Sunday, December 21, 2008

Flowerhead - Ka-Bloom (Zoo, 1992)

"A Texas group that attempted to resurrect '60s psychedelia (but wound up sounding like Soundgarden), Flowerhead was a hard rockin' quartet that enjoyed a brief career during the early '90s. Consisting of members Eric Schmitz (vocals, guitar), Buz Zoller (guitar), Eric Faust (bass), and Pete Levine (drums), the band issued an independent, cassette-only release first, 1990's In the Toybox, before signing to the Zoo label and issuing two more albums -- 1992's Ka-Bloom (which the group toured behind with an opening slot on Blind Melon's spring 1993 U.S. tour) and 1995's People's Fuzz. Shortly thereafter, Flowerhead had gone the way of the buffalo." (

Anyone who has heard the Foo Fighters track "Watershed" (from the self titled debut) may be familiar with the Flowerhead name, as it includes the lyric "I wanna swim in a watershed, I wanna listen to Flowerhead'. Grohl was in fact referring to this Texas group when he penned the song's lyrics. Flowerhead went on to release a second full length for Zoo, 1995's The People's Fuzz before going on hiatus.  You can download Ka-Bloom in its entirety over at the excellent blog, Shiny Grey Monotone

Sammy - Tales of Great Neck Glory (Geffen, 1996)

Sammy was formed in the early 90s by Jesse Hartman and Luke Wood, a former member of Girls Against Boys who had contributed guitar to their Tropic of Scorpio release in 1989. The band, who frequently received comparisons to Pavement, was initially signed to Smells like Records, the label owned by Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley.  Later the band signed to DGC/Geffen records, where Luke Wood was working at the time. Geffen released the band's third and final full-length, Tales of Great Neck Glory, in 1996. 

After Sammy, Luke Wood went on to become senior vice president of A&R at Dreamworks Records and later Interscope Records, where he has signed and worked with Elliott Smith, Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, and AFI as well as more "forgotten treasures"-type bands such as the excellent Blinker the Star and Creeper Lagoon.  Hartman went on to form the electro-pop outfit Laptop, whom were briefly signed to Island Records. For those looking to hear Tales of Great Neck Glory, you can download it over at the fantastic blog Outdoor Miner

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Solution a.d. - Happily Ever After (Atlantic, 1996)

"Solution a.d. was formed in northeast Pennsylvania in 1991; originally known as just Solution, the band added "a.d." when another Solution was discovered. (Bassist Kevin Leggieri admitted the abbreviation doesn't stand for anything.) Live guitarist Chad Taylor, impressed by the group's performance at CBGB, offered to produce their EP, A Week There One Night, which was released in 1996. Their full-length, Happily Ever After, soon followed, and their single "Fearless" made a minor dent on alternative radio stations' play lists. Despite critical acclaim, MTV airplay and constant touring -- the band was known for its powerful live sets -- Solution a.d. failed to break into the mainstream." (

Solution a.d. were signed to Atlantic records' subsidiary label, Tag Recordings, and were one of the few bands to stay with Atlantic after Tag folded (along with Fountains of Wayne and The Lemonheads). However, the band's time with Atlantic proved to be short.  This quote from frontman Toby Costa from a 1997 article sums up the band's fate: "At first getting signed is a great, great thing. You get money up front, money is invested in you, and it's a thrill to make your first real record for a label. But it all comes down to touring and sales, and there's so much competition that if you don't have a hit right out of the box, you can fall through the cracks." 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Maypole - Product (Sony, 1997)

There ain't much about Maypole out there on the ol' world wide web. What I do know is that the band was formed by Tobi Miller, a former guitarist for The Wallflowers (you know... that band fronted by Bob Dylan's son). The band was picked up by the Sony imprint label, Work Records, who released the band's lone album, Product, in 1997. Maypole supported its release with tours opening for The Wallflowers, Our Lady Peace, and The Jayhawks. The video for the album's single, "Concrete Shoes", can be seen below.

Eventually Maypole evolved into a new band called New Low, minus Tobi Miller - though he did serve as the band's producer. Since then most of the band has continued to be active in the music world, though more on the studio side of things. Frontman Hans DeKline is now the owner and chief mastering engineer of Sound Bites Dog, where he has
mastered albums for Tim Finn, The Von Bondies, DJ
Steve Aoki, among others. Tobi Miller has served as producer/engineer for the likes of Korn, Unwritten Law, and his former bandmates The Wallflowers. Chris Frankfort (who also seems to go as Evan Frankfort) has also been behind the boards, working with Pete Yorn, Sugarcult, & Turbonegro, to name a few.
Drummer Hugh Mangum has contributed to Enemy - the project of Troy Van Leeuwen (Failure, A Perfect Circle, Queens of the Stone Age), and Miiko Watanabe has played in a number of bands including The Martinis and Sugarplum Fairies as toured with Dave Navarro, Gwen Stefani and Tracy Chapman.

Dragmules - 2a (Atlantic, 1995)

Dragmules' debut record, 2a, was named after the bar in New York City's East Village that served as the band's stomping grounds (and workplace). While the band of Texas-transplants began as a studio project, it quickly evolved into a full fledged band with the addition of new members such as Paul Garisto, a former drummer for The Psychedelic Furs and Iggy Pop to its lineup. The band was signed to Atlantic Records who released 2a in 1995. As far as the band's sound goes, one reviewer called it: "R.E.M. crossed with Social Distortion" - and i'd say that's dead on.

The band's second record, Swims with the Fishes, was rejected by Atlantic, which you can read more about here (though unfortunately the audio samples are no longer). Since the dissolution of Dragmules, Paul Garisto has gone on to drum with fellow NYC types Ryan Adams and Jesse Malin, as well as David Gahan of Depeche and countless others.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Balloon Guy - The West Coast Shakes (1996, Warner Bros.)

Balloon Guy honed their chops as students at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, releasing a number of singles through the independent Generator Records. After sparking a major label race to sign the band, Balloon Guy signed with Warner Bros. who released their debut full length, The West Coast Shakes in 1996. The band recorded the album with fellow Minneapolis native and frontman of the amazing (and then Interscope-signed) band Polara.

Balloon Guy played a fuzzy, quirky brand of indie rock that received comparisons to Pavement. Unfortunately the promising band dissolved not long after the release of their debut. The Minneapolis periodical revealed the details surrounding the band's split: "Olson bailed on Balloon Guy after a sobering gig opening for the Goo Goo Dolls in Iowa City. "In the paper was a picture of us and it didn't even mention how we sounded," Olson chuckles. "It talked about how we kind of dressed like Weezer." He retreated to his parents' basement in Faribault, grew a mammoth beard à la Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and obsessively fiddled with weird beats off equipment he'd scored on the Warners' dime." Following the band's breakup, Olson shifted his focus to his one-time solo project, Smattering, transforming the project into a full band. Balloon Guy drummer Erik Mathison would later go on to plays drums with Moon Maan, led by former Afghan Whigs guitarist Rick McCollum.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Coward - s/t (Elektra, 1997)

"It is hard to think that lyrics make much of a difference in music as sugary as Coward's guitar pop, but the group ironically prove the value (and dangers) of pop lyrics. Comparing Coward's imagery on the straight for the heart ballad "Wish" to that of, say, the Cars or Weezer is an illuminating affair. The hook starts off "I wish I could spend the day at home reading." That might be more poetic than Say It Ain't So" or "You're All I've Got Tonight" (or it might not), but that isn't the issue. This failed line and many others like it are too opaque for a band and a record as unabashedly committed to the sugary surface of pop/rock. Vocalist Sheppard, guitarist Joey Sykes, drummer Billy Alemaghides, and bassist Pete Savad each deserve high marks for their tight performances and strong musical material, but a certain incongruity twists the group's songs in one too many directions." (

Coward supported the release of their Jerry Finn-produced debut in 1997 with a three month tour with Third Eye Blind and an appearance on the MTV show "Oddville".  This would be Coward's only release, however, as they disbanded soon after. Guitarist Joey Sykes went on to perform as part of the backing band for Meredith Brooks, while singer Sheppard became a pop writer/producer for acts like LFO and Mandy Moore and currently does A&R for Universal Records. Sykes later formed a new band, New English with former Capitol records artist Tommy Henriksen. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Verbena - Into the Pink (Capitol, 1999)

"Wearing their animosity on their sleeve, Birmingham, AL-based Verbena bear more than a slight resemblance to Nirvana with their gritty, aggressive rock and singer/guitarist Scott Bondy's soul-bearing vocals. Bondy began playing with Les Nuby (drums) and Daniel Johnston (bassist) when the three were in high school in the early '90s. Ann Marie Griffin (singer/guitarist) joined the trio, called Shallow, and shared songwriting duties with Bondy. Nuby left the group and was replaced by original Remy Zero drummer Louis Schefano. The band renamed itself Verbena and released the EP, Pilot Park, on Merge. Nuby rejoined the band a year later. Verbena's debut full-length, Souls for Sale, attracted attention from Capitol and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, who agreed to produce the band's major-label debut, Into the Pink. In 1999, Johnston left the band, making Verbena a trio once again. It would be another four years until Verbena would rise again. In 2003, Nuby, Bondy, and Daviston resumed schedule with Capitol for their third album, 2003's La Musica Negra, which continued the band's move towards straight-ahead rock."

"Verbena's 1999 album Into the Pink completes the group's transition from a Memphis soul/indie-pop hybrid into a straight-ahead rock outfit. Indeed, with Scott Bondy's sardonic drawl and buzzsaw guitars and Les Nuby's insistent drums at the forefront, Verbena resembles a souped-up, glossed-over version of the 1990s' most revered rock band, Nirvana. Adding to the sense of deja vu is Dave Grohl's production work, which dips into the polish Butch Vig applied to Nevermind. Though bassist/vocalist Anne Marie Griffin's vocals sweeten "Prick the Sun" and "Baby Got Shot," and ballads like "Lovely Isn't Love" and "Big Skies, Black Rainbows" add some sonic diversity to the album, most of Into the Pink sounds like forgotten mid-'90s grunge. Despite their lofty aspirations and patronage, Verbena just aren't as interesting as that other power trio whose name ends with '-na.'" ( 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fretblanket - Home Truths from Abroad (Polygram, 1998)

"Inspired by bands like Ride, the Wedding Present, and Swervedriver, Fretblanket hails from the small midland U.K. town of Stourbridge. The four members -- Matt Carey (drums), Will Copley (vocals/guitar), Clive Powell (guitar/vocals), and Dave Allsopp (bass) -- met as schoolboys around 1987. After signing to the American-based Polygram Records in 1993, Fretblanket debuted with Junkfuel one year later. Home Truths From Abroad followed in 1997. Although their sophomore effort had more polish, both albums fall into a predictable style of post-grunge: raw but melodic. Comparisons immediately call bands like Bush to mind. MTV's short-lived 12 Angry Viewers awarded high ratings to "Into the Ocean," the first single from Home Truths. But the video fell out of heavy rotation and Fretblanket, further troubled by label issues, quietly slipped back to Stourbridge." (

"Apparently, the home truth from abroad that Stourbridge, England's Fretblanket exemplifies is that you too could start a band, get signed to a well- meaning but clueless major label and disappear forever into the modern rock radio netherworld. Bush and Blur got big by playing the same loud Americanized rock as Fretblanket did on their 1994 debut Junkfuel, so why didn't they become as successful? It may be that the only thing they have going for them is their reasonably telegenic frontman, Will Coyle, whose gravelly, urgent rasp beats Gavin Rossdale's angsty- pants keening any day. Fretblanket's sound is like Oasis minus the arrogant posing and Beatles references plus a little more energy-- which is to say, the same kind of bland stripped- down alt-rock that's all the rage in the '90s." (

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Green Apple Quick Step - New Disaster (Columbia, 1998)

Green Apple Quick Step was born in Seattle and released a few upbeat post-grunge albums in the mid 1990s. After debuting with Wonderful Virus on Reprise-backed Medicine Records in 1994, Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard helped produce 1995's Reloaded. Gossard gave the band free use of his home studio, and later let frontman Ty Willman take lead vocal duties on the first single of Gossard's first solo album, Bayleaf. Willman and bassist/backup vocalist Mari Ann Braeden also worked Pearl Jam's Mike McCready in $10,000 Gold Chain. The band appeared on the soundtracks of Basketball Diaries and Cable Guy and recorded New Disaster with Columbia in 1998 before disbanding. Willman went onto sing with Devilhead and form his own solo project, Calm Down Juanita. (

Though Green Apple Quick Step did record a third full length, New Disaster, for Columbia records - the label never put it out.  A single that was to appear on the album, "Kid", was featured on the soundtrack to I Know What You Did Last Summer - the music video for which did receive some airplay on MTV at the time (clip included below). A former member of the band has put some of the tracks on a MySpace page for the unreleased record. 

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Huffamoose - We've Been Had Again (Interscope, 1997)

"Known for quirky, abstract, and eccentric songs, Philadelphia alternative rockers Huffamoose have enjoyed a small but enthusiastic cult following since the early '90s. The uncompromising band was formed in 1992 when singer Craig Elkins joined forces with guitarist Kevin Hanson, bassist Jim Stager, and drummer Erik Johnson (who was replaced by Chuck Treece in the late '90s). The rockers, all of whom had been music majors at Philly's Temple University, recorded their self-titled debut album for the 7 label in 1993. By 1997, Huffamoose was signed to Interscope; unfortunately, they weren't there for very long. Although 1997's We've Been Had Again (Huffamoose's second album) received its share of favorable coverage, Interscope ended up dropping the band. After that experience, the Philadelphians were feeling fed up with the music business, and for awhile it looked like Huffamoose might break up for good. But they decided to keep plugging away, and in 1999, Huffamoose signed with Shanachie. I Wanna Be Your Pants, the band's third album, came out in 2000. " (

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Metal Molly - Surgery For Zebra (Jive, 1996)

"This high-energy, Belgium-based three-piece warp Velvet Crush, Teenage Fanclub and Da Da caliber hooks 'n' harmonies into a fuzzy, frenzied, amazingly catchy Nirvana-esque roar on their worldwide debut effort. From the opening barrage of steaming crunch riffs, weird breaks and melodic vocals that drive "Flipper," through the "Dazed And Confused," multi-harmonied lethargy of "Zebra" - Metal Molly consistently enthrall you with the power, depth and stunning brightness of their pop vision. Songs such as "Orange," "PVC," "Small Supernova," "Autumn Colours," "Round" and "Superskunk" incorporate deft hints of classic radio influences inspired by the likes of the Beatles, Badfinger, XTC, 10CC and the Troggs; while drummer Gino Geudens, guitarist/vocalist Allan Muller and bassist/vocalist Paskal Deweze layer enough distortion, noise and edgy alterna-sheen onto their childhood memories to make Surgery For Zebra a stand-out in any radio format. " (Al Muzer, Consumable Online)

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wanderlust - Prize (RCA, 1995)

"A Prize debut indeed, the twin-Rickenbacker gospel of Philly youngsters Wanderlust is enough to bring any power-pop aficionado to his knees. From the tony, brittle chords of "Wanna Feel New" onward, chiming cascades reverb in the shadow of The Searchers and the Beau Brummels with sufficient bite and edge to catapult the tradition to the '90s. While the opener sets the spiritual stage in reverent, Church of Bubblegum tone -- "I wanna feel new (so new)/with a clear blue mind/And the soft sunshine/New (so new)/Like a radio plays a brand new song" -- "I Walked" carves out the commandments. No hope of erasing this one from the cerebral cortex; its epic, multi-layered vocal harmonies sound equally timeless blasting over a tinny car radio as on a state-of-the-art stereo system (the true test of any "real" pop). It even pulls off the old "full-stop, lone-thunderous-bass-drum-beat, then guitars-come-crashing-back-in" trick to heart-stopping effect. "Troubled Man," with its handclappy chorus of "it's going to be a let down Saturday night," sounds like The Bay City Rollers with the Byrds (circa "Eight Miles High") as their backing band while "Coffee in the Kitchen" strives for exalted Undertones territory. The title track steamrolls in stellar fashion over a distinctive, unconventional time signature.

Like most new bands thrust early into the major-label spotlight (Prize was originally scheduled to be a four-track indie EP before RCA came knocking and extended the sessions to a full-length album), Wanderlust hasn't quite stocked enough fuel to cross the finish line in top gear. Mind you, it's hard to imagine anyone maintaining the momentum of this disc's first half, making it easier to forgive subsequent energy gaps. Even then, you'll find the delightfully wry "Stage Name." All in all, Prize accomplishes first time up what more experienced bands have tried in several at-bats without quite nailing it down." ( *You can now download Wanderlust's followup to this record over at the Power Pop Criminals Blog.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Ammonia - Mint 400 (Epic, 1995)

Australian band Ammonia were the first act to sign with Sony Music Australia's imprint label, Murmur.  As fate would have it, it was the label's second signing, Silverchair, who would achieve breakout success, while Ammonia remains a fairly obscure name outside of their native Australia. The band formed initially in 1992 under the name Fuzzswirl before changing monikers a year later. The band's 1995 debut, Mint 400, was an immediate success in Australia, prompting Sony to release the album in the states under their Epic Records branch.

The album's lead single "Drugs" (video included below) received some frequent airplay on MTV here in the states, but the band wasn't able to recreate the success they had achieved in their homeland. Ammonia's second effort, Eleventh Avenue, which was recorded with Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) and released in 1998, saw the band moving away from the grunge-inspired sounds of their debut and towards a more experimental sound and would serve as the band's last record before disbanding in 1999. 

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Speaker - Model Citizen (Capricorn, 1997)

Long Beach, CA's Speaker formed in 1995 as a creative partnership between friends. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Gonzales and bassist/vocalist Matt Jacovides played with various people in the local scene, but when Jacovides tried to help Gonzales find bandmembers, he realized that their collaboration was better than his current band. Drummer Scott Devours completed the lineup, and the trio began writing and playing their brand of dynamic, diverse music. Speaker's first release, Model Citizen, came out in 1997 on Capricorn Records, and after spending much of 1998 writing and recording with producer and friend Rich Mouser, they released Orizaba in 1999. (

There appears to be barely anything written online about Speaker and their debut EP, Model Citizen. The band certainly earn some cool points in my book for having choosen Don Fleming as producer, the man responsible for producing some of my favorite records (Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, The Posies, among others). The result was six songs of fairly average post-grunge guitar crunch typical of the era. The band did however employ an interesting use of Prince-esque falsetto vocals at points, effectively adding a heavy dose of quirkiness to their sound. The band followed this EP with the more groove-oriented full length Orizaba two years later, which appears to be the last the world heard from Speaker. 

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Sparkler - Wicker Park (1997, Warner Bros.)

Sparkler was formed by L.A. native Rick Parker, formerly a member of Lions & Ghosts, the "college rock" band he led in the late 80s with Michael Lockwood (husband of Lisa Marie Presley and sometimes guitarist for Aimee Mann). After Lions & Ghosts split, Parker released a solo album, Wicked World, for Geffen in 1992 before later starting Sparker. The band's 1997 debut, Wicker Park, was recorded with Keith Cleversley (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips) and drew comparisons to Mathew Sweet, Oasis, and Jellyfish with its mix of classic power pop and glam influences (though I think the best comparison might be Spacehog). Interestingly, the list of bands mentioned in Wicker Park's liner notes reads almost like a who's who of similar sounding (and similarly forgotten) 90s LA bands, including Summercamp, Campfire Girls, Agnes Gooch, Super Deluxe, and Gwen Mars. Check out the single "Discover" (video included below) for a good example of Sparkler's brand of hook laden power pop. This would be Sparkler's first and last record, though Parker would later work with artists such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Miranda Lee Richards.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tripmaster Monkey - Goodbye Race (Sire, 1994)

"Lots of loud, crunchy guitar, poppy hooks buried in noise, smacking drums and randomly eccentric titles to the songs. In some respects, this is almost a picture-perfect Sire band, from the confusedly youthful looking personnel to the earnest semi-alternative rock riffing. There are times when Tripmaster Monkey aren't sure if they're trying to turn into a hardcore band or an incarnation of the Rezillos. They do have moments where they're able to grab attention, as happens with "Valium" and the moody opening of "Roman Catholic Haircut," but good ideas are too often let go in favor of more smack'n'thrash." (

Tripmaster Monkey formed in 1992 in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, and released the Faster than Dwight EP on See How! Records the following year.  1994 saw the release of their major label debut full-length, Goodbye Race, on Warner Bros.' Sire label. The album was recorded with Paul Q. Kolderie at the noted Fort Apache studios in Boston, and you can hear the influence of Fort Apache alumni (The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.) on its sound. The band made the jump from Sire to Elektra for their second (and final) effort, Practice Changes, in 1996. Members of Tripmaster Monkey continue to play music in Chrash Flood and Tenki, both part of the Future Appletree Records family. 

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Claw Hammer - Hold Your Tongue and Say Apple (Interscope, 1997)

"Claw Hammer formed in 1986 in Long Beach, California; its members were from several neighboring municipalities. Their name was taken from a Captain Beefheart song. The group released a cassette and some small-issue EPs and singles before signing to Sympathy for the Record Industry, who released their debut LP, an eponymous effort, in 1990. Another EP and two full-lengths followed on Sympathy; the group won acclaim for its live shows before signing to Epitaph Records for their 1993 release, Pablum. In 1994, Claw Hammer performed as the backing band on Wayne Kramer's Epitaph release, The Hard Stuff. Jumping to major label Interscope, they released two more LPs, the last being 1997's Hold Your Tongue (and Say Apple). The group played live until 2000." (

Though they may have named themselves after a Captain Beefheart tune, Claw Hammer was more sleazy punk rock (and roll) than beefheartian avant-garde. For "Hold Your Tongue...", the band's second album on Interscope, they made the switch from longtime producer, Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz (also the owner of their former label, Epitaph), to Memphis-native Jim Dickinson.  Dickinson, known for his work with Big Star and the Replacements, effectively brought out the more "rock & roll" side in Claw Hammer. Unfortunately this would serve as Claw Hammer's last release before disbanding in 2000. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dirt Merchants - Scarified (Epic, 1996)

"Boston rockers Dirt Merchants were formed in March of 1992 by the guitar-drums brother duo of Mike and John Malone. Enlisting Maria Christopher on vocals and a college friend of Mike's on bass, Alex Kisch, Dirt Merchants issued a debut single shortly thereafter, "Mindfuck" b/w "Beware of Dog," released in 1993 on their own V-Hold label. Another single was issued in 1994, "Purple Barrel" b/w "Love Apnea," making the quartet one of Boston's fastest rising rockers on the scene (winning radio station WBCN's Rock 'n' Roll Rumble the same year). By 1995, the group was signed to the New York independent label Zero Hour, issuing their debut full-length in April of the same year, titled Scarified. The album attracted the attention of Epic, who signed the band and reissued the album in February of 1996." (

Being the very generous people that they are, the members of Dirt Merchants have offered what appears be their entire recorded output for free download on their wesbite, including their excellent Tim O'Heir-produced major label debut, Scarified. Also available is their unreleased followup to that album, The Speed At Which You Speak, which was originally shelved by Epic. Dirt Merchants' sometimes noisy/sometimes poppy brand of female-fronted indie rock is sure to please any fans Kim Gordon, Mary Timony, Dahlia Seed, etc.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Agnes Gooch - Blind (1997, Warner Bros.)

"The Los Angeles quartet Agnes Gooch's unusual moniker can be traced to an early drummer whose babysitter used to threaten him with retribution at the hands of said character. In actuality, Agnes Gooch is a character from the musical Mame. Finding common musical ground upon meeting in a club, guitarists Nathan Ehrenfeld and Mat Baker chose to form a band, soon adding a bass player going by the name Johnny Lonely. After several false starts, drummer Scott Bushkin completed the lineup and the group began to play out, attracting a following on the L.A. club scene and signing a record deal with Revolution. With a sound that drew as much on traditional, power pop influences as the darker, alternative rock of the period, they released their debut, Blind, in 1997. It would prove to be their only release and, with Baker and Lonely playing in separate bands, it seems likely to remain so." (

The above blurb about the band must have been written prior to 2004, because it was during that year that Agnes Gooch returned from their 7-year hiatus to release their sophomore effort, Now I See, on the independent ATM Records. You can check out that record at their CD Baby page, which includes a short bio that clues us in a bit to the Agnes Gooch story: "After several successful tours, including Lollapalooza, X Games and opening for a variety of bands from Incubus to No Doubt, Agnes Gooch succumbed to the curse of major label politics, drifted apart & decided to go different musical directions. Seven years later.... They're back; stronger, wiser and hungry." 

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Red Five - Flash (Interscope, 1996)

You may have noticed a lack of female fronted bands on this blog, so in an attempt to make up for that a bit I'd like to discuss a band fronted by not one but two girls: Red Five. The band did the kind of dual-female-singer approach associated with Veruca Salt or The Breeders, but also added a fair amount of punk energy ala 7 Year Bitch, L7, The Lunachicks, The Red Aunts, etc. Its no surprise then that the band appeared on the 1996 Vans Warped Tour. Red Five released one EP before signing with Interscope, who released their lone album, Flash, in 1996.

Flash was recorded with noted producer Matt Wallace who is probably best known for his work with Faith No More.  After their second effort, Wink, was shelved in 1999, Red Five decided to go their separate ways.  Their song "Shipwrecked" did, however, turn up in the 2001 movie Orange County, though not actually on the soundtrack release.  More recently, front-woman Jenni McElrath has started a new project with husband and former Fluorescein drummer Rocco Bidlovski called Mostly Sunny, which you can check out on MySpace.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Dig - s/t (MCA, 1993)

"Alternative pop/rock quintet Dig formed in Los Angeles in early 1991, with vocalist/guitarist Scott Hackwith (a producer who worked for the Ramones), guitarist Dix Denney (ex-Weirdos and Thelonious Monster), guitarist Jon Morris, bassist Phil Friedmann, and drummer Matt Tecu. After gaining a following around the area and releasing the Runt EP in 1992, the group signed to Radioactive/MCA late that year and released their self-titled debut album in 1993. The single "Believe" spent almost three months in MTV's Buzz Bin, and prompted the release of Dig's second album, Defenders of the Universe, in mid-1996. Life Like followed in early 1999." (

Apparently the story behind this album is that the band was told by their record company to "make an alternative record".  This certainly seems plausible, as it sounds essentially like paint-by-the-numbers alternative rock (which if you've followed this blog at all, you know isn't something that I necessarily find to be a bad thing).  Still, gotta give the band a little credit for doing this relatively early on, considering bands would still be rehashing this approach for the next 10 years. The band was also wise enough to get Janes Addiction/Alice in Chains producer Dave Jerden on board for the recording.  A good 15 years after the release of this album, Dig, according to their myspace page, have recently reunited and recorded material for a new record. 

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fulflej - Wack-Ass Tuba Riff (Scratchie, 1996)

"An actual wack-ass tuba riff would have been an interesting thing to have, but even without it, Fulflej creates a reasonable enough set of mid-'90s semi-alt-rock with what sure sounds like inspiration from early-'90s shoegazing, as well. Similar to fellow Chicago denizens Catherine, Fulflej owes a certain debt to the Smashing Pumpkins' fusion of styles -- heaven knows opening number "Quite Like This" could be a Siamese Dream B-side, thick crunch, massive, soaring guitar solos, and all. That James Iha and D'arcy make guest appearances makes even more sense, but then again it was their co-owned label Scratchie which released the album in the first place (another Scratchie-connected musician, Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, pops up as well). Singer and main instrumentalist MC No Joke G has a much more breathy, whispery way around singing, though -- those put off by Billy Corgan's wracked screams may find Wack-Ass Tuba Riff a much more tolerable prospect as a result. There are also a lot more overt humor and funny good times -- the various credits and nutty cover art help show that much -- which gives Fulflej more of its own amiable identity." (

Fulflej initially caught the attention of Smashing Pumpkins bassist Darcy when they were opening for her husband's band, Catherine, who I previously featured here. Darcy was so impressed that she brought to the band to the new Polygram/Mercury-distributed label she had founded with fellow Pumpkin James Iha, Scratchie Records. And as mentioned in allmusic's review, Fulflej weren't too far off from Catherine or the Pumpkins, sonically speaking. Unfortunately the Pumpkin connection didn't translate to widespread attention for Fulflej, though they were able score a spot in a promotional ad for a Power Rangers movie in 1997 (included below). 

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Drill Team - Hope and Dream Explosion (Reprise, 1998)

"Drill Team is a post-grunge alternative band formed in Los Angeles in the mid-'90s by San Jose natives Michael Long (vocals, guitar) and Jeff Watson (bass) upon the latter's leaving Lutefisk.  They were joined by drummer Apollo Strange and, at first, guitar Chris Etzler; Etzler left in 1995 and was replaced by Timothy LaRue.  Drill Team signed with Reprise and released a self-titled debut in late 1996; it was followed in 1998 by their first full length album, Hope and Dream Explosion, which was recorded with noted producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley." (

Most reviews for Hope and Dream Explosion gave the band a hard time for being bland and unoriginal - and I can't say that I disagree (check out the Pitchfork review for an example of this). That said, Drill Team could write a radio-worthy chorus with the best of them. Certainly one of the great should-have-beens of the era. 

Listen @ MySpace 
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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Head - Endless Bummer (Capitol, 1996)

"Endless Bummer is the one and only major release from alternative hard rock outfit My Head. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Adam Siegel, drummer Greg Saenz, and bassist Dave Silva, My Head made a guitar-heavy, almost psychedelic brand of sometimes funky rock that, while not entirely unique, had a swirling, organic texture that sounds something like Cream meets Alice in Chains. Seigel's guitar work is gritty and surprisingly fresh as he tosses out a multitude of diverse '70s grooves that conjure up past heroes like Eric Clapton, Robin Trower, and Tom Morello, sometimes all in one song. Unfortunately, the guitarist's vocal work lacks the color and imagination of his fretboard exploits. Occasionally derivative, My Head comes a little too close to some more recognizable alternative and grunge artists, as in "I Don't Want Nothing," when the band does an almost note-for-note Nirvana impersonation that self-consciously twists into a classic rock refrain before falling back into a very Cobain-esque coda. A respectable effort, Endless Bummer is an interesting collection of well-executed ideas that unfortunately just doesn't quite add up." (

Also of note is that Endless Bummer was produced by the extremely talented production duo of Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock, known for their work with Beck and Elliott Smith, as well as founding Bong Load Records. Prior to forming My Head, frontman Adam Siegel had been a member of Suicidal Tendencies spin-off band Infectious Grooves with current Metallica member Robert Trujillo (as well as Brooks Wackerman from THIS comedic gold-mine of a band fronted by "Bobby Budnick" from Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts).  Greg Saenz would later spend some time as a member of infamous punk rock weirdos The Dwarves.

Listen @ iLike or MySpace
Buy @ Amazon

Loud Lucy - Breathe (Geffen, 1995)

"In the mid-'90s, major labels scrambled to sign alternative bands in Chicago in hopes of finding the next big thing. However, most of the bands signed during this frenzy fizzled out after only one or two albums. Loud Lucy was one of those bands. Known more for their connections with other bands, such as Alanis Morissette and Veruca Salt, than for their talent, Loud Lucy released their only major label album, Breathe, in 1995. Comprised mostly of three-minute songs, Breathe features the band's bland guitar-driven alternative pop. Each song is built around a repetitive guitar riff and has lyrics describing relationship troubles, which singer/guitarist Christian Lane hoarsely delivers. Although the album is mediocre, one of its catchier songs, "Ticking," enjoyed modest success with both MTV and radio airplay" (

I can't do a much better job than allmusic of summarizing the Loud Lucy story. What I can offer you though is a bit of an update on what Loud Lucy members have been up to since this record. Frontman Christian Lane had been dating Alanis Morrisette around the time of their tour opening for her, but following the couple's breakup the band faded from their brief moment in the spotlight and dissolved not long after. Lane has since gone on to pursue a more rootsy americana type solo career, while bassist Tommy Furar has since been a part of Liz Phair's band and drummer Mark Doyle played with The Cells.

Listen @ MySpace
Buy @ Amazon

Friday, September 26, 2008

Muzzle - Betty Pickup (Reprise, 1996)

Muzzle may have called Seattle home, but their brand of punky power pop was more Sugar-era Bob Mould than Kurt Cobain (I feel like I end up referencing Cobain and co. in every post - but it was their success that set this signing frenzy into motion, after all). The band got their start in 1994 and were quickly snatched up by Warner Brother's Reprise Records. I suppose you could call Muzzle lucky, as they were actually able to get TWO commercially unsuccessful (yet extremely solid) records out of their deal before being dropped - 1996's Betty Pickup and 1999's Actual Size.

Betty Pickup was produced by Phil Ek, who had worked with many of the more popular indie rock bands from the Northwest like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse - yet the sort of hip lo-fi aesthetic you'd expect from such groups is not present on this slick, polished record. Perhaps a little less polish would have helped the band from falling into the bland territory, which it admittedly does at points. Regardless, songs like the album's lead single, "What A Bore" (video included below), were finely crafted power-pop gems and should have helped bring the band to greater heights than the ranks of obscurity where they
now reside.

Listen @ iLike
Buy @ Amazon or iTunes