Tag: 1996

Nada Surf – High / Low

ARTIST: Nada Surf  220px-High_Low_(Nada_Surf_album)_cover_art

TITLE: High/Low

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #63

SINGLES: Popular (#51 US, #11 Alternative, #123 UK), Treehouse, Deeper Well

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it

LINEUP: Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca, Ira Elliot

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Alternative rock band with out-of-nowhere hit isn’t like typical post-Nirvana alternative bands.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When you only hear of bands and songs in passing, you tend to judge them harshly – moreso than other bands you’re more familiar with. So I lumped Nada Surf in with the countless other alt rockers that emerged post-Nirvana and post-Pearl Jam popularity.

Whoops.

Over 10 tracks (not bloated, which is refreshing), Nada Surf plays energetic rock without being repetitive nor stupid. That’s refreshing. Songs like “Deeper Well” have a catchy chorus, and they do know their ways around hooks and riffs. But they change it up (“Stalemate”) and their hit (“Popular”) is a different kind of track that fits the record well.

It’s not totally essential, but it’s a very good 90’s alt rock record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Caws and Lorca spent time in France and Belgium as kids.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A-: Definitely worth a few spins for the alt-rocker in you.

L’il Kim – Hard Core

ARTIST: L’il Kim                      Lil_Kim_-_Hard_Core

TITLE:  Hard Core

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #3 R&B, #116 UK

SINGLES: No Time (#18 US, #9 R&B, #1 Rap, #45 UK), Crush on You (#23 UK), Not Tonight (#6 US, #3 R&B, #2 Rap, #11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Big Momma Thang, Queen Bitch

LINEUP: L’il Kim, Puff Daddy, Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, L’il Cease, Junior MAFIA, Jermaine Dupri,  Lamarquis Mark Jefferson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut from the Junior MAFIA rapper who was in the Puff Daddy / Notorious BIG orbit. It’s absolutely filthy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Oh, my stars and garters, this one will peel the boxers off anyone listening to it. L’il Kim’s raps, over solid beats and rhymes, and featuring the NYC rap elite of the mid-to-late 90’s, made her a star and somehow got on the radio, too. (How the heck could “Not Tonight” get on the radio, much less hit the Top 10? How? Oh, yeah, there was a remix.)

At times, the relentless hardcore raps gets wearing, but L’il Kim seemingly has a one track mind. She’s got some good flow, and does a pretty good job of being creative with her lyrics.

Working with Biggie, Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, and other helped Kim get success and this is probably her legacy work. Remove the skits (what a plaque on the rap house in this time), and it’s solid.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The remix of “Not Tonight” also had Da Brat, Left Eye, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: I run hot and cold on this, but really, it’s pretty decent, and it’s FILTHY.

 

Cake – Fashion Nugget

ARTIST: Cake                                      220px-Cake_Fashion_Nugget

TITLE: Fashion Nugget

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #36 US, #1 Heatseekers, #53 UK

SINGLES: The Distance (#4 Alternative, #38 Mainstream, #22 UK), I Will Survive (#28 Alternative, #29 UK), Frank Sinatra, Friend Is a Four Letter Word

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None I bet

LINEUP: John McCrea, Greg Brown, Vince DiFiore, Victor Damiani, Todd Roper

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Clever alt-rock band gets a decent-sized radio hit that has outlasted the band and album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Alt rock, with a little mariachi, and a lot of smarmy sass, Cake’s second album became a sensation on the alternative scene thanks to “The Distance” – one of the few original songs not written or co-written by John McCrea. Funny how that works!

“The Distance” has outlived the band, being used for all kinds of media since its release. That overwhelms the band and the album a bit, and there’s enough other material that’s decent enough that it’s not a hit-plus-filler situation, though just a few tracks reach the level of “The Distance.”

The covers seem a bit forced, though. I don’t enjoy this as much as their debut. I think their schtick is easy to figure out, to be honest.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They change the lyrics to “I Will Survive” and it gained a Parental Advisory sticker.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B: It’ll take you back to 1996, and that’s both good, and bad.

Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill

ARTIST: Pantera                  220px-Pantera_The_Great_Southern_Trendkill

TITLE: The Great Southern Trendkill

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #17 UK

SINGLES: Drag the Waters, Suicide Note Pt. 1, Floods

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you bought it, you know it. Otherwise, no.

LINEUP: Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Rex Brown, Vinnie Paul

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: An even louder and aggressive record than the other 90’s Pantera albums, except for the ballads.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting out with a hearty GROWL from Phil Anselmo, Pantera’s fourth major label album is loud and angry. Sometimes that’s all you need from metal, but, in this case it’s not

The songs that have a memorable riff and melody (well, as melodious as Anselmo gets) and hook are right there with the best of their tracks. That’s only a couple. The rest of the aggressive ones are just a blur of volume.

The ballads get them encroaching on Alice in Chains territory that doesn’t really bring out the strengths of the group (which in my ears are all metal). And that makes a track like “Floods” a bit schizophrenic, with a definite mellow kind of vibe, then it hits you over the head in kind of an abrupt transition.

It’s not bad, I’m not going to lie. But it’s something that won’t be on my regular rotation.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band was fighting among themselves, so Anselmo did his vocals in another studio away from the rest of the group.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A live track in Japan, and an anniversary edition, of course.

 GRADE: C+: I’m not feeling this one.

The Roots – Illadelph Halflife

ARTIST: The Roots                           Illadelph

TITLE: Illadelph Halflife

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #21 US, #4 R&B

SINGLES: Clones (#101 US, #62 R&B, #11 Rap), What They Do (#34 US, #21 R&B, #5 Rap, #49 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lord, no

LINEUP: Black Thought, Kid Crumbs, Dice Raw, Rahzel, Hub Hubbard, Questlove, Kamal Gray with guests Bahamadia, Raphael Saadiq, Common, D’Angelo, Q-Tip, Urusula Rucker, and Cassandra Wilson.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Roots begin to become a force in the music community with their beats, raps, and inventive arrangements.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The sound of the Roots is like no other group, as they incorporate so many elements yet remain unique. That started here, with the production and direction of Questlove and other producers.

They were also quite anomalous for the time, as instead of acting hedonistically gangster, the Roots tackle several serious topics with street smarts still in place, but actual coherent political thought replacing mindless braggadocio.

The Roots started to get notice in the pop world as well, with a Top 40 single, and guests collaborating as equals to the band and not overwhelming them. A fantastic album.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A few copies had the track list starting at #34, with their first two albums being tracks 1-33.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: The Roots sound of today is here.

 

Imperial Teen – Seasick

ARTIST: Imperial Teen                                         Seasick

TITLE: Seasick

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Imperial Teen, Butch, You’re One

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no.

LINEUP: Rodney Bottum, Will Schwartz, Jone Stebbins, Lynn Truell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Power-pop influenced band celebrates music and pop culture in a great hummable mix.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first three songs set the tone for Imperial Teen as a band – “Water Boy” is a hard-edged power pop song with an infectious chorus shouting “Bow down baby…bow down to me”. “Imperial Teen” is a quieter meditation that doesn’t make sense, not even “If I only had another hand / I’d cut it off and start a band”.
Then there’s “Butch”, a true power-pop song worthy of the Posies that’s rooted in gay culture with a great chorus line, “You like strawberries / I like you.”

All through this album are enjoyable melodies and enough rock to satisfy. It seems slight, and sometimes not all the way thought out – they were only together six months before recording this – but if you’re a power pop lover it’s worthy.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Rodney Bottum was / is in Faith No More and drummer Lynn Truell was in Sister Double Happiness.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: The more you play it, the more the songs sink in and reveal its charms.

Guided by Voices – Under the Bushes Under the Stars

ARTIST: Guided by Voices                                                  UTBUTScover

TITLE: Under the Bushes, Under the Stars

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #19 Heatseekers

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Cut-Out Witch, The Official Ironmen Rally Song, Your Name Is Wild.

LINEUP: Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The “classic” lineup runs out of steam.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Robert Pollard will always write songs, and record songs. For several years, his nuggets of tuneage were enough to sustain several albums by Guided By Voices, but finally they hit a snag.

This second record for Matador had some gems, but you can sense the band was tiring and Pollard’s muse wasn’t as strong as it once was. Matador records even compounded the problem by adding on extra tracks at the end that really bloats up the album more than usual for GBV standards.

It’s not bad as a whole and some good cuts are there, but soon Pollard would regroup GBV in a totally different direction. That was probably a wise decision.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is the first record that they recorded ‘professionally”, and it took several sessions and producers to get the tracks laid down.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of bonus tracks.

GRADE: B-: This runs out of steam at the end, just like the band.

Spoon – Telephono

ARTIST: Spoon                                      220px-Telephono

TITLE: Telephono

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #35 Independent

SINGLES: All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed, Not Turning Off

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Really, no.

LINEUP: Britt Daniel, Andy Maguire, Jim Eno, Brad Shenfeld

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Early album from the Austin group is rough and raw, but shows potential.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Pixies were gone by 1997, but Spoon wanted to fill the void in with weird songwriting, sonic dynamics, and loud-ish playing. That’s not what they’re known for now, of course, but it worked at the time. 220px-Spoon-Soft_Effects

Some elements of Spoon’s later work do show up – Britt Daniel’s gift for quirky melodies and rhythms do show up even amongst the loudness. It’s still jarring to compare this album to those that made them famous (well, famous for an alternative band in this day and age).

The album comes now with a follow up EP (Soft Effects), which really shows a subtle evolution before their major label debacle. But here, listen to “Not Turning Off” and know that without the Pixies, they wouldn’t exist.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released an EP back in 1994 that was pressed up in the dozens, maybe.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: See above

GRADE: B: Good record for fans to see where they started and how they evolved.

Weezer – Pinkerton

ARTIST: Weezer                   220px-Pinkerton_cover

TITLE: Pinkerton

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #19 US, #43 UK

SINGLES: El Scorcho (#19 Alternative, #50 UK), The Good Life (#32 Alternative), Pink Triangle

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tired of Sex, Getchoo

LINEUP: Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Matt Sharp

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: At the time, a commercial disappointment. Now, a cult album hailed as a masterpiece. The truth is in the middle.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You can’t please critics all the time (this one included). You can’t please the public or your fans all the time. You should only please yourself by making the music you feel in your heart.

There are way too many tales, tomes, and essays about Pinkerton. It was an album created after an ambitious project was scrapped (and several songs morphed and mutated into the versions here). It was harder edged, with a great crunchy guitar sound, and a driving distorted bass. Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, and Matt Sharp do yeomen’s work backing Rivers Cuomo. The melodies were there as well.

A lot of the focus were on the confessional lyrics. I think that’s malarkey, really. Critics wanted to pick them apart – radio didn’t hear another “Buddy Holly” – and casual fans didn’t hear what they wanted. That was their loss. Yet, it’s not the Holy Grail of albums either. It’s a solid record much better than a lot of late 90’s albums and it’s a shame that the initial reaction to this altered the band so much.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The scrapped album was a science fiction rock opera.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, b-sides and live tracks, of course.

GRADE: A-: Solid album, just got caught up in a media maelstrom and other industry BS.

 

Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise – Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise

ARTIST: Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise  mi0000114822

TITLE:  Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Bellybone

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Robert Bradley, Andrew Nehra, Michael Nehra, Jeff Fowlkes with help from Jimmy Bones and Ed Hawrysch

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Hipsters add a blind street singer to their band, and get a little traction thanks to one outstanding track.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A hipster 90’s group heard a street singer, and invited him into the band. Adding Robert Bradley, who was singing on the streets of Detroit for years, helped the group get bookings, popularity, and then a contract.

The resulting album showed that Bradley really has the chops to sing professionally, and some of his performances rise above the material and the playing. “Bellybone” is a track that turns heads, though. It’s a simple blues groove that Bradley makes his own, especially as the song goes to the chorus and the bridge.

The rest of the tracks range from so-so to decent, and Bradley gives his all. The band is kind of generic, really, and the material is slight at times. “Bellybone”, though, that’s a must-have.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The name of the band was Second Self, and they met Bradley in 1994.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: One bonus track on the CD.

GRADE: B-: I wouldn’t even think about having this except for “Bellybone”.