Tag: 1997

Pavement – Brighten the Corners

ARTIST: Pavement                   220px-BrightentheCorners

TITLE:  Brighten the Corners

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #70 US, #27 UK

SINGLES: Stereo (#48 UK), Shady Lane (#40 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Fans, only

LINEUP: Stephen Malkmus, Bob Nastanovich, Scott Kannberg, Steve West, Mark Ibold

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After the relative laziness of Wowee Zowee, Pavement perks up a bit, but a few songs fall flat.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Stephen Malkmus seemed to have woken from the haze of his mind after Wowee Zowee, at least at the beginning of this, Pavement’s fourth full-length disc.

Starting with “Stereo” and “Shady Lane”, the band front-loads the record with witticisms, and continue with “Date w/IKEA” (snarking on IKEA isn’t just a 2010’s thing). Yet the albums calms down a bit after the opening, and in my ears it falls into a lull.

It’s not easy to be the ‘it’ band of the indie scene. Pavement here was trying to give everything that the fans wanted (except the ones who liked them when they were just noisy), and while it succeeds on some levels, as an entire album it falls a bit short of some of their earlier work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mitch Easter, famous for producing early REM and other jangly bands, is a co-producer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the Nicene Creedence Edition has a ton of extra cuts, B-sides, live stuff. The usual huge package.

 GRADE: B+: It’s focused, which you may or may not like in Pavement, but it seems to be mining some of the same ground as before. It’s still pretty good, and gave fans what they wanted.

Son Volt – Straightaways

ARTIST: Son Volt                               220px-Straightaways

TITLE:  Straightaways

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #44

SINGLES: Back into Your World, Caryatid Easy

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Down Watson

LINEUP: Jay Farrar, Dave Boquist, Eric Heywood, Jim Boquist, Mike Heidorn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second Son Volt album seems unfocused and a bit of a letdown after such a strong debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Jay Farrar and crew’s second album starts off sort of strong with “Caryatid Easy”, a straightforward rocker with a country tinge. It gives one hope that their second album would be as good as their first, or close to it.

But that’s not the case. As the album rolls along, the songs become more laborious and ponderous. The last half of the album especially gets a bit languid (mostly thanks to Farrar’s vocals on the slower ballads), and the lyrics more and more obtuse. It’s not that there’s not good material here, but it comes down to pacing. “Caryatid Easy” could have / should have been in the middle somewhere and “Cemetery Savior” or another mid-tempo track could have been the opener.

The lack of a really memorable track also makes this record a bit disappointing. There’s not one that I could really recall without listening to it again (unlike other songs that I sing or hum in my head all of the time). It’s just falls short.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Eric Heywood is credited as a full band member on this album, though he was also the touring guitar tech.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: Good songs, not great songs, and the pacing and sequencing isn’t the best.

Robbie Fulks – South Mouth

ARTIST: Robbie Fulks        southmouth

TITLE: South Mouth

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Alt country types now a few

LINEUP: Robbie Fulks, D. Clinton Thompson, Lou Whitney, Ron Gremp, Tom Brumley, Steve Byam

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Wry, sardonic songs from a frustrated country artist who doesn’t hold back about his frustrations with the industry.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Country music used to be as dark as much as it was light, and Fulks is one of those who tries to keep the darkness in the genre. Cuts like “I Told Her Lies” or “Busy Not Crying” look at two sides of a relationship – neither one a good side, and “Cold Statesville Ground” evokes some of the best macabre 60’s cuts.

The backing from the legendary Skeletons (also known as the Morells, and one of the best unknown bar bands from the 80’s and beyond) fits with every style Fulks throws at them – old time country swing, murder ballads, and reg’lar ol’ country the way it used to be.

However, the key track is his diatribe and good-bye to Nashville, “Fuck This Town”. Fulks’ humor, wit, and intelligence probably worked against him in Nashville, but it suits him as a solo artist. This second record really established him as an alt-country vanguard.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He worked for Nashville publishers while living in Chicago, but still the sentiment holds.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: One of the post Uncle Tupelo alt-country stepping stones.

Veruca Salt – Eight Arms to Hold You

ARTIST: Veruca Salt                            VerucaSalt-EightArmsToHoldYou

TITLE: Eight Arms to Hold You

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #55

SINGLES: Volcano Girls (#8 Alternative, #9 Mainstream), Shutterbug (#39 Mainstream), Straight (#38 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah, it kinda tanked

LINEUP: Nina Gordon, Louise Post, Jim Shapiro, Steve Lack

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The second album curse? Nah, they did just as well as their first album, but didn’t have that breakout track.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s not like Veruca Salt tried to rewrite “Seether” 14 times, but at times that monster alternative radio smash colors this album fairly or unfairly. Nina Gordon and Louise Post, both writers and singers, didn’t really write a bad track here…

…but nothing made you sit up and go wow. Post’s vocals on her songs can get a little unhinged at times, for good and bad. Both Gordon and Post infuse each track with their harmonies and hooks. But nothing really had that monster something-or-other to make a great impact.

“Shutterbug” may be their best track here but it was an unusual choice for a single and a (very expensive) video with a definite soft / loud component and not very commercial compared to the other ‘alternative’ cuts in 1997 (but it’s a dang good track).

Track for track, it’s better than their debut, but it doesn’t have that high point, so you’re left with a record that’s just as good as their first. That’s not bad, not at all, but it ground them to a halt due to lack of sales and support.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They got to play “Shutterbug” on SNL, but since Sting was the host, he had the other musical slot so they only played one song 220px-Blow_It_Out_Your_Ass_It's_Veruca_Salt

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but they released an EP between albums called Blow It Out Your Ass, It’s Veruca Salt that’s better than both their full length albums, and has a cut (“Shimmer Like a Girl”) that should have been a huge thing (well, if people could deal with feedback, and they should). Sadly, it’s out of print and not even bonus tracked. Find it on the You Tube. 

GRADE: B: Maybe they should have kept back those four EP tracks…maybe. Anyway, it’s not that bad, really, because I know you’ve heard different.

Blue Mountain – Home Grown

ARTIST: Blue Mountain           Blue_mountain_homegrown

TITLE: Home Grown

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, but you should have.

LINEUP: Carey Hudson, Laurie Stirratt, Frank Couch

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A true alt-country record, with straight country songs and stomping rockers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Carey Hudson is a country boy with rock-and-roll in his heart, and his band (with his then wife Laurie Stirratt), combined both genres in one of the purest alt-country bands going in the 90’s.

From rockers like “Generic America” (probably the best track on the album), to country ballads like “Myrna Lee”, and testimonies to dangerous two-lane roads found in the South (“Bloody 98”), Hudson and company mix and match country and rock, especially in a track like “Last Words of Midnight Clyde”.

The issue is that the album seems front-loaded, with the back half concentrating on the mellower acoustic-based songs that let a bit of the fire out of the record. The sequencing makes this just a good album, not great.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were on Roadrunner Records for this release, which is unusual since that company normally releases Heavy Metal albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: It would be an A- with better sequencing.

Daft Punk – Homework

ARTIST: Daft Punk                          220px-Daftpunk-homework

TITLE: Homework

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #150 US, #8 UK

SINGLES: Da Funk (#108 US, #1 Dance, #5 UK), Around the World (# 61 US, #1 Dance, #5 UK), Burnin’ (#30 UK), Revolution 909 (#12 Dance, #47 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No,

LINEUP: Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After two singles, French electronic duo sings major label contract, but retains control and produces a world-wide dance smash.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A good beat, a funky bass, and a fantastic hook played over and over and over again, with electronic snippets and samples here and there and everywhere. That’s the recipe for this album, or so it seems.

The duo had made some waves with their singles on Soma, which appear here in some form or another. “Da Funk” got them noticed everywhere, and the followup “Around the World”, which basically writes the Daft Punk formula (including repetitive vocals singing repetitive phrases).

Find the hook, lock into it, make it funky and danceable, and the rest will follow. It works for them. As an album, it gets a bit tiresome but flip on a track in a mix, and you’ll be good to go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Indo Silver Club” was actually released as a single on the Soma label, with no artist credit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Worth it for grabbing tracks here or there.

Lifter Puller – Lifter Puller

ARTIST: Lifter Puller                            Lifterpullerlifterpuller

TITLE: Lifter Puller

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Mezzanine Gypoff

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Craig Finn, Steve Barone, Dan Monick, Tommy Roach

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After some singles, Minneapolis-based Lifter Puller releases a muted first album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s hard not to put this album in context to the singles, and later releases by Lifter Puller, much less the Hold Steady, but this album seems muted compared to their other released.

Craig Finn’s rambling talk-vocals are here, but they’re not as prominent or exuberant as they were on some singles and the way they were moving forward. The worst thing you can do is move Finn to the background, yet it seems like the band did so here.

Stories and characters and the beginnings of their arcs are here, as usual, but they’re not as well served as they could have been. This album just sounds like a generic 90’s band with a rambling lead singer.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band released three singles before this, with only one track making the album in its single version.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: Mildy generic 90’s rock, which isn’t what you signed up for with Lifter Puller.

Silverchair – Freak

ARTIST: Silverchair                                                 220px-Silverchair_-_Freak_Show

TITLE: Freak Show

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #38 UK

SINGLES: Freak (#25 Mainstream, #29 Modern, #34 UK), Abuse Me (#4 Mainstream, #4 Modern, #40 UK), Cemetery, The Door

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Slave

LINEUP: Daniel Johns, Ben Gillies, Chris Joannou

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Oh, the second album issue strikes hard, which really hit this band of teenagers.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Silverchair should have been just about done with high school when this album was released, and some of the songs were written around the time their debut was taking the world by storm. Does that excuse the sloppy lyrics, half-baked Nirvanaisms, and generally maudlin sensibility.

No, not really.

The lyrics to “Freak” are ham-fisted and dilute a great riff. That’s just the beginning. “Abuse Me” is a Nirvana slow-song rip from a teenager’s journal (which it probably is).  As the album goes on, you get the idea that Johns and company wanted this album to be ‘a lost Nirvana album’, but not even Kurt Cobain at his most juvenile or suicidal could match some of these songs.

I’m going by song by song on this one – some tracks have potential to excite. But as a whole, it’s an unsuccessful attempt at aping an idol.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Johns has basically disavowed this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C-: You can play “Name the Nirvana song that inspired this” for each track. I exiled all but four, as I have all of Nirvana’s albums and don’t need another.

The Old 97’s – Too Far to Care

ARTIST: The Old 97’s                                220px-Old_97s-Too_Far_To_Care

TITLE: Too Far to Care

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Only promo singles

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Timebomb, Barrier Reef, Melt Show, Big Brown Eyes, Four Leaf Clover

LINEUP: Rhett Miller, Murry Hammon, Ken Bethea, Phillip Peeples. John Rauhouse and Wally Gagel guested, and Exene sang on one track with Rhett Miller.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First major label release for the rockin’ alt-country band blazes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Kicking off with the raucous “Timebomb”, then going into their probably-signature song “Barrier Reef”, the Old 97’s go national and make a name for themselves.

They focused on more of their rock side, and that probably helped them to be honest, especially with the sound and production from Wally Gagel that emphasizes the guitar of Ken Bethea and the drums.

While not exactly a perfect album, Miller’s songwriting was getting sharper and wittier, and the band was ready to jump in to the rockin’ style with both feet.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: A couple of tracks were re-done from earlier albums. Also, Stuart Ransom Miller is Rhett Miller’s real name, but it’s also his father’s name and it’s allegedly not autobiographical.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Four extra songs, and then later another disc of demos.

GRADE: A-:  A fun, raucous good time.

Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Forever

ARTIST: Wu-Tang Clan                         220px-wu-tang_forever

TITLE:  Wu-Tang Forever

YEAR RELEASED: 1997

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Triumph (#50 R&B, #6 Rap, #46 UK), It’z Yourz (#75 R&B, #21 UK), Reunited

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Impossible

LINEUP: RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah deck, U-God, Masta Killa, Cappadonna, Street Life

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Hard, heavy-duty follow-up album lives up to the hype and is a rare double-CD that has hardly any filler.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was going to be hard to top the debut Wu-Tang Clan, and doubly hard to make a hip-hop double CD that was worth the money and trouble.

Mission accomplished.

Most everything here works, and the rhymes and beats come together in a seamless fashion. The samples and music are well thought out and definitely complement the lyrics, which are quite hardcore descriptions of life in the streets and the characters that inhabit it.

Only the second disk has filler – the first and last cuts are monologues that can be dispensed with. There’s nothing else that doesn’t work, and it’s well sequenced too. This…this is a classic.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: RZA allowed some others to produce a few tracks.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are a couple of extra songs on the international version.

GRADE: A: A fantastic hip-hop record, among the best ever.