Tag: 1996

The Roots – Illadelph Halflife

ARTIST: The Roots                           Illadelph

TITLE: Illadelph Halflife



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


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.


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



Imperial Teen – Seasick

ARTIST: Imperial Teen                                         Seasick

TITLE: Seasick



SINGLES: Imperial Teen, Butch, You’re One


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.


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


CHART ACTION: #19 Heatseekers


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


CHART ACTION: #35 Independent

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


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.


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

Weezer – Pinkerton

ARTIST: Weezer                   220px-Pinkerton_cover

TITLE: Pinkerton



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



SINGLES: Bellybone


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”.


Pearl Jam – No Code

ARTIST: Pearl Jam 220px-pearljam-nocode

TITLE:  No Code



SINGLES: Who You Are (#31 US, #5 Mainstream, #1 Modern, #18 UK), Hail, Hail (#9 Mainstream, #9 Modern), Off He Goes (#34 Mainstream, #31 Modern)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Red Mosquito, Sometimes

LINEUP:  Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Jack Irons

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pearl Jam changes course a bit, and makes a more personal and varied record, which confounds some fans and radio programmers. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Anyone expecting Pearl Jam to come roaring out with a huge statement in the first song on their fourth album must have been surprised and shocked to hear the moody “Sometimes” as the lead cut. That was a sign of things to come.

While No Code had some of their trademark alterna-hard rock, the album changed up styles more than any other Pearl Jam release, even in some songs (like “Present Tense”). They also dabble in hard core in a tribute to Mudhoney and Melvins bassist Matt Lukin and also in spoken word and exotic rhythms. Some fans expecting a wall-to-wall record like the first two, were just as surprised as they were with some of the odder cuts in Vitalogy.

This even had a sung by Stone Gossard (“Mankind”), a big curveball.220px-nocode_-_triangle

There’s plenty of good stuff here – plenty of classic Pearl Jam sounds. I think people were expecting one thing and were delivered another, as the songs and performances themselves are pretty good.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Former RHCP drummer Jack Irons joined the band after going on their last tours.


GRADE: A-:  While it doesn’t have a certified classic song, the album is varied, and has aged pretty well due to its variety of sounds and subjects.


Ginuwine – Ginuwine…the Bachelor

ARTIST: Ginuwine                                 220px-Ginuwine-the_bachelor

TITLE:  Ginuwine…the Bachelor


CHART ACTION: #26 US, #14 R&B, #74 UK

SINGLES: Pony (#6 US, #1 R&B, #16 UK), Tell Me Do U Wanna (#55 US, #14 R&B, #16 UK), When Doves Cry (#10 UK), I’ll Do Anything / I’m Sorry (#16 R&B), Only When Ur Lonely (#60 R&B),l Holler (#13 UK)


LINEUP: Ginuwine with Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Robert Reives, Magoo, Missy Elliott, Nikki/Virginia Slim and session players.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Smooth R&B singer specializes in slow-ish jams, marred a bit by ‘interludes’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Ginuwine’s debut record is a great example of R&B crooning and slow jams in the 90’s, for the most part. His debut single, “Pony”, has hooks galore and showcases his voice.

The rest of the album has a lot of slow jams that demonstrate his style, and they work for the most part. Even his cover of “When Doves Cry”, of which I was suspicious, works.

What doesn’t are the ‘interludes’, which aren’t separated in the track listings and run everything together, making hearing just an individual track difficult. Alas. Those marred a pretty good R&B debut.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He was a member of the Swing Mob before going out solo.


GRADE: B-:  A notch or two down for the interludes.

Magnapop – Rubbing Doesn’t Help

ARTIST: Magnapop              Magnapop_-_Rubbing_Doesn't_Help

TITLE:  Rubbing Doesn’t Help


CHART ACTION: #22 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Open the Door, This Family

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hold You Down, Down on Me

LINEUP: Linda Hopper, Ruthie Morris, Shannon Mulvaney, Josh Freese

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Atlanta alternative rock band weathers a personnel change and records their best album, only to find their record company took a dirt nap on ‘em.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Magnapop lost their drummer right before recording this album, but pro’s pro Josh Freese stepped in and the band didn’t lose a step. Hopper’s vocals and Morris’ guitar work well together, and the songs are more varied this time.

“Open the Door” may be among the best cuts the band’s ever done, along with “An Apology”. Still, it only struck a chord with album buyers when a record store chain reduced the price of this for a week in an experiment. Their record company then went under, and with that any chance the band had for momentum.

The three albums released by the band in the 90’s were definitely an evolution, and they may have been onto great things had not they ran into contractual issues. These things happen.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title of the record comes from a slogan for Ben-Gay.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, extra cuts in Japan and a slightly different version for the Low Countries.

GRADE: A-: A move forward for the band, consolidating their sound and varying their attack.

Eels – Beautiful Freak

ARTIST: Eels 220px-Beautifulfreak

TITLE:  Beautiful Freak



SINGLES: Novocaine for the Soul (#1 US Modern Rock, #10 UK), Susan’s House (#9 UK), Your Lucky Day in Hell (#35 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rags to Rags, Beautiful Freak

LINEUP: E (Mark Everett), Jonathan Norton, Tommy Waller, Jon Brion, Mark Goldenberg, Jim Jacobson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Singer of songs forms a band to arrange and record his compositions and results in an alternative and UK hit.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Combining samples, loops, standard alt-rock sounds, and a world-weary gruff vocal style, Mark Everett’s Eels struck it fairly big with “Novocaine for the Soul” and this debut album.

The usage of the samples and other interesting arrangements keeps this out of what was becoming a cliché – the earnest alternative singer / songwriter singing sad songs in a gruff voice. Everett’s songs mine some of the usual fare – anxiety, depression, bad relationships, bad neighborhoods, but the arrangements and his gift for melody lift the record past its contemporaries.

In the UK, they ate this up (as you can see). Here in the US, it was a staple of ‘alternative rock’ stations that sprung up all over the place in the 90’s. It was worthy of airplay, since it was unique, but radio friendly. The production made it stand out on the radio when so many other songs in that format were quite similar.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Everett had released some solo records as “E” in the early 90’s, and Eels was a way to try to get these records in the same bin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A German release has some radio sessions..

GRADE: A-: This grows on you, thanks to the samples and other production and arrangement tricks.