Tag: 1992

Jawbox – Novelty

ARTIST: Jawbox                                              Novelty_jawbox

TITLE: Novelty

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Static, Cutoff

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dischord Records junkies do

LINEUP: J. Robbins, Kim Colletta, Bill Barbot, Adam Wade.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Adding a guitarist opens up their sound, and they quickly become one of the better Dischord acts.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first Jawbox releases seemed a bit claustrophobic and same-same, but when the band added Bill Barbot on guitar and backing vocals, their sound opened up, and gained textures and vibrance that they didn’t have originally.

J. Robbins’ voice still carries through the album, but there’s more diversity in sound and style, and in “Static”, one of the better uses of the quiet-loud trope. Adding Barbot made the riffs more menacing at times (in “Cutoff”, especially).

There’s still an issue with sequencing, as “Static” was placed in the back half of the album behind some songs which blur together. Still, an improvement for sure.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bill Barbot is a Facebook friend of mine (a good friend of my best friend and I’ve had conversations with him at conferences and what not), but that hasn’t affected this review.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: They moved to near the top of the Dischord roster – and would be prime for moving up to a major label (which they did).

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PJ Harvey – Dry

ARTIST: PJ Harvey                                   PJHarveyDryalbumcover

TITLE: Dry

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #11 UK

SINGLES: Dress. Sheela-Na-Gig (#9 US Alternative, #69 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: O Stella, Victory

LINEUP: Polly Jean Harvey, Steve Vaughan, Rob Ellis. Ian Ollivier, Ben Gorenevelt, Mike Paine and Chas Dickie also help.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: While the US was going grunge crazy, PJ Harvey released this debut album with her band and flat out burned the UK to the ground.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After breaking away from another group, Ms. Harvey formed a trio and went about writing songs, demoing, and playing gigs. The two singles listed above received accolades everywhere, and when the debut album came out, it was shown that those singles were not flukes.

Starting out with a plaintive yelp in “O My Lover”, moving though punk, sophisticated pop, and moody, complex guitar songs, the songs on this debut are varied and purposeful. A strong feminist streak inhabits this album and her fierce vocals and guitar work shine through.

The album is sequenced perfectly, with great pacing, a good distribution of cuts so that nothing is that similar together, and perfect openings and closings for each side. One of the best debuts, period.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was a contributor to the band Automatic Diamini, which was led by her future collaborator John Parish.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: All of the demos were on an early deluxe version.

GRADE: A+: The definition of a perfect debut.

Polvo – Cor-Crane Secret

ARTIST: Polvo                                             220px-Polvo_corCraneSecret

TITLE: Cor-Crane Secret

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: Nope

SINGLES: Can I Ride, Vibracoba, In the Hand – In the Sieve

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you were in Raleigh or Chapel Hill, yeah.

LINEUP: Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski, Steve Popson, Eddie Watkins

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stew of their influences, Polvo’s debut album was right in the wheelhouse for fans of distorted and noisy yet not loud guitars.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ash Bowie and crew definitely had listened to the shoegazer bands from the UK, as well as the post-punk and punk rock bands and local acts.

Polvo uses distorted guitars, interesting time signatures and tunings, and vocals that are laid usually under the instrumental tracks (much like the shoegazers), but there’s a sense of pop to Bowie’s singing and lyrics that lead the listener to realize there’s more than just distorted and disjointed chords afoot.

They soon became one of the favorite acts on Superchunk’s Merge Records, and with good reason. This album doesn’t disappoint and begs for listens.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bowie met bandmate Dave Brylawski in Spanish class at UNC.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Definitely for those who don’t mind a little distortion and noise, but also want some melodies sneaking through.

Blind Melon – Blind Melon

ARTIST: Blind Melon                        220px-BlindMelonBlindMelon

TITLE: Blind Melon

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #3 US, #53 UK

SINGLES: Tones of Home (#10 Mainstream, #20 Alternative, #62 UK), No Rain (#20 US, #1 Mainstream, #1 Alternative, #17 UK), I Wonder, Change

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Probably not.

LINEUP: Shannon Hoon, Brad Smith, Rogers Stevens, Christopher Thorn, Glenn Graham

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Not really grungy, not really all the way hard rock, but successful because of their tangential connections to those scenes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Shannon Hoon was friends with Axl Rose, and followed him out to California from Lafayette, Indiana and formed a band with some musicians he met from Mississippi.

Not a true hard rock band like Rose’s Guns ‘n’ Roses, Blind Melon had more of a folky feel led by Hoon’s shrieking vocals. Their sound hit many of the popular notes of the time and were kind of lumped into grunge thanks to the industry, yet their album seemed bloated with several tracks all blending together (that second half, zzzzz), with only “Tones of Home”, the big hit “No Rain” and a couple of others (“Soak the Skin” and “Paper Scratcher”) standing out.

Now they’d probably be lumped in with the jam bands, and that’d probably fit them better.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Shannon Hoon was a wrestler, and my high school hosted the wrestling sectional and regionals, and I did the PA for them. Hoon was a really good wrestler as I remember, wiry yet powerful. I never forgot that name…

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, anniversary editions, etc.

GRADE: B-: I frankly don’t recall much about the last six songs on the record, which means that they probably lumped too many tracks on here.

The Magnetic Fields – Distant Plastic Trees / The Wayward Bus

ARTIST: The Magnetic Fields                                 220px-Distant_Plastic_Trees

TITLE:  The Wayward Bus / Distant Plastic Trees

YEAR RELEASED: 1992 / 1991

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: 100,000 Fireflies

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Gosh no

LINEUP: Stephin Merritt, Susan Anway, Sam Davol, Clauda Gonson, Johny Blood

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First two albums from Stephin Merritt’s long term project (re-released by Merge soon after and combined on one CD) show Merritt’s baroque chops and intriguing style. 220px-The_Wayward_Bus

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: What’s more punk rock than an album on a ‘punk rock’ label that has little or no electric guitars, plenty of ornate orchestration, and intricate melodies and harmonies? When Merge snapped up Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields, they declared that they weren’t just a ‘punk’ label (not that they ever really were) but a ‘great music’ label.

Those coming in late to the Magnetic Fields will notice that Merritt’s doomy baritone isn’t extant here – Susan Anway takes the vocals and complements the songs quite well. Merritt plays almost all of the instruments himself and shows that he’s quite accomplished.

The first album (Distant Plastic Trees) has some songs that aren’t quite up to the caliber, but it also contains the all-timer “100,000 Fireflies” that Superchunk later covered. These two records are charming, beguiling, and totally Magnetic Fields.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: These two records were the only ones Anway sang for Merritt.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No – two records in one though, and the second one are tracks 1-10 (so it’s backwards, as it were).

GRADE: A-:  These albums have their charm and some great, intricate songs.

Phish – A Picture of Nectar

ARTIST: Phish                                   a_picture_of_nectar_phish_album_-_cover_art

TITLE:  A Picture of Nectar

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Chalk Dust Torture, Cavern

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tweezer, Llama, Stash

LINEUP: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman. Gordon Stone played pedal steel and banjo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Phish’ major label debut is a long, sprawling album full of various styles and genres. Most of it works, but some things sounds like goofs and that detracts somewhat from the flow of it all.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Even though Phish signed with Elektra Records, they didn’t change their approach or style in the least. Their well-honed stage jams again morphed into surprisingly tight, taut tracks.

The musical virtuosity by the band is all over the album. Trey Anastasio’s guitar work is fantastic throughout, and there is a playful spirit, especially on songs like “Tweezer”.

Yet, they suffer from the bane of many bands at this time – since CD’s had a lot more time than vinyl, bands felt they needed to fill most of the available minutes. Thus, there’s some tracks here that are just mindless noodling around, or things that probably sounded neat at the time, but didn’t work out that way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Nectar’s was the club in Burlington where they first played.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B:  Great at times, indulgent at other times.

 

King’s X – King’s X

ARTIST: King’s X                       220px-kings_x_self_titled

TITLE:  King’s X

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #138 US, #46 UK

SINGLES: Black Flag (#17 Mainstream Rock), Dream in My Life, World Around Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Lost in German, Prisoner.

LINEUP: Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, Jerry Gaskill

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: King’s X eschews the longer concept album with a more direct song-oriented approach, and succeeds but still get little but cult attention.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For their fourth album as King’s X, the trio decided to can the album long themes and stories, and concentrate on more direct songwriting. It’s a definite success, as tracks like “Prisoner” and “Lost in Germany’ show. Those two tracks weren’t released to single or radio, for some damn reason.

There’s a bit more aggression in some tracks, which are sweetened by their natural harmonies, and of course, plenty of great playing – utilizing fancy schmancy chords and structures without being ponderous or flashy.

This was probably the pinnacle of King’s X as a commercial entity, and it still was criminally underheard. They weren’t fitting into grunge much like they didn’t fit into hair metal. Alas. But they still had the songs and the chops.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was their last album with Sam Taylor as their producer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A:  Yes, I’m a King’s X fan, but this is just a darn good record, and they definitely show versatility here.

Guided by Voices – Propeller

ARTIST: Guided by Voices              220px-prop14-front

TITLE:  Propeller

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: No, originally this was a 500 copy run

SINGLES: No

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, Jim Pollard, Don Thrasher

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT:  Conceived as the final album for the group, there was a buzz created thanks to college radio and some well-placed fans that allowed the band to continue.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This was their fifth release (the first four records are streaming, but were very limited in distribution and I may get to them later but the story kinda starts here), and it was going to be goodbye. Robert Pollard had written a bunch of songs, but they didn’t play live and didn’t have many prospects. They gave each copy a hand-made cover and that was supposedly it.

However, college radio caught on to this album, despite the limited production values (this was the first real lo-fi album of their career, by necessity for the most part). The songs spoke for themselves – tuneful melodies, short by sweet in length, and a great pop and rock sensibility.

I don’t think everyone will appreciate this, mainly because of the production (at times, the sonic quality shifts and one medley cuts several songs together – cuts is the right word), but those who can get by the hiss and dirt will be rewarded.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The first four albums, plus this, was added to a set called Box, which when I get to the GBV compilations, I’ll review it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but when it was first released on CD it was appended to Vampire on Titus.

GRADE: B+: So tuneful, and so low-fi.

 

Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind

ARTIST: Spinal Tap                          220px-break_like_the_wind

TITLE:  Break Like the Wind

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: #61 US, #51 UK

SINGLES: Bitch School (#35 UK), The Majesty of Rock (#61 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Christmas with the Devil

LINEUP: Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls, Rhyan Gordon, Ric Shrimpton, CJ Vanston with help on a track from Jeff Beck, Cher, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, Slash, Timothy B. Schmidt, Waddy Wachtel and Dweezil Zappa

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The band reunites, this time without a movie tie-in. Kind of funny in lampooning late 80’s metal, but not as funny as the songs in the movie.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Spinal Tap was growing in popularity as the 80’s rolled on, and they ‘reunited’ for this album in 1992 to capitalize on that. Without a movie to provide some context of the songs, it’s just a kind of funny parody.

The record starts out strong with “Bitch School” and “The Majesty of Rock”, but then kind of peters out a bit. Some of the jokes seem hackneyed, which is unusual for anything from the Guest / McKean / Shearer trio from the movies.

Except for a couple of tracks, Tap plays it all themselves. The music sounds on point, but the parody is a bit flat.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was a ‘hidden’ track, “Now Leaving on Track 13”. It was track 13.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+:  Chuckles diminish as time goes on.EXILED

The Afghan Whigs – Congregation

ARTIST: The Afghan Whigs     220px-Afghan_Whigs_Congregation

TITLE:  Congregation

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Turn on the Water, Conjure Me, Miles Iz Ded

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’m Her Slave

LINEUP: John Curley, Greg Dulli, Steve Earle, Rick McCollum

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Afghan Whigs announce their full presence with authority with a great album that sets their course for the rest of the 90’s.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: They were on Sub Pop, but they weren’t from the Northwest, nor were they grunge. The Afghan Whigs decadent and hedonistic elegance is in full form here.

There’s a combo of alternative rock, soul and other elements in the music, as McCollum’s guitar reigns over the songs. But the star is Dulli – his vocals, mannerisms and lyrics are intriguing, compelling and at times revulsive. It’s all about Dulli on the prowl, as a hunter and as the hunted.

The album kind of loses a bit of steam during the back half. The slow burns get wearisome after a while, but it ends on a quite high note with “Miles Iz Ded”, a song tacked on at the end of the album from a different session.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sub Pop was almost bankrupt and this album was on hold until they could pay the studio (actually Dulli had to find a job to pay the studio then Sub Pop paid him back) and manufacture and release the album. Then Nevermind hit and Sub Pop became flush with royalties

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Most of is nice and sleazy.