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Feel Unlucky Punk: 5 records lost in the punk explosion

We take a look at 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.

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We could sit here all day and discuss the ethos behind the entire punk mantra but it has been discussed to no end. Instead, we’re inspecting the spiraling consequences of the mainstream upsurge of punk that ultimately peaked in 1994/95. Three years after what many dubbed as “the year punk broke” (1991), the resurgence of the punk subculture back into the mainstream scope was in significant contrast to the 70’s and early 80’s – there was now widespread acceptance. An extension of the earlier indie rock signing spree, 1994 was the pinnacle, underscored by two California bands that saw their popularity rocket into previously unfamiliar extremes. With the success of Green Day’s Dookie and Offspring’s Smash, major labels sought to find continued and similar success in unearthing hopeful bands and signing those who had called the underground home previously.

However, the effects of a genre’s popularity often result in a number of those caught up in the wave to get left behind. Casualties of other people’s success. For one reason or another, glory did not come to them as expected, and the resulting fallout ends with bands disbanding and careers changing. The fallout of an entire movement are far too great to tackle in mere paragraphs. We will instead section the years 1994 to 1996 as a small example of these fleeting successes, a time during and immediately after Green Day and the Offspring opened the floodgates to the modern punk underground. We circle five records that the major labels released; all of which merited success in many ways, but undoubtedly lacked the mega-sale attraction their financiers had hoped for. In a different time, under different circumstances, these records would have led to more, but in the shadow of platinum records these albums just did not pay back their investment. At the height of major label power, that was the death knell for many bands.

Here are the 5 records lost in the post-1994 scramble of punk’s mainstream success.

Hog

05. Hog – Nothing Sacred
(Geffen Records, March 1996)

Los Angeles punk band Hog were fueled by frontman Kirk Miller’s monstrous anthemic handiwork and the band’s love for melody, Nothing Sacred was a blast of a time. It was a simplistic record yes, one that relied on crunchy alternative rock riffs and soaring melodies, but one that was as easily digestible as it was loud. Miller’s raspy voice rang clear in “Shut Down” and “Walls”, providing guidance for the band’s heavily distorted appeal. Perhaps in an attempt to sustain a level of ingenuity, they combined honky-tonk fragments with aggressive punk riffage in “Don’t Know Why” and took on punk acoustic in the terrific country-bluegrass fueled “You & Me”. There was no love from the public however, as stints on the Black Sheep soundtrack and limited airplay did little to bolster the band’s success. Nothing Sacred was the band’s only offering.

I wore out my cassette tape copy of Hog’s Nothing Sacred it was so good. The title track is fantastic in particular, but there are so many great songs on this album, like the aforementioned “Walls” and “Not Perfect”. To this day I still go back to this album as the perfect windows down highway album because sonically, it sounds like a damn rock record. If you ever come across this album somewhere in a record shop and you like loud guitars, melodic punk, and some attitude, don’t hesitate to spend the money on it.

Stream: Hog – “Shut Down”

Waterdog

04. Waterdog – Waterdog
(Atlantic Records, October 1995)

Atlantic’s pop-punk flag carriers depended greatly on Green Day’s popularity to carry over. This self-titled disc was surprisingly accessible (bolstered by radio-ready tracks “Can’t Let Go” and “Jessica”) but ultimately lacked a strong connection to the recently converted masses. Unlike the Berkeley trio’s unabashed, juvenile visage, Waterdog relied on slightly more cultured lyrics and less simplistic chords, but kept true to mainstream pop-punk’s then alternative sound. Waterdog was a band that had the chops and the songs, but for a myriad of reasons, just couldn’t find their ground in a crowded radio field. After the dissolution of Waterdog, members of the band spent time in (ironically enough) Mike Dirnt’s project The Frustrators.

This album was not the best produced but had some great songs- most notably the closer “Good-bye, Good-bye”, and the track below “Jessica”. I still like listening to this song today and while it isn’t as loud or as urgent as Hog’s Nothing Sacred, had plenty to like, especially if you enjoyed pop-punk with a less bouncy appeal. The band came and went after only one album, but who knows just what they could have done during a different era.

Stream: Waterdog – “Jessica”

Samiam

03. Samiam – Clumsy
(Atlantic, August 1994)

Amongst their respective discography, Samiam’s Clumsy can easily go unnoticed. Their foray into the majors did not end here but unlike some of their kind, Samiam lasted through all the troubles and are still around today. Their creative blend of chunky pop punk components with more rock-oriented mechanisms resulted in their fiery guitar powered focus. Keen on quality vocal delivery and constantly trying to rework their musical progression, Samiam are front runners of pop-punk/rock with definitive style and substance. Clumsy however, is far from being their definitive work, but thankfully, major label misteps aside, they got even better after their foray into the majors. Albums like You Are Freaking Me Out and their 2000 release Astray, proved that there was life after the majors. Clumsy was the only album they ever did for Atlantic.

Sergie Loobkoff of the band also spent time in seminal emo band Knapsack as well as indie rock band Solea. I had a chat with Sergie Loobkoff about Solea back in 2002 about his then-new band.

Samiam are one of the lucky few.

Jawbreaker

02. Jawbreaker – Dear You
(Geffen Records, September 1995)

Pulled from shelves just months after its release, Dear You is a painful reminder of the fickleness that saturates the major label landscape. Far more restrained than their previous work, Jawbreaker’s (then) final release is as mysterious as it is admired; a defining example of bad things happening to good bands. Almost completely disappearing from North American retail stores (and most definitely from the Geffen catalogue), it has been the scourge of punk record collectors who have been unsuccessful at securing a copy. Featuring the classic Jawbreaker track “Jet Black”, Dear You was re-released in 2004 via Blackball Records. After Jawbreaker’s initial break-up, Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form one of my favorite bands, Jets to Brazil.

Dear You is not such a lost commodity since its reissue. However, it’s still a fascinating example of how the majors reached deep into the underground to try and replicate Green Day’s success any way they could. Dear You was a real step away from previous Jawbreaker material and the commercial results were unfortunate. In the Jawbreaker discography, it isn’t the easiest of records to get in to, partly because it was a shift from what the band were known for. But in hindsight, it’s a shining example of a band exploring new surrounds while jumping head first into the major label game.

In 2017, against all odds, Jawbreaker reformed. Remarkably, there is new music on the way. New Jawbreaker. In 2019. Who would have thought post Dear You?

Klover

01. Klover – Feel Lucky Punk
(Mercury/Polygram Records, August 1995)

Featuring members of legendary Boston hardcore outfit Gang Green, Klover epitomized all that was the spirit of a misunderstood generation. Leering like the Buzzcocks, influential like the Jam and embodying the youthful enthusiasm of early Social Distortion, Feel Lucky Punk was an immensely competent release. Confidently portraying ideas of rebellion, social rejection and an underlying cause for unity, it was a record that exuded all that was great of the punk movement. Strengthened by the “Basket Case”-like “Our Way” (how did this song not resonate with the radio crown? I just don’t know), the gang vocals of “Beginning to End” and the truly wonderful cover of the Real Kids’ “All Kindsa Girls”, Feel Lucky Punk is a real gem that deserved far more than it received. The album sounded great, the songs were exactly what you would expect from a shiny, major label punk release- everything seemed poised for success. It never came. Klover disbanded in early 1996 after just one album.

If there was ever an album so commercially ready to be big, it was this one. Mercury Records didn’t do anything for the band, and the songs here were relegated to used bins in Tower Records all around the world. Too bad because there is so much good material on here, so much of it is still so listenable today (you could argue that it holds up better than a lot of mainstream punk of the last decade). Their cover of “All Kindsa Girls” is still one of the best covers you’ll hear. However, it is the opening track “Our Way” that really sets the tone for the album and remains one of the best things not to have been huge.

Stream: Klover – “Our Way”

Lists

10 alt-rock albums from the ‘90s you should pick up on vinyl now

We’ve gone digging through the shelves to cherry pick 10 1990’s alt-rock and grunge albums that are well worth revisiting on vinyl.

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Dust off the turntable and turn off the bluetooth, because vinyl sales are showing no signs of slowing down. Sure, most people might have a few Beatles classics or some Zeppelin on wax, but labels are starting to dig deeper into their catalogs on the reissue market. For Gex X-ers, that’s turning out to be very good news. 

A decent amount of modern day releases are already getting vinyl runs at release, alongside CDs and digital, and of course the classics have been on LPs for decades, available at most thrift stores or used record shops. But the 1990s tunes — which landed in the awkward transition phase of cassettes and CDs — have been a barren wasteland. Until now-ish. If the album was an alt-rock hit over the past couple decades, there’s a decent chance a label has pulled it off the shelf and pressed it on vinyl.

So, we’ve gone digging through the shelves to cherry pick 10 1990’s alt-rock and grunge albums that are well worth revisiting now that they’ve been re-issued on vinyl. From Oasis to Goo Goo Dolls, here’s what we’ll be spinning while rocking some flannel.

Bush – Sixteen Stone

This 1994 rocker, Bush’s debut record, put the band on the map. The band would go on to have some great releases, but none of them matched the perfect storm of alt-rock and monster hits of Sixteen Stone. The album was host to No. 1 singles like” Comedown,” “Glycerine” and “Machinehead,” all of which still get regular spins on the airwaves. Beyond the remembered commodities, though, the entire album is a churning romp. There’s a reason it made Bush a household name in the 1990s.

Buy Sixteen Stone: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Counting Crows – August and Everything After

This album went Platinum about as many times as an album could go platinum, and for good reason. Almost every song on this record turned into a hit single, from “Mr. Jones,” to “Round Here,” to “Rain King.” It’s a snapshot of that particular brand of country alt-rock that fell into vogue in the era, and top to bottom, is still a fantastic set of songs. 

Buy August and Everything After: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

Don’t worry, we’re not leaving Britpop alt-rock off the list. Oasis’ second album is arguably the band’s best, anchored by “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” It’s even more fun on vinyl, with a bit of pop and warm hum to really bring the guitars home. The band may all hate one another now, but there was a shining moment when they could work together and make one hell of a good record.

Buy (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Pearl Jam – Ten

It’s not a ‘90s rock rundown without a heaping dose of Seattle on the list. Most of us probably still have an old cassette copy of Ten laying around somewhere between the car seats, but now it’s available on vinyl, too. You know, in case your record collection is lacking a bit of that flannel rock that only “Even Flow,” Black,” or “Jeremy” can provide.

Buy Ten: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Wallflowers – Bringing Down the Horse

It’s been a long road since this one hit shelves in 1996. In the years since Jakob Dylan released his seminal album with The Wallflowers, he went on to carve out a decent solo career and eventually revived the Wallflowers name once again. But, nothing has matched the hit-making power of Bringing Down the Horse. It spawned three Grammy nominations and songs you’re probably still humming under your breath, like “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” and “Three Marlenas.”

Buy Bringing Down the Horse: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Green Day – Dookie

Before Green Day was putting together epic political rock operas, the band was just a little ball of California punk fury. That raucous attitude came to a perfect head with Dookie, the band’s major label debut, and one of the best little punk albums of the ‘90s loaded with head-bangers like “Longview” and “Basket Case.” Green Day would go on to make plenty of fantastic records after this one, but this is the snapshot where the band went from punk up-starts to living legends.

Buy Dookie: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

The band would eventually sputter and fall apart a bit later, but there were few alt-rock bands bigger than the ‘Pumpkins for a good run of the ‘90s. In Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Billy Corgan’s boundless, rambling ambition actually paid off with lightning in a bottle. The sprawling double album was loaded with fantastic tracks that would dominate the airwaves, including “Zero,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “1979” and more. It’s seriously hard to fathom how many monster singles were packed on this release. The vinyl release falls on the pricier side (the cost of being a massive double album in the first place), but well worth it.

Buy Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Our Lady Peace – Clumsy

The Canadian alt-rockers didn’t leave quite the legacy as some of the bigger names on this list, but regardless, few albums were better than Clumsy from top to bottom. Raine Maida’s trademark falsetto blasts through hits like “Superman’s Dead” and “Clumsy.” Beyond the singles, though, deep cuts like “4AM” and “Car Crash” make for a compelling return to an album most of us probably forgot about a decade or so ago.

Buy Clumsy: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Nirvana – Nevermind

No ‘90s alt-rock list would be complete without the OG on the rundown. Nirvana’s Nevermind is an iconic work of grunge rock. It will never grow old, it will never lost punch, and it will always make you start banging your head when you hear the opening notes of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The album is largely responsible for ushering grunge and alt-rock into the mainstream, so it might be obvious, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Buy Nevermind: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl

Some rock fans already knew the Goo Goo Dolls before Dizzy Up the Girl, but this one turned the band into a radio and ‘90s staple. it already had great songs like “Dizzy,” “Slide,” “Broadway,” and “Black Balloon” on it — but those paled in comparison to the rollover soundtrack hit “Iris,” which became about the biggest song in the world for a hot minute when the film City of Angels was released (which itself featured a memorably weird Nic Cage performance FYI). Again, you probably have this one on cassette somewhere, but it’s high time to replace it with something fresh.

Buy Dizzy Up the Girl: [Amazon] [SRCVinyl]

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Film

Top Five Films of 2011

Logan Fewster recaps the top five films of 2011.

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Film reviews are in their nature subjective and reviewers in turn opinionated and in some people’s minds arrogant, as if to assume their opinion about anything is valid or required reading. ‘Top five’ lists proudly continue this tradition and multiply it by ten. However, regardless of your personal taste in movies the following five films should be on everyone’s must see list for this year. Each is unique, compelling and most importantly highly enjoyable in their own ways and represent my personal favourite films of 2011.

Honorable mentions.
Midnight In Paris, Super 8, Take Shelter, Project Nim

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s best selling novel is a haunting look into parenting and motherhood. Particularly the emotions some parents feel that are not discussed openly or presented as apart of having a child. Resentment, disconnection, isolation and anxiety to name a few are all expressed by a gripping performance from Tilda Swintonwho seamlessly tows the line between cold and authoritarian, vulnerable and helpless and outright horror.  Ramsay tackles the films unpleasant subject matter with a brutal and unsettling honesty that is both gripping and gut wrenching. The film openly questions nature versus nurture and what makes people bad and will make some question parenthood as the credits roll. Read our full review.

Tree of Life

It’s been an interesting year for Terrance Malick’s Tree of Life. One filled with both critical praise and condemnation of the film’s vision. A vision that as I described in my original review ‘almost dares its audience to leave the cinema. There is no conventional story and there are long stretches without any dialogue or any characters for that matter’. Not to mention Sean Penn, who is billed as the film’s second biggest star, is hardly in the movie. The ambitious film’s scope is extraordinary but at its heart is a story exploring how our families shape our lives, as children and as adults. To try to describe it further is an intimidating task but would not do the film justice. There is no doubt Tree of Life is challenging and asks a lot of modern audiences and their short attention spans. Some people may fall asleep while others will connect to this film in a profound way. I wasn’t as deeply affected as some but this film continues to haunt me in a way not unlike We Need to Talk About Kevin. Read our full review.

Hanna

In a year that included the ambitious Tree of Life, Hanna remains the most refreshing and unique film of the year. With distinctly breathtaking and original direction from director Joe Wright, Hanna is a stylistic thrill ride we haven’t really seen before, at least not in the multiplexes. Set to a perfectly fitting Chemical Brothers soundtrack Wright’s film is an exhilarating and tense experience anchored by a mesmerising Saorise Ronan as the titular character. Ronan plays the perfect amount of innocence and menace which compliments Wright’s blend of breathtaking art-house with enough Bourne, Bond and Nikita to please the masses. Read our full review.

Submarine

Richard Ayoade’s debut coming of age film has  met its fair share of criticisms and comparisons to other well-known quirky coming of age movies of years gone by. However while similarities exist and a love for those film makers is evident throughout the film, Submarine is an intelligent, sweet and very funny introduction to Ayoade as an up and coming director, not to mention its two compelling and charismatic leads in Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige. There is so much to like about Submarine and Robert’s character Oliver Tate, who like the film is a perfect mix of awkward and endearing. A lot of the laughs from the film come from its uncomfortable awkwardness but its enjoyment comes from its dark yet charming story and its great engaging cast.

Drive

Although one of the most over hyped and trendy films in recent memory, Drive is still my favourite movie of 2011 and it is also the coolest. Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish neo noir fllm is certainly not the masterpiece of modern cinema Facebook and Twitter would have you believe, it includes a barely there and underdeveloped Carey Mulligan, an incredibly overhyped wooden performance by Ryan Gosling (pretty, though he is) and a plot that struggles to balance realism and outright fairytale. However, even with its noticeable flaws Drive remains a compelling, beautifully shot and well cast film. From its opening minutes, Gosling’s star making vehicle is a gripping and tense ride which threatens to burst at any moment. When the film hits its second act, Gosling’s no name hero and Winding Refn’s stylistic direction become an unstoppable force that captures the audience’s imagination and challenges even the most critical viewer to dislike it.

Drive may not deserve the amount of hype it has received but in a year of great movies this ultra stylised, 80’s saturated not so subtle mix of retro action and art-house visuals is for me the most enjoyable film of 2011. Read our full review.

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