Tag: 1994

The Toadies – Rubberneck

ARTIST: The Toadies

TITLE: Rubberneck

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #56, #1 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Mister Love, Possum Kingdom (#9 Mainstream, #4 Modern, #40 Airplay), Away (#23 Mainstream, #28 Modern), Tyler, Backslider

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Come From the Water

LINEUP: Vaden Todd Lewis, Darrel Herbert, Lisa Umbarger, Mark Reznicek

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Grungy, hard-edged Austin band surprised everyone with a big 90’s hit, and that really was all they had in ‘em.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One fantastic song and a few good riffs and ideas don’t a great album make – they barely make a good album. Such is the case for Rubberneck.

Sounding like the Pixies or Fugazi without the dynamic tension or intelligent lyrics, the Toadies came out of Austin to sign with a major label after a couple of indie released EPs, and once a radio station in Orlando started playing “Possum Kingdom”, they caught fire in 1995. Yet the album was disappointing after that song.

Riffs were there, and some interesting ideas were explored, but they didn’t go anywhere special. The first two cuts of the record, an instrumental and their most strident song, seemed to be a poor introduction to the rest of the album. Vaden Todd Lewis’ vocals are also a hinderance at times, trying too much for the shout without the subtlety needed at times. Except for “Possum Kingdom”, it didn’t come together.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Interscope rejected their second album, and they didn’t release a follow up until 2001. By that time, they were basically done-zo. Of course they reunited (three out of for) and are treading the boards today.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, outtakes on a special edition.

 GRADE B-: It’d be a “C+” without “Possum Kingdom”. Just your average alt-rock record.

Jamiroquai – Return of the Space Cowboy

ARTIST: Jamiroquai  220px-The_Return_of_the_Space_Cowboy

TITLE: The Return of the Space Cowboy

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #2 UK

SINGLES: Space Cowboy (#1 Dance, #17 UK), Half the Man (#15 UK), Stillness In Time (#9 UK), Light Years (#6 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it

LINEUP: Jay Kay, Derrick McKenzie, Wallis Buchanan, Toby Smith, Stuart Zender, Gary Barnacle, Richard Edwards

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Socially conscious funky disco band concentrates on the groove and the lyrics, and it mostly succeeds (except in the US marketplace)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Still a sensation in the UK, the retro-funk grooves of Jamiroquai add even more socially conscious lyrics to their stew of old-school sounds. Frontman Jay Kay sound uncannily like mid-70s Stevie Wonder, and he leads the band to the dance floor while being progressive in the lyrics.

The band toned down some of its more outlandish experiments (not that much digeridoo now), and became even tighter and focused. The international hits “Light Years” and “Space Cowboy” propelled the group to the world stage, and even onto the US dance floors, where they were a hidden gem.

Don’t dismiss them as just a retro band aping sounds from the past – they incorporate the past sounds with a modern flourish. It’s a great record for putting on and grooving.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Space Cowboy” won the Brit for the best music video

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, different mixes or live cuts, depending on where you were at.

 GRADE A-: Funky people making a funky record.

Oasis – Definitely Maybe

ARTIST: Oasis 220px-OasisDefinitelyMaybealbumcover

TITLE: Definitely Maybe

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #58 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Supersonic (#11 Alternative, #31 UK), Shakermaker (#11 UK), Live Forever (#2 Alternative, #10 UK), Cigarettes and Alcohol (#7 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rock ‘n’ Roll Star

LINEUP: Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Paul Arthur, Paul McGuigan, Tony McCarroll

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Led by battling brothers, Oasis causes a huge stir in the UK and intrigued listens in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When “Supersonic” started to come out of the airwaves on Alternative Rock stations in the US, it sounded loud, brash, and boastful, but not angry. Oasis channeled all kinds of UK rock influences and rolled it into one package. Some songs (“Shakermaker” for one) resembled other songs, but it all had some originality in there.

Their debut sound loud as hell, mainly because Noel Gallagher kept overdubbing guitars to a point where they had to boost everything else to make them heard after they changed producers and mixed what they had. The result is an immediate record with striking, memorable songs.

Not a perfect record by any means, but when this record was on, it was on and in your face. They did show a wistful side with “Live Forever” which was a precursor to their most famous work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Noel Gallagher was the last to join, and on a condition that he would be given complete control. It was a wise move.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a Japanese version and a reissue with B sides and rarities

GRADE A-: Play loud. I don’t think you have a choice.

 

Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

ARTIST: Mayhem 

TITLE: De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, probably now thanks to documentaries and books and such

LINEUP: Atilla Csihar, Euronymous, Count Grisnackh, Hellhammer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Infamous Norwegian black metal album featuring a murderer and his victim.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Mayhem caused same in Norway in the 90’s, with a suicide (a photo of the aftermath later became an album cover), a link to church burnings, and well, murder. Count Grisnackh (Varg Vikiernes) stabbed bassist Euronymous (Oystein Aarseth) during a dispute. They put the album out that they recorded anyway, because, metal.

As for the music, it’s an influential black metal album with creepy distorted vocals from Atilla Csihar (formerly of Tormentor), and sheets and sheets of riffs from Euronymous. Hellhammer (Jan Axel Blomberg) drums in the usual double-kick fashion. The drawback is that the songs are long, and don’t go much of anywhere.

I can see why this is influential despite the notoriety – the riffs are mega-normous and the basswork from Vikiernes is stellar. But, it seems like it’s all one song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The original singer of the band, who went by Dead, killed himself. Along with the photo, Euronymous took pieces of his skull and made necklaces for the members of the scene. That’s metal, man.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE B: Individually, the songs work, but they just bend together. I EXILED it because it’s just too too same same.

Jen Trynin – Cockamamie

ARTIST: Jen Trynin           220px-Cockamamie

TITLE: Cockamamie

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None (sigh…)

SINGLES: Better Than Nothing (#15 Alternative, #40 Mainstream), Happier

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, unless you knew me then.

LINEUP: Jennifer Trynin, Paul Bryan, Jerry Deupree, David Gregory, Mike Levesque, Michael Rivard. Aimee Mann sang backup.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Boston based solo artists records a rockin’ alternative power pop-ish solo album with great songs and no reaction from the public for the most part.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coming out of Boston, Warner Brothers released this album after local Squint Records put it out to raves in 1994. It deserved the accolades – it didn’t deserve the commercial freeze-out.

MTV played the video for “Better Than Nothing” at times, and that garnered some airplay. Yet the album has several great tracks like “One Year Down”, “Too Bad You’re Such a Loser”, “Knock Me Down and “Happier”. Her guitar tone is fantastically meaty and raw, which adds to the overall sound and mood. The production and her work with the rotating drummers is strong as well.

There are few dull spots or subpar tracks. It’s just a shame it didn’t resonate with the public or radio.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She later married her producer Mike Denneen.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: Unfairly ignored by the powers that be, it deserved a lot of play.

Tsunami – The Heart’s Tremolo

ARTIST: Tsunami                       Tsunami-The_Heart's_Tremolo

TITLE: The Heart’s Tremolo

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Be Like That

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jenny Toomey, Kristin Thomson, John Palmer, Andrew Webster

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DC area band and record label owners second full length runs into a rut of same-same and bad production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I guess I DON’T have to follow the hipster crowd on some things. One of these is this Tsunami record.

Critics loved this band, but they must have seen them live, because on record they sound flat, have same-same songs, and have mixing and production issues. I can her fits and starts of songs that sound good, but when they get to the chorus it blurs together, at least in my ears.

Tsumani has a great DIY and independent legacy, and I don’t mean to belittle that. It’s just…I don’t get this record. It’s probably on me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they took a hiatus as Andrew Webster finished his degree.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE C: It’s probably a cop-out review but I’ll exile this and see if my ears perk up for their final album.

OutKast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

ARTIST: OutKast

TITLE:  Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik 220px-Outkast-southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #20, #2 R&B

SINGLES: Player’s Ball (#37, #12 R&B, #1 Rap), Southerplayalistcadillacmuzik (#74, #41 R&B, #9 Rap), Git Up Git Out (#109, #59 R&B, #13 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Ain’t No Thang

LINEUP: Andre 3000, Big Boi with Big Gipp, Sleepy Brown, Preston Crump, the Goodie Mob, Marq Jefferson, Craig Love, Mr DJ, Organized Noize, Peaches, T-Mo, Rico Wade, Colin Wolfe, Kenneth Write, Society of Soul, and more

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Southern Hip Hop goes national.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was all East Coast vs. West Coast until OutKast came out of Atlanta and hit the charts. Working around the LaFace Records orbit with TLC and Organized Noize production, OutKast’s debut album broke the dichotomoy of East vs. West.

There’s a mix between East and West, using funk and tongue twisting raps as well as hooks and melody. But there’s also unique sounds and style that later defined the Southern style. Big Boi and Andre 3000’s rhymes and flow are impressive, and the production, samples, and hooks are inventive and infectious.

Lost a bit in the mainstream (white) music press thanks to the East Coast vs. West Coast, OutKasts’ debut showed music a third hip-hop way, the Southern way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Organized Noize’s production team hit it big with TLC’s debut album before tackling OutKast.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: Even the segues and skits make sense here. A strong hip-hop album, especially for a debut.

Low – I Could Live in Hope

ARTIST: Low                                       Low_i_could_live_in_hope

TITLE:  I Could Live in Hope

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, John Nichols

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It started as a lark, but it became a serious project with some fantastic tracks right out of the gate.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Issuing a five song EP first (with tracks later repeated on this and their second album), then releasing this, their full length debut, Low turned the alternative world on its head. Slowly and hauntingly, Low became the exact opposite of grunge.

Alan Sparhawk’s lachrymose baritone is joined by his wife Mimi Sparhawk’s harmonies to provide an eerie set of harmonies, and the simple instrumentation (guitar, bass, a brushed floor tom and cymbal) evoke a mood. The songs are not dirges, though. These are mood pieces that evoke sadness and hope, and the tempos only add to the atmosphere. 220px-Low_ep

At times, the songs drag on a bit too long (three tracks over six minutes long that could have been trimmed) but there’s nothing that’s totally a throw away. This is a great debut from an important band in alternative circles.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sparhawk and Nichols were in a standard grunge band, and they formed Low out of rehearsals where they were improvising quiet sounds.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: A statement of quiet, slow purpose.

 

Madder Rose – Panic On

ARTIST: Madder Rose              panicon

TITLE:  Panic On

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #52 UK

SINGLES: Car Song

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sleep Forever

LINEUP: Billy Cote, Mary Lorson, Matt Verta-Ray, Johnny Kick

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from NYC alternatives builds on their strengths – Mary Lorson’s voice and Billy Cote’s songcraft.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second Madder Rose album got them noticed in alternative circuits here in the US, thanks to the combination of Mary Lorson’s voice (gentle yet powerful at times), and the songwriting and arrangements of Billy Cote, the guitarist.

Cote’s guitars wash all over the tracks, in some ways like the UK shoegazers, but Lorson’s vocals bring that back up, and Cote also adds in some interesting guitar flourishes above the noise. The band also has improved their chops at slower song (such as “Car Song”).

This album pointed Madder Rose to a path that was both pop-oriented and alternative, which was sorely needed at the time. This album still holds up as a good example of the variety found, but not noted by the press, in the 90’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band had 10 days to rehearse these tracks before heading into the studio after a long tour.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: A good collection of pop melodies intermixed with guitar swirl that should have made more of an impact commercially.

Tortoise – Tortoise

ARTIST: Tortoise                 Tortoise-Tortoise_(album_cover)

TITLE: Tortoise

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #Nope

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: John McEntire, Dan Bitney, John Herdon, Douglas McCombs, Bundy Brown

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album by slow and steady Chicago scenesters is eerily beautiful.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There’s probably no apt name for this band than Tortoise – where mid-tempo is breakneck speed and the music moves along methodically, steadily, and even with great beauty despite it all.

The first incarnation of the band featured two bassists and three percussionists, who play the standard drum kit along with vibraphone, marimba, and other mallet instruments. What results is a music that intrigues the listener. It sounds so different, yet at the same time the themes and motifs are familiar. And because it’s slow doesn’t mean it can’t be loud, but normally they carry along quietly (the drum kit on “Ry Cooder” is loud and joyful, though).

This is a record for those chill moments when you don’t need volume or convention to hang out. Good with wine and a book.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band was given credit for moving the Chicago scene away from the “Guyville” towards something called ‘post-rock’.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A: For those of us who don’t mind instrumentals that blur the line of many genres.