Superchunk – Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)

ARTIST: Superchunk           Superchunk_tossing

TITLE: Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: The A-sides: What Do I, Slack Motherfucker, Fishing, The Breadman, Seed Toss

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: My Noise, Cool

LINEUP: Mac McCaughan, Laura Balance. Jim Wilbur and Jack McCook are on guitar. Chuck Garrison plays most of the drums until the final single, where it’s Jon Wurster.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Singles compilation catches fans up on Superchunk, and is an essential snapshot of the early band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While their second album is essential in its own right (and only has one track here, not counting a different version of “Cast Iron”), this collection is a better representative of early Superchunk than their first album.

Here, the band shows love for its influences (the Shangri-Las, Sebadoh, and obscure punk) and the 7” medium (start the song, make your statement, get out).  Tracks like “Slack Motherfucker”, “Fishing”, and “Cool” are anthems for that generation (which was my generation, to be honest, so this does resonate with me) and were great bursts for college radio and other places hip singles could be played.

As with any collection like this, not every B-side or track given to a comp is the best, but this is not just for completists. It’s worthwhile for any Superchunk or rock fan, really.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One track from their Freed Seed single didn’t make this compilation (their version of Sebadoh’s “I Believe in Fate”)

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: I’d grab this over their first album for sure.

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.

The Cardigans – Emmerdale

ARTIST: The Cardigans         220px-CardigansEmmerdale

TITLE: Emmerdale

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Rise and Shine (#29 UK), Black Letter Day, Sick and Tired (#34 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

LINEUP: Lars-Olof Johansson, Bengt Lagerberg, Nina Persson, Magnus Sveningsson, Peter Svensson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sweet sounding Swedish pop band has a secret sour side.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With Nina Persson on vocals, it’s hard to be a dour and sour group, and yes, most of the Cardigans work sound sweet, but there’s a hidden edge there.

The confluence of a sweet voice, bright sounding arrangements, and sometimes dark lyrics make for an intriguing and sometimes compelling listen. Peter Svensson’s ear for melody (mostly co-written with Magnus Sveningsson) and the arrangements draw you in, and Persson’s vocal delivery keeps you there.

They’re not quite 100% here – a couple of songs could have been reworked or developed more, but it’s still a great debut from a unique 90’s group.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Svensson was a former metal-head, thus the Sabbath cover.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they released different versions of their first two albums, and there’s a version with the leftover songs appended to this album.

GRADE: B+: You’ll sing along and wonder why the words you’re singing are sometimes sad and bitter.

Weezer – Weezer (The Green Album)

ARTIST: Weezer                     220px-Weezer_-_Green_Album

TITLE: Weezer (The Green Album)

YEAR RELEASED: 2001

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #31 UK

SINGLES: Hash Pipe (#106 US, #2 Alternative, #24 Mainstream, #21 UK), Island in the Sun (#111 US, #11 UK, #31 UK), Photograph (#17 Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Don’t Let Go.

LINEUP: Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell, Mikey Welsh

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a delay, Weezer’s back with no real change of sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The pain, the shame, and the bad press of Pinkerton soon moved into like and love for the album from the cult of Weezer, but their next release, (The Green Album), moved the band back to their familiar roots with hooks and choruses like always, but the lyrics non-confessional.

The sound was harder edged than their original album, so they didn’t scrap the Pinkerton musical vibe, and the songs were catchy as ever. But the shine was gone from the mainstream, and just the alternative folks were buying into it.

Musically, it’s a good album. Short, but to the point and not a lot of filler. It fits pretty well in their canon, and you could do worse, especially in 2001.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They changed bass players to Mikey Welsh, and then he left soon after the album was recorded.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, in Japan and the UK.

GRADE: A-: Hooks and choruses and not much filler.

The Offspring – The Offspring

ARTIST: The Offspring                                 220px-The_Offspring_-_The_Offspring

TITLE: The Offspring

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: I’ll Be Waiting

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No sir.

LINEUP: Dexter Holland (listed as Kevin on the original release), Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, Greg Kriesel, Ron Welty

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punk band scrapes up enough dough to record a record and it sells barely enough to get a deal with Epitaph.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Pressing just 5,000 copies, the Offspring recorded this album in 1989 to document their work-in-progress punk-with-some-pop leaning sounds. Really, they haven’t changed much.

The delivery of the lyrics by Dexter Holland is generally the same, and the punk backing with power chords and blasts of solos by Noodles, are there. The songwriting isn’t as good, but they also don’t repeat themselves with bad novelty songs.

This isn’t earth-shaking, but it’s decent pre-grunge punk. You’d never have thought they’d hit it big, or even medium, though. 220px-Offspring_-_ST_1989

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band hated the original album art (the gross guitar alien thing) and changed it for the re-releases.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The album keeps shedding tracks on re-releases. It started with 12, and they lost one on the 1995 reissue, and another on the 2001 pressing.

GRADE: B-: Standard Offspring punk rock, just unheard until they became big.

Deee-Lite – The Very Best of Deee-Lite

ARTIST: Deee-Lite                                                      deeelite

TITLE: The Very Best of Deee-Lite

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Groove is in the Heart (#4 US, #1 Dance, #2 UK), Power of Love (#47 US, #1 Dance, #25 UK), ESP (#7 Dance), Good Beat (#1 Dance, #53 UK), Pussycat Meow (#6 Dance), Party Happening People (#30 Dance), Picnic in the Summertime (#43 UK), Bring Me Your Love (#1 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah.

LINEUP: Supa DJ Dmitry, Lady Kiss Kier, Towa Tei. DJ Ani was on their final album. Guests like Bootsy Collins and Q-Tip also appear.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Dance act was seen as a novelty by most but introduced club, house, and DJ culture to the masses.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You know “Groove Is in the Heart” and probably nothing else, but Deee-Lite wasn’t a one-hit wonder on the dance floors.

Their albums were spotty, but when they nailed a concept and a groove (such as in “Power of Love” and “Good Beat”) they were a righteous good-time dance party. As time wore on they shifted from good-times into a bit more social and political dance grooves, and their pop audience filtered away.

This is a good overview, and hits all of the high notes. At the end, it gets a bit repetitive, but dance band records are best in mixes or playlists.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They still DJ (separately), and Towa Tei moved back to Japan and started a high-concept party place for musicians.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B: This shows they were more than one-hit wonders.

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.

The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??!

ARTIST: The Roots                                         220px-Doyouwantmore

TITLE: Do You Want More?!!!??!

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION: #104, #22 Hip-Hop, #2 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Distortion to Static (#96 R&B, #25 Rap), Proceed (#123, #79 R&B, #13 Rap), Silent Treatment (#105 R&B, #31 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not unless you’re a fan.

LINEUP: Black Thought, Questlove, Kamal Gray, Malik B, Scott Storch, Nikki Yeoh. Guests include Elo, Cassandra Wilson, Dice Raw, and Ursula Rucker.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Roots really begin here – using jazz, rock, R&B, and other music and sounds to create innovative and provocative hip-hop.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It seems the Roots have always been with us, melding hip-hop with all kinds of sounds, writing provocative rhymes, and keeping the genre fresh and innovative. But they didn’t emerge from the underground until 1995.

Even though some of the raps are angry sounding, they definitely were going against the ‘gangster’ genre into more of a politically focused style. Produced by the Roots and the Grand Negaz, this is definitely an antidote to what hip-hop was going to become, with an emphasis on real music and not samples. Definitely ahead of its time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Personnel would change as always, but keyboardist Kamal Gray joined and hasn’t left yet. He’s the longest tenured behind Questlove and Black Thought.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: A bold statement from a bold, innovative band.

Mariah Carey – Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Mariah Carey        220px-Greatest_Hits_Mariah_Carey

TITLE: Greatest Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #52 US, #7 UK

SINGLES: Well, most all of these tracks.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Most everyone.

LINEUP: Mariah Carey and countless sidemen, producers, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Diva’s collection of early hits. Essential for a Carey or 90’s pop / R&B fan. The rest of us can take or leave.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is a record where criticism is kind of fruitless. This is absolutely essential for fans (her albums are fine, but really, the deep cuts kind of fall away), and those that like 90’s pop. The songwriting and production machine, with Carey’s voice, made her a powerhouse.

The early sound is VERRRRY late 80’s, almost embarrassingly so. But the singing and melodies carry it. Yes, “Fantasy” is basically a total rip of “Genius of Love” but I think the Tom Tom Club got paid big time.

This isn’t in my wheelhouse so I exiled a lot. I can find here predictable, and her ballads overwrought and overly sentimental. But, fans dig that. Fine.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This ends at 2001. There’s not a good collection of her later hits.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: I can’t say it’s wonderful, nor can I say it’s crap. It’s really good for what it is and what you want from her.

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.