Tag: 1998

Shellac – Terraform

ARTIST: Shellac 220px-Shellac-Terraform

TITLE: Terraform

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Steve Albini, Bob Weston, Todd Trainer.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: More of the same Shellac like the first album, and it does seem like a retread.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Out of the gate, Shellac graces it’s second official full length release with a 12-minute exercise in repetition. That doesn’t seem like a great way to start, and anxious listeners may itch for the fast forward button (or go and pick up the needle on the record).

After that, the tracks are shorter, and punchier. The star of the proceedings is the bass work of Bob Weston, who keeps things interesting even during the long opener. Todd Trainer’s drums are also solid, alternating between primitive driving beats and precise rolls and fills.

Believe it or not, the weakness here is Steve Albini. His guitar tone here isn’t interesting or groundbreaking, and the lyrics to the songs don’t bite. They’re also mixed low, which is kind of normal, but here it’s a detriment.

Shellac’s career is stop and start due to production and engineering duties, but there was ample time to get this right and it doesn’t seem right.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Disgrace” has a long silence in the middle, which may have caused some vinyl buyers to see if the record was still playing or if there was a problem with their unit.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE B-: I’m not 100% down on this record, it has some interesting parts. But it could have been better than this.

The Dirtbombs – Horndog Fest

ARTIST: The Dirtbombs                    220px-Horndogfest

TITLE:  Horndog Fest

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

LINEUP: Mick Collins, Tom Lynch, Eric Wheeler, Chris Handyside, Joe Greenwald

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Retro garage and soul band, record an album after a bunch of singles. It’s hit or miss in a big way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After releasing a bunch of singles, and before they found their groove in the early 2000’s, the Dirtbombs mastermind Mick Collins accepted an offer to record an album and treated it like a single, except there was a lot more B-side material than A-side stuff.

“I Can’t Stop Thinking About It” is one of those coulda shoulda songs that really should be rescued (it was in a TV commercial, though). There are a couple of other tracks that deserve to hang around, but most of the rest is a bit puerile or obtuse, or way way overcome by noise. Though I dig Joe Greenwald’s guitar settings.

They’d get their mojo around the turn of the decade, but this one is a pass except for a couple of tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They had released five singles by the time this was put out, and had an EP come out in 1999 as well.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: C-: A couple tracks save it from total ignominy

Sloan – Navy Blues

ARTIST: Sloan

220px-Sloan_Navy_Blues

 

TITLE:  Navy Blues

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #5 in Canada

SINGLES: Money City Maniacs (#7 Canada, #4 Canada Alternative), See Says What She Means (#21 Canada Alternative), Keep on Thinkin’ (#85 Canada)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, eh?

LINEUP: Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A bit more hard rocking record from the Canadians, as if they inhaled the faster late-period Beatles songs and re-arranged them in their own way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to a pizza commercial, some fine power poppin’, and bass line inspired by AC/DC, Sloan hit a commercial peak in Canada with “Money City Maniacs”, a quintessential power pop song if there was ever one. Yet that’s not the only fine, inspired track here.

Cut after cut showcases the bands gifts of melody, arrangement, and harmony. Most of the time, the band hits the mark, but “Chester the Molester” is cringe worthy lyrically even if it’s done lightheartedly (that may make it worse).

Skip that track, and enjoy the rest, especially reveling in how the album starts off with “She Says What She Means”.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The opening track, “She Says What She Means’ was the last track recorded  and only written by Chris Murphy as an answer to the other rockin’ songs penned by Patrick Pentland.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: In Japan

 GRADE: A-: Downgrading for “Chester the Molester”, but otherwise a fantastic power pop record.

Spoon – A Series of Sneaks

ARTIST: Spoon                           220px-ASeriesOfSneaks

TITLE: A Series of Sneaks

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Car Radio

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lord, no

LINEUP: Britt Daniel, Joshua Zarbo, Jim Eno

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A major label move a few years too early – this album languished and was ignored for years.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With high hopes, Spoon signed to Elektra records, and soon after release, their A&R person left and the label dropped them, leaving this album out there with no support and a bitter, unsettled band.

This album is probably out of step with what was ‘popular’ in 1998, but it does deliver on the promise of their independent work. Catchy songs with enough off-kilter elements to keep you on your toes, and enough noise to keep the indie people satisfied.

Elektra messed up here, as Spoon has become reliably reliable in delivering well-made product to a growing fan base. Who knew then, but this album was decent enough to keep them signed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Spoon was so pissed off at their A&R guy that they recorded a single called “The Agony of Laffitte” about the experience

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. UK tracks, and that independent single. 

GRADE: B+: The quality tails off, but the first few tracks are strong.

Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart

ARTIST: Hefner                          220px-Breaking_God's_Heart

TITLE: Breaking God’s Heart

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The Sweetness Lies Within (#171 UK), Love Will Destroy Us in the End

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here. We didn’t get John Peel’s show

LINEUP: Darren Hayman, Antony Harding, John Morrison, Jack Hayder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Independent rock / folk band’s first album has promising songs, but suffers a bit from packing too much into them.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hefner was an outfit that drew from the traditions of folk, combining them with the burgeoning independent rock scene in the UK, and crafted songs as wordy as Elvis Costello’s early work with spare sounding arrangements.

For those not devoted 100% to the band, that can create issues. While most all of their tracks show humor, and melody, only a few have memorable hooks that allow them to stand out, letting the rest recede into the background where they’re blurred together with others.

My best advice is listen to the first few tracks. If you’re in, you’ll know. I’m still on the fence myself, long term.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: John Peel, famous BBC DJ, took a real shine to them and they were on the show constantly.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The always had EPs between albums, and stand alone singles. Those bonus tracks illustrate their weaknesses more than play to their strengths.

GRADE: B-: I get it, and I’m kind of on the train, but some of their stuff is just flat.

 

The Nines – Wonderworld of Colorful

ARTIST: The Nines                               nines2

TITLE:  Wonderworld of Colorful

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Another really obscure one

LINEUP: Steve Eggers, Aaron Nielson, Sam Tallo, Andrew Webb

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Toronto’s Steve Eggers’ studio power-pop project finds the right sound that fits right with the Posies, XTC, Jellyfish and others.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Catchy poppy songs with enough guitar noise and riffs to be dangerous, harmonies, and a singalong quality puts The Nines in an every-full category of “unheard power pop bands that deserved better – Canadian Division.”

The influences are everywhere – a Paul McCartney here, an Andy Partridge there, some Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. There’s variety here, as not every song mines the same vein with crunched guitar and harmonies. Sometimes there are acoustic guitars and simpler arrangements.

The one downer is that after a while, the songs let less magical. Thirteen may have been a couple too many. But when you have a song like “Morning I Wake” and “Jennifer Smiles”, among many others, you can live with that.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this album, it took three years for another EP to be released (a four song piano based collection) and two more for the followup proper.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  If I had my way, stuff like this would get some hearings on the radio. It’s got some great melodies, harmonies and riffs.

The Sadies – Precious Moments

ARTIST: The Sadies                        precious-moments

TITLE:  Precious Moments

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Little Sadie, Pretty Polly, Glass of Wine, Tell Her Lies and Feed Her Candy

LINEUP: Dallas Good, Travis Good, Sean Dean, Mike Bekitsky.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Melding traditional Americana with all kinds of genres, the Sadies roar through 20 tracks in 40 minutes and leave everyone smiling.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What is about Canadians adopting American genres and making them unique? First the Band, now the Sadies, have taken musical styles from the US heartland and twisted them around and around.

Bluegrass and C&W go in, and they’re either straight, run through a surf mode (A surf mandolin? Why not!), attacked in a punk rock style, or a mixture of it all. Instrumentals abound. Neko Case sings on a track. This has it all. The highlight for me is “Little Sadie”, an old murder ballad done in a punk/surf/bluegrass meld.

It’s just fun, fun, fun, especially if you don’t mind getting your genres mixed together.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This, and a few other early Sadies albums aren’t on Google Play, but are on Spotify.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  It’s a fun record – a hoot and a half!

 

Kid Rock – Devil Without a Cause

ARTIST: Kid Rock                            220px-kid_rock-devil_without_a_cause_album_cover

TITLE:  Devil Without a Cause

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #172 UK

SINGLES: Welcome 2 the Party, I Am the Bullgod (#31 Mainstream), Bawitdaba (#104 US, #11 Mainstream, #41 UK), Cowboy (#82 US, #10 Mainstream, #36 UK), Only God Knows Why (#19 US, #5 Mainstream), Wasting Time (#35 Mainstream)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Devil Without a Cause

LINEUP: Kid Rock, Jimmie Bones, Kenny Tudrick, Joe C., Stefanie Eulinberg, Kenny Olson, Uncle Kracker, Matt O’Brien and other helpers. Eminem is on one track.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The fourth album by Kid Rock, after three unheard records, fuses metal, redneck culture, and hip-hop into a sometimes fun, and sometimes brilliant, stew.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: All disparaging aside, Kid Rock blasts out full freakin’ bore on this album – as if he had THIS chance to make it big and no others.

When “I Am the Bullgod” started to hit rock radio stations, things started to turn for Kid. The came the irresistible pair of “Bawitdaba” and “Cowboy”, which are almost-perfect fusions or metal and hip-hop with other influences thrown in there for good measure.

As the record goes on, the quality slides. His ‘ballad’ is better than his later attempts, but that’s not really a praise. Only Eminem’s contribution picks up the latter half. No matter, it’s the first four tracks that make this record what it is.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He re-recorded a lot of his earlier tracks, so I skipped those records. There just…there, really.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the ‘clean’ version removes two whole tracks. Why the heck would you buy a ‘clean’ version of a Kid Rock album.

GRADE: B+:  It runs out of steam, but the beginning of the record is definitely one of the best fusions of metal and hip-hop.

Destiny’s Child – Destiny’s Child

ARTIST: Destiny’s Child                          Destiny's_Child_–_Destiny's_Child_(album)

TITLE:  Destiny’s Child

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #67 US, #14 R&B, #45 UK

SINGLES: No, No, No (#3 US, #5 UK), With Me (#19 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They covered Sail On

LINEUP: Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson, many producres and session musicians. Guests included Wyclef Jean, Jermaine Dupin, Method Man and Will Smith.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: 90’s girl group’s debut showcases their great harmonies and Beyonce’s voice, which compensates for some average material.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When the four (at the time) members of Destiny’s Child come together and sing in their harmonies you do feel that they have something special, and Beyonce’s lead vocals are definitely distinctive.Destiny's_Child_–_Destiny's_Child_(Japanese_edition)

 

There are a lot of cooks here. Lots of songwriters, lots of producers, and engineers, and it does show. At times, it seems haphazardly put together, including that the Part 2’s of the big hit “No, No, No” is sequenced before Part 1.

It’s Beyonce with Kelly Rowland (and two others, who do sound great in the harmonies), so there’s quality here. They’d strike it big next time – this is a tentative step towards there.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album won the Best R&B / Soul album of the year at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Different versions in Australia, Japan and Europe.

GRADE: C+:  It’s OK. Not the best. I’m keeping a lot of it around because of the vocals.

Snow Patrol – Songs for Polarbears

ARTIST: Snow Patrol              220px-Snowpatrolsongsforpolarbearsalbumcover

TITLE:  Songs for Polarbears

YEAR RELEASED: 1998

CHART ACTION: #143 UK

SINGLES: Starfighter Pilot, Little Hide, One Hundred Things You Should Have Done in Bed (#157 UK), Velocity Girl / Absolute Gravity (#177 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Gary Lightbody, Mark McClelland, Richard Colburn

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from Northern Irish band is a scramble of this, that, and the other, but it’s all decent enough.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There are bands that absorb all of their influences and make their own sound, and others that in their early stages emulate all of their influences, sometimes all at once.

Snow Patrol’s first recordings are definitely the latter, as from track to track they don’t sound like the same band. That’s not a bad thing, but it does show that they were still trying to find an original and unique voice and not just borrowing the fuzzy guitar from “A” and melody ideas from “B”.

It’d take a while for them to coalesce and become what they would become. Here, though, is the portrait of a band working things out, and writing some decent songs in the process.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title is a nod to their original band name, Polarbear.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. The original US release has four extra tracks, and later releases have all the B-sides to the singles.

GRADE: B-: A few songs are standouts. It’s OK in general and will surprise those who only know them from their radio hits.