San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Top 30 + 1 of the 1990s - #30 - Swervedriver / Raise (1991)

Full disclosure:  I'm writing this 33 years after its initial release, and I cannot stand when sites like Pitchfork review albums that came out before the reviewer was born.  Music is so much about a time and place.  Reviewing something that came out years ago in today's climate can be ingenuine.

Having said that, I'm going to sort of do that now.  And I did discover this album several years after it came out.  In my defense, I did name this as one of the best albums of the 1990s back in the early oughts.  The fact that I still spin it today speaks to its lasting impression in the shoegaze genre as well as its impression on me.

Back in 1999, I got a burn of this (remember those kids?).  I don't know if I'd even heard it all the way through before I started listening to it in my car incessantly.  How many times I'd heard it before I broke up with the first woman I was engaged to, but after she left, it was all I could listen to for weeks.  This is not a frequent thing for me.  Never was before, still isn't decades later*.

I remember I'd just moved into a new place on Kansas Street, not sure who burned this for me but I'm thinking it was my buddy Bamoe from OB.  I can recall getting in the driver's seat, heaving a huge sigh and thinking, "OK, this is the beginning of something new."  Pressed play and didn't press eject for well over a month.

I've realized over the years that Raise is mostly a collection of previously-released EPs, but that doesn't take away from what this album contributed to my life and to the shoegaze canon.  Swervedriver weren't your typical band in the genre.  They touched upon the blissed-out ethereal feel that bands like Spiritualizied and Verve were emanating, but approached everything through the lens of a much harder edge.  

The music is joyous but raw. The opening fuzzed-out chords of Sci-Flyer and that phaser / flanger let you know you'd better buckle the fuck up and strap in for the ride.  It drives hard enough to almost seem like it's driving itself off the rails.  Pile-Up is similarly driving if not as distorted, while Son of Mustang Ford picks the pace back up and pushes the urgency to another level.

Deep Seat and Rave Down provide a brief respite here.  It's not that they're mellow by any means.  The urgency is just in another direction, less obvious.  The tracks have more of a groove to them and more personality in a way.

The album rounds out with four less memorable tracks to be honest.  They're as important in the shaping of the album as the rest but mostly serve to help you come down from the intensity that was setup on the first half.

I met Adam Franklin once.  It was at Hammersmith Odeon back in 2001 after Spiritualized's set.  He was in the lobby and my friend "Bill from Colorado" as Jason referred to him pointed him out.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to him and he shook his head.  "Nah, I got nothin' to say to that guy," he said.

I walked up to him, he had two very hot women on either side of him, and said, "Hey man, I just wanted to say thanks."  He looked at me with a look of genuine curiosity and asked, "Who do you think I am?"  I said, "You're the guy from Swervedriver, right?"  At which point he acknowledged it, told me he'd be playing San Diego soon, and I told him I'd be there (I was).

One of the women was super wasted and asked, "And who are you?"  I just put my palms up, smiled, said, "Hey, I'm nobody," and walked away.

* The only other album I can think of that I've been able to listen to on repeat like this was Neanderthal by Denmark's Spleen United (2008).  

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Flock of Dimes / Karima Walker - The Southern Cafe & Music Hall, Charlottesville, VA

First live music since seeing Wye Oak in Durham, NC on February 29, 2020.  Also the first show I'd been to with my brother since we saw Scorpions back in high school.  I had fairly high expectations that ended up being exceeded in a sense, but almost replaced by the level of intimacy both with the crowd and the performances.

We arrived at the venue shortly after doors opened and looked around.  It didn't take long.  The capacity of the Music Hall portion of this property might hold 250 people, it might not.  While it was sparsely populated when we first arrived, people began trailing in and the place was respectably full by the time the show started.

After seeing Thor & Friends open for Wye Oak here in RVA a few years ago, I predicted that Jenn's other band, Flock of Dimes, would have a similarly amazing opener.  Karima Walker was another stunner, enrapturing the room with pieces of music that flowed from one to another like water cascading off rocks on the way down a mountain.  Hard to tell how long she played, but she gave virtually no opportunities for applause until the set was over.  You could have heard a pin drop in that room.  So much so that I spoke aloud to no one in particular after the set, "I want to invite everyone here to start a new society, because you people know how to shut the fuck up!"  It was stunning that in this day and age you can have a show this delicate, this intimate, and have an audience pay such reverence that it was literally silent save her soft-sung words and ethereal music.

After a short break, Jenn and the band took the stage, kicking off the set with the entire A side of their latest album, Head of Roses.  Over the course of the evening, they would play virtually every song from that album (the lone exception being No Question from side B), ending the main set with the last two tracks on the record.  Just before playing the title track, Jenn said, "OK we've got one more for you here, but you know the drill, we'll play this, leave, and be back up here in like 30 seconds."  The performance of that song wasn't the first thing that brought me to tears that night, but I wasn't alone in that either.

Pretty much flawless performances all the way around, and Jenn's guitar tone was incredible - most notably the tearing, slicing feeling it conveyed on Price of Blue.

Here's a link to the setlist as well as to Flock of Dimes' web site.  

And be sure to check out Karima Walker, after she was done, my brother kept saying, "Damn, I'd hate to have to follow that!"  A full live performance on Audiotree can be found here.

Tom Brady Comes Out of Retirement, Is Still Asshole


Saturday, January 29, 2022

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Ad Hoc Troubador - Cruising the Mayan Coast

There was this great band out of central Michigan back in the early 1990's named Ad Hoc Troubador.  Definitely inspired by early Depeche Mode and some of the other synth-pop bands of that time.  I got to see them once near the Michigan State campus, can't remember where but it was cold and probably not far from what was then Frandor shopping mall area.

I was going through some tapes tonight and found this one in the mix.  Searching for them on the web reveals almost no results, other than this Metafilter post from like eight years ago and a page on Geocities that doesn't exist any more but the link tries to trick you into allowing multiple fucked up spam sites to send you notifications (so don't click on that one).

I did find the original version of that page on - no review, just the words:

Ad Hoc Troubadour - 1991 at a Michigan State University house party in East Lansing

Anyway, I recorded the tape to my trusty Tascam DR-05, chunked out the tracks, and saved it all as mp3 files.  You can download it here.

I do not own the rights to this content so if anyone has a problem with me sharing it, please let me know and I'll take it down (but it would be cool if you made this music available somewhere as people still want to listen to them).

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Flashback - November 9, 2000 - Top 30+1 of the 1990s


We originally launched back in 2000.  This is a reposting of one of the original articles - my top list of the 1990s.  Looking at it now, I don't see a single album I'd take off this list, only albums I can't believe I couldn't also fit.  But that's a whole 'nother article.

This is really just for posterity.  I pulled this from, which is amazing, but may not be around forever.  Blogger (this blog's parent site) is owned by Google (I think) and therefore will be around forever, or as close as it needs to be.

Expect full reviews of each album I never got around to completing.  I'm still collecting the vinyl versions of many of these that were never released on that medium when they came out.

  1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
  2. Spiritualized - Laser Guided Melodies
  3. Verve - A Storm in Heaven
  4. Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die
  5. Soul Coughing - Ruby Vroom
  6. The Orb - The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
  7. Radiohead - OK Computer
  8. Swervedriver - Mezcal Head
  9. Afghan Whigs - Black Love
  10. Kruder & Dorfmeister - The K&D; Sessions (thus the +1)
  11. Seven Percent Solution - All About Satellites & Spaceships
  12. Mercury Rev - Yerself Is Steam
  13. Jeff Buckley - Grace
  14. Astralasia - The Seven Pointed Star
  15. NIN - The Downward Spiral
  16. Air - Moon Safari
  17. Crystal Method - Vegas
  18. Bjork - Debut
  19. Portishead - Dummy
  20. Kiln - Holo
  21. Catherine Wheel - Chrome
  22. Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin
  23. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
  24. Hum - You'd Prefer an Astronaut
  25. His Name Is Alive - Home Is In Your Head
  26. Nirvana - Nevermind
  27. PJ Harvey - Is This Desire?
  28. Hayden - Everything I Long For
  29. Beck - Odelay
  30. Swervedriver - Raise

Top 30 + 1 of the 1990s - #28 - Hayden / Everything I Long For (1995)

Everything I Long For - Wikipedia

If you have never seen this artist on any other "best of" lists or even if you have never heard of Hayden, don't feel bad - you are probably in the majority. In fact, most people I know who have heard this album (both of them) would not believe that this made it onto anyone's "top picks" list. Why? Two reasons. First, Hayden is very hard to pin down. He is most easily described as a singer/songwriter from Toronto, Ontario (for those of you who didn't grow up in the Great White North, that's in Canada). Second, to say his music is an acquired taste is like saying he is obscure. Since you have probably never heard of him, I have to tell you that it this a huge understatement. Hayden's voice is scratchy, deep, and soulful, like an old bear drunk on cheap bourbon. It is not for everybody, and it's definitely not commercial.

Another thing Hayden has going against him is the loping single and video he made for MTV, the long sigh of a song, "bad as they seem," which I had the privilege of seeing on 120 minutes exactly once. After that, Hayden was never heard from again as far as I know, save the sophomore jinx "The Closer I Get," which even Music Trader, the godmother whore of CD resellers wouldn't piss on with a ten foot stolen dick if it were on fire.

So of course by now the reader wonders why the hell this album is on my top 30, let alone still in my CD collection intact. It's because it deserves to be there. Hayden's approach to music is one of the most unique takes on the one-guy-and-a-guitar thing in the entire decade. And in a ten-year spurt of MTV Unpluggeds and Indigo BoyGirl Wannabes, that's saying a Flounder-throwing-up-on-Dean-Wormer mouthful.

"Bad as they seem" is, in reality, a great song. This track starts the album and perfectly sets the theme that runs through the record - suburban boredom and monotony. While this may not sound very appealing, juxtaposed against some of the album's more intense spots, it makes for a disturbing and wonderful record.

The lyrics to "tragedy" tell the story of a pal who dies in a car accident. While not an unusual occurrence, the listener is chilled by the lack of affect in Hayden's voice as he sings "loss of my best friend I grieve / I can take this you will see." "Stem", the next song, can only be described as a silly little love song, while "skates," which immediately follows, is a haunting tale about a man whose wife has drowned. Hayden's voice transitions from his own persona of the quiet store clerk to the sorrowful voice of the widower like a car going from fifth to first gear in one step. The jump is jolting, but all the more effective because of the harsh shift.

"When this is over" is probably the most upsetting track, a retelling of the Susan Smith tragedy from the older son's point of view. Describing the car in one of the most heartbreaking verses: "filling up / dirty water / where is mom? / I miss her."

The album ends with the same theme as it began with in "lounging" - "why do I stay up 'til three? lounging, eating, watching TV. I promised you . . . that was through."

Perhaps the real beauty of Everything I Long For is that it starts out as a wish list, and ends up as just another crumpled piece of paper that missed the wastebasket by a few feet. The truth is that Hayden doesn't know what he longs for any more than any of us do, and somehow there is comfort to be found in this shared resignation.