The Soup Dragons, Hotwired

Do you remember The Soup Dragons? If you’re from the UK and / or of a certain age (the certain age that means you actually remember buying albums on cassette), you probably do. If not, this band probably passed you by completely. Which would be a shame because, while Hotwired isn’t necessarily one of the very best albums ever, it’s a classic of my 1990s and can definitely still stand up tall today.

Although I only really listened to Hotwired, a little research shows that The Soup Dragons were more than I realized – or, at least, here in the UK they were. Nevermind that they were already six years old by the time I heard of them, or that Hotwired was actually their third LP – they’d also had a pretty decent hit in the UK with “I’m Free” in 1990. The Wikipedia says that single charted higher on the U.S. Modern Rock chart, whatever that is, but I definitely don’t remember it being a presence. I do, however, know every note of it, though I couldn’t have even told you it existed before yesterday. Isn’t it weird how that happens sometimes, as if you just absorb songs somehow without ever consciously hearing them?

Anyway, it turns out that the band had had some indie-world success even earlier than that, and – enough to secure their place in indie music history alone – were included on the NME’s legendary C86 cassette compilation. If you don’t know about that cassette, check out this great post from Indie-MP3. (Also, you can still download the whole compilation from Stupid and Contagious, though I can’t promise for how long.) The track included on C86 is wildly different from how we came to know them on Hotwired in 1992 – very much a Buzzcocks-inspired messy-punky-poppy sound which is very pleasant but, honestly, not terribly unique. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great track, but I doubt I’d have remembered it if I didn’t already love them from their later work.

I don’t know exactly what caused the change in sound, other than just the change of times and trends, but when they hit upon the sound featured on Hotwired, they made a classic album. Personally, I had no idea The Soup Dragons existed before “Divine Thing” came along and rocked my MTV. I didn’t know from baggy, or rave culture, or C86. I had no concept of British music being cool or anything in particular; I’d never heard of The Stone Roses or the NME. But I do remember this album soundtracking the summer of 1992 (along with Stereo MCs’ Connected). And you know what? It’s actually still pretty great. The sound might be a little bit dated, but not nearly as much as I’d expect after nearly 20 years – and even if it is a little dated, it’s in a wonderfully nostalgic way (rather than a cringey embarrassing way). These guys deserve to remembered fondly.

The Soup Dragons – Divine Thing
The Soup Dragons – Running Wild

The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing: the real #1?

The B-52s, Cosmic Thing

For many, many years, I’ve claimed that Pearl Jam’s Ten was my first album purchase but it recently occurred to me – holy crap! – have I been lying about that all this time?!

Not that my real #1, now that I see my mistake, isn’t just as cool. My deception was accidental, I assure you – I promise I was not trying to look cooler than I am. Please. I freely admit I adored New Kids On The Block. The cool ship has sailed.

So anyway, I recently went on a miniature album shopping spree and, at the last minute, threw The B-52’s Cosmic Thing into my cart. It was by the register and stuff. Listening to it the next day, I couldn’t get over how fresh, fun, and surprisingly not dated it sounded. Honestly, I bought it thinking it would be a nostalgic giggle and not much more. “Love Shack”, anyone? But that never was the best track on Cosmic Thing and I should’ve remembered that.

Taken aback by how much I still loved it, and not in a kitschy sort of way at all, I looked it up and – wha?! – found out that it was released in 1989. That’s a whole TWO years before Pearl Jam released the amazingness that is Ten. Even if my 9-year-old self took a while to catch on and buy Cosmic Thing, it still came first. Whoopsie. Sorry I lied to y’all for so long.

When I thought about it a bit more, I actually remembered the exact day I bought it – on cassette! From Phar-Mor!! I had a little pocket money I’d gotten as a gift or something, I’d guess around $10, and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted some specific Barbie or the B-52’s album. I guess I wasn’t really your typical 9-year-old girl. I must’ve been dimly aware that I’d already prolonged the decision-making process out to a near-painful point, because I remember choosing the Barbie, in part, just to be done with it so my father and I could go home already. I was known for this type of separation anxiety when it came to my pocket money. But, perhaps predictably, I regretted it almost immediately and was in quiet, trying-to-hold-them-back tears by the time we got home a few minutes later. I wonder if I’d have done the same if I’d gone the other way in the store? I guess not, because Dad was crazy nice about it and took me back to exchange the Barbie (though he really must’ve wanted to shake me silly by that point) and I never looked back. I mean, I totally still played with Barbies, but I didn’t want one more than I wanted that album. I guess I was a budding music dork long before I knew what that meant.

But back to the album. Maybe not as ass-kicking as Pearl Jam, but Cosmic Thing is still – after 22 years, that’s a scary thought – a really great album. It feels just like the time, but also like it totally could’ve come out this year – both nostalgic and timeless somehow. Fred Schneider’s freaky speak-singing really should be annoying or gimmicky, but it fits here, alongside Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s angelic harmonies, to make something unusual and pretty, poppy and alternative. “Roam” is still my favorite track, it’s just too dreamy, though I have always loved the quirkiness of “Junebug”. Whatever, the whole album’s classic – get it yourself right here.

The B-52’s – Roam
The B-52’s – Junebug

Hospital Bombers, are you out there?!

Hospital Bombers

Hey, Hospital Bombers – where are you? I’ve never written about the Hospital Bombers before which is stupid, because they’re one of my very favorite bands. I should’ve mentioned them way back in 2008-ish when they released their debut album, Footnotes – it was in the top 3 albums of the year on that list I kind of made but never published. I loved Footnotes immediately, but I think I love it even more now than I did then.

But then they kind of disappeared. I kept checking, for a long time, for more releases, but … nothin’. Apparently, they released a single, “Butterflies”, last fall, which I only just found out about now. I was lucky to find these songs because they don’t seem so easy to come by and they are seriously fantastic. Everything I loved so much about Footnotes but even better. Hospital Bombers could, I suppose, be filed under a general ‘indie pop’ label, of the highest calibre – but then there’s those strings. They give the band a odd kind of folksy edge that really makes them extra-special. And much to my delight, they’ve turned up the strings a touch more on the newer songs; I’ve included b-side “When The Cows Come Home” below just because the string sounds on it make me ridiculously happy.

And now … ? I have no idea. I’ve been trying to get to their official site for months, but I can never get it to load (linked there in case it does work in the future and some passer-by wants to check it out) and there is a very outdated myspace page. “Butterflies” appears to have been put out by Subbacultcha! but that’s the most information I could find. They do seem to be playing in Amsterdam in August (just days after I leave the country for good, wouldn’t it bleedin’ figure?! I was really hoping to see them play again before I left, bummer.) so they must still exist. I really really really hope this silence means they’re working a new album.

In the meantime, check out the b-side I already mentioned, as well as my favorite track from Footnotes below. Or, download Footnotes for yourself from emusic and wait patiently with me for some news. And, hey, Hospital Bombers? If you’re out there, drop us a line and let us know what you’ve been up to!

Hospital Bombers – Tighten The Knots
Hospital Bombers – When The Cows Come Home

Must Hear: Cast Spells

Cast Spells

I’m both shocked and dismayed to realize that I’ve yet to post about one of my very favorite – top 5, without a doubt – releases from last year. Cast Spells’ “Bright Works And Batons” EP came out last August and, although I immediately liked it – mostly because of David Davison’s captivating voice – it took me a little while to really love it. It snuck up on me over time, one track here and there on shuffle, until I noticed that it was what I most wanted to listen to first when I turned on my iPod. And since “Bright Works And Batons” is so very very wonderful, I’ve already checked (um, maybe more than once) the internets for other Cast Spells releases.

Nothing to find yet, other than a split EP with Good Old War (recommended) and some news that David Davison does plan further Cast Spells releases eventually. Because, something I didn’t know earlier, Cast Spells is actually a side project. I’d never heard of Maps & Atlases before, but being such a fan of Davison’s gorgeous vocals, I immediately downloaded their 2008 “You And Me And The Mountain” EP. Maps & Atlases is apparently described as ‘math rock’ – if that’s true, maybe math is rock is something I can get down with after all. But wait, there’s more – Davison is also part of the experimental Hey!Tonal. This one is most definitely a little more unconventional and may take a bit more listening to get into, but given how much I like Davison’s other bands, I’ll definitely give it a chance.

But anyway, back to Cast Spells. I love the whole EP, obviously, but my very favorite track – a song I just can’t stop listening to, and which never ever loses its gentle power – is “A Badge”. Stunning.

Cast Spells – A Badge

Backtrack: Carnivale & Soulsavers, “Revival”

Scene from Carnivale

A few weeks ago, Bean wrote a very cool post that linked The Raveonettes to Twin Peaks. I never really made a connection between a piece of music and a seemingly unrelated TV show that way until I heard “Revival”. I’m still sad that Carnivale, the HBO show set during the Great Depression which was canceled after only two seasons, never got the chance to tell the rest of its complicated story. I used to love the menacing, religious feel of the show.

I think Soulsavers‘ beautiful “Revival”, from their 2007 album It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land, has the exact same effect the show had. A gospel choir sings over a slow and spooky rhythm and seems to announce either the apocalypse or the Second Coming; either way something epic is about to happen. Meanwhile, Mark Lanegan’s deep, raspy voice beautifully highlights the darkness that undermines the hopeful lyrics. Come to think of it, this song would work particularly well as the theme song of one of the most memorable characters from the show: the fantastically, frightening, evil preacherman, Brother Justin Crowe. I think it gives an accurate taste of the holy creepiness of the character, and his contradictory role as a conduit for God and his secret calling as the vessel of the upcoming darkness. If you miss the show as much as I do, then sit back, listen to the song and let the dust wash over you.

Soulsavers – Revival

Backtrack: Everlast, “What It’s Like”

Everlast

1998-1999 was dominated by the The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, a truly superb album. I first heard the Lauryn Hill album during a trip to New York City in 1998, the first time I’d traveled back to the States since moving to the Netherlands in 1994. Naturally, I was blown away. The album was about what I expected from one-third of the fabulous Fugees. However, it was another album I bought while in the Big Apple that really blew me away that year.

Whitey Ford Sings The Blues was the second solo album from Everlast. I had his first album, Forever Everlasting, an album I bought around the time it was released in 1990. Most of you out there have probably never heard of Forever Everlasting and for good reason. To say it sucked donkey balls would be a kindness. As a result, I ended up regreting the eight bucks I spent and it ended up gathering dust at the bottom of my tape collection. When “Jump Around” exploded on the scene in 1992, launching House of Pain and making all the white kids go crazy, I didn’t even make the connection to the Everlast in Forever Everlasting. That’s how little I listened to Erik Schrody’s solo debut.

When I heard the new-and-improved solo Everlast it was driving into upstate New York with the chick I was visiting and her best friend. Ends was playing on the radio and I was blown away in the back seat. The combination of guitar and flow was so different I couldn’t believe it was the House of Pain frontman, let alone the same guy who sucked so badly on Forever Everlasting. The entire album strikes a delicious balance between hip-hop and acoustic and electronic blues-pop-rock.

For the uninitiated, give the lead single from Whitey Ford Sings The Blues – “What It’s Like” – a spin to hear the less hip-hop-leaning side of the album. Learn how cool Everlast can be. Then give some thought to buying the album and checking into his later albums.

Everlast – What It’s Like

Backtrack: Kimya Dawson, Remember That I Love You

Kimya Dawson, Remember That I Love You

I’m calling this a backtrack post, and it will be for a lot of people, but I’m new to Kimya Dawson. I’ve heard a lot of Adam Green and, though I like quite a few of his songs, his potty humor tunes always put me off him a bit. Tha Dawgg and ‘Boosh will tell you that I’m not a potty humor kinda gal. Which is why I never bothered to check out The Moldy Peaches or Adam Green’s Peaches partner, Kimya Dawson.

Until – yeah, you guessed it – I saw Juno and loved the music. It wasn’t fair, but I’d made up my mind before I’d even heard her solo music. I should know better. And although I’m still on the fence about The Moldy Peaches, I recently picked up Remember That I Love You and Ms. Dawson has me totally charmed.

Plus, you gotta love Super Mario Bros. references.

Kimya Dawson – My Rollercoaster