plastic Trees / The Wayward Bus

ARTIST: The Magnetic Fields                                 220px-Distant_Plastic_Trees

TITLE:  The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees

YEAR RELEASED: 1992 / 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: 100,000 Fireflies

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gosh no

LINEUP: Stephin Merritt, Susan Anway, Sam Davol, Clauda Gonson, Johny Blood

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First two albums from Stephin Merritt’s long term project (re-released by Merge soon after and combined on one CD) show Merritt’s baroque chops and intriguing style. 220px-The_Wayward_Bus

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What’s more punk rock than an album on a ‘punk rock’ label that has little or no electric guitars, plenty of ornate orchestration, and intricate melodies and harmonies? When Merge snapped up Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, they declared that they weren’t just a ‘punk’ label (not that they ever really were) but a ‘great music’ label.

Those coming in late to the Magnetic Fields will notice that Merritt’s doomy baritone isn’t extant here – Susan Anway takes the vocals and complements the songs quite well. Merritt plays almost all of the instruments himself and shows that he’s quite accomplished.

The first album (Distant Plastic Trees) has some songs that aren’t quite up to the caliber, but it also contains the all-timer “100,000 Fireflies” that Superchunk later covered. These two records are charming, beguiling, and totally Magnetic Fields.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: These two records were the only ones Anway sang for Merritt.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – two records in one though, and the second one are tracks 1-10 (so it’s backwards, as it were).

GRADE: A-:  These albums have their charm and some great, intricate songs.

Superchunk – No Pocky for Kitty

ARTIST: Superchunk                      superchunk_nopocky

TITLE:  No Pocky for Kitty

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Tower, Seed Toss, Cast Iron (B-side)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Skip Steps 1 & 3

LINEUP: Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, Chuck Garrison

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: North Carolina punk-indie bands solidifies their reputation and releases one of the best non-grunge punk records of the early 90’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While Seattle got all of the hype, Chapel Hill had its own music scene and Superchunk (though they were loath to admit it) were the defacto leaders of it.

They were just as noisy and inspired as the groups across the country, but had a totally different vibe. Superchunk were wired tight, focused on the guitar melody in all of the racket, and letting the band contribute to the overall sound as one unit (so it seemed). Even with all of the noise and distortion, there was a definite sense of melody in the songs and riffs.

The first three tracks basically sandblast your face off with the volume and power, and then you notice the subtleties. The rest of the album follows on to a lesser extent, but there’s not a point where you want to skip a track once you get rolling into the heart of the album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It took three days to record with Steve Albini.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: The first few tracks are so strong the rest of the record does pale a bit by comparison, but it’s still a big leap above their first album in terms of consistency.

Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow

ARTIST: Material Issue                                                                220px-material-issue-ipo

TITLE:  International Pop Overthrow

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #86

SINGLES: Valerie Loves Me (#3 Modern), Diane (#6 Modern), Renee Remains the Same

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jim Ellison, Ted Ansani, Mike Zelenko

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Chicago-area power poppers make a retro sounding record, and it sounds fresh in 1991.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Recorded in the studio the Shoes owned (in Zion, IL), Material Issue’s debut album mines the same fertile power-pop ground as their mentors, but with a little more modern sound. Still, the album sounded like it came from a couple decades past.

There are definite high points here. Every song named after a woman (and there are four of them) is a winner, especially “Diane”, which is infectious and hooky. Also, the title track has some nice moments, a fiercer guitar, a faux UK accent, and great harmonies.

While the sound is still enjoyable, the overall album has some tracks that just aren’t up to scratch, sounding like second-drafts or copies of their hits. Still, for the best songs, it’s a good one to have around to remind yourself of the joys of power pop.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Shoes’ Jeff Murphy produced this.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some B-sides have been appended.

GRADE: B+:  The lesser tracks knock this down a couple of notches, but the best songs are fun and joyful.

Seal – Seal

ARTIST: Seal                               220px-seal_-_seal_1991_first_album_cd_album_cover

TITLE:  Seal

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #27 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Crazy (#7 US, #2 UK), Future Love Paradise (#12 UK), The Beginning (#6 Dance, #24UK), Killer (#9 Dance, #8 UK), Violet (#39 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s over 1/2 of the record

LINEUP: Seal with session players assembled by Trevor Horn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Contemporary soul / R&B / dance record shows off Seal’s vocals with some well written and well produced songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Trevor Horn showed he still had an ear for sound, and songs, when he produced this, Seal’s debut album. Seal had written or co-written several tracks that all could have been hit singles or dance club favorites, and Horn crafted them into a pleasing but interesting record.

Seal’s vocals work on both the panty-droppers and the up-tempo numbers. He’s got a natural gift of voice, and his songs are varied enough to provide a listening experience that doesn’t wear on you or get old.

It was the beginning of a long-lasting career for the singer, and the debut still could be released today and do well on the charts, thanks to Horn’s production.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first hit, “Crazy”, was written as the world was changing in 1989. Also, “Killer” was used on the soundtrack of the NBC show Homicide: Life on the Streets.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of versions – one is kind of a rush-release and the other has longer mixes on two songs. I think the latter is what is streaming..

GRADE: A-:  Good, contemporary R&B.