Yep, this makes two posts (separated by a stupid delay) in a row re: my Spin feature, but to be blunt and possibly obnoxious, I should be allowed to throw a little extra promotion at a feature of this nature when I came away from the first read-over 100% satisfied, if not giddy, about what had been staring back at me, and still do.
This time, however, I was thinking about whoever the hell constitutes the readership around here, as well as how boring and lazy it would be if I just made another post with nothing more than a questionably witty statement gone all hyperlink to you-know-where. Well, I didn’t think THAT much about either, to be truthful…
[AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE: PLEASE VISIT AND ENJOY THE FEATURE
ON SPIN.COM BEFORE RETURNING TO READ WHAT I HAVE
ASSEMBLED BELOW…HELL, STAY OVER THERE IF YOU WANT! THEN
CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE INTERNET, WHERE YOU’LL FIND AN
ENDLESS SUPPLY OF CONTENT THAT RUINS MY SILLY LITTLE
“SHINING A LIGHT ON THE INNER-WORKINGS” NONSENSE. AFTER
GETTING ALL OF THAT INTO AND OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM, HAVE A LOOK
OUTTAKES, BLOOPERS, DESERVEDLY
UNSUCCESSFUL PUSHES FOR INCLUSION, AND
OTHER BEHIND-THE-SCENES NON-GESTURES THAT
CONSTITUTES THE FOLLOWING LANDFILL OF
TEXT ORPHANED AS BLAME
MAJOR LABEL ALBUMS TOOK SHAPE…
BAD BRAINS God of Love (1995, Maverick)
Overdramatic, unstable, musically-inconsistent and generally difficult to work with…all to an extreme degree, Bad Brains was approached by Madonna’s Maverick Records, who dangled a one-million dollar contract in front of the band, with the only stipulation being that they reassembled the original lineup and and go into the studio. The “original Bad Brains lineup” really means nothing, as it can be found on some truly embarrassing mid-period crap, and hiring Ric O’casek to produce was the epitome of an empty gesture.
HAIR & SKIN TRADING CO. Over Valence (1994, Atlantic)
It appears that “Areola Chimney Juice” or “Whisker Biscuit Air Filter Hour” were unavailable when the band-naming meeting rolled around. Still, this is an excellent album…really powerful happy accident from the rhythm section of late-80’s thuggish proto-shoegaze trio Loop. Think The Fall meets heavy shoegaze with punchy American aggro-indie drumming. But this album is an elevated risk for a major label based only on a moniker implying the listener was in store for some garbage by the industrial-goth-dance-S&M acts of the era.
KYUSS Welcome to Sky Valley (1994, Elektra)
Excluding death metal and grindcore’s temporary vacation in the major-label realm, this is the heaviest album on this list and a monolithic masterpiece that had a massive influence on the widespread thickening-up of metal and heavy music in the years that followed. The CD was divided into three movements so the listener processed it as intended while their label’s radio promotions department took extra long bathroom and smoke breaks.
SCRAWL Travel On, Rider (1996, Elektra)
Scrawl was a great post-punkish indie-rock band that had been active since 1985, had quite a discography behind it, and was exactly the type of band that had major labels in a marketing stupor. That Scrawl was helmed by two (formerly three) females and had nothing to do with Riot Grrl, polities, overt feminism, Lilith Fair (I know…no shit) and was the antithesis of Hole/Courtney Love….well, this didn’t help matters.
TH’ FAITH HEALERS Lido (1992, Elektra)
Criminally-overlooked yet untouchable noise-rock-meets-Krautrock mindblower of an exercise in high-intensity minimalist motorik rock anchored by a breathtaking cover of Can’s “Mother Sky” One of the early-decade’s consummate keepers but radio repellent and adverse to mass fandom.
MAGIC DIRT Friends in Danger (1994, Warner’s)
Aussie Sonic Youth disciples who got talked up by that band and Pavement (Magic Dirt opened for both down under), and the majors were listening to those two bands. Magic Dirt’s “heavy” and “noisy” phase coincided with Warner’s interest and what happened was an uncompromising album the label refused to promote…not even a tiny bit when they toured the states for the first time, opening for Archers of Loaf. They were dropped after this album’s release, but Warner’s paid for another album nonetheless (as per the contract), a la Royal Trux.
And these (very) early “deep cuts” (all “inclusion pitches”) should send readers into the snooze-hole with ease…
Electric Company (Brad Laner of Medicine) – Perhaps this should be touched on and appended at the end of the Medicine entry?
Godflesh – As part of Columbia/Sony’s cherry-picking of the Earache label, Godflesh’s Merciless EP (1994, Columbia) and Selfless epic (1994, Columbia) are among the heaviest, densest, darkest, noisiest sonic statements to be released courtesy of a major label. Another No-Brainer.
Long Fin Killie – very challenging stuff, even for the history-making Too Pure/American/Warner’s relationship of the mid-90’s. Released the amazing Houdini (1995) and even better Valentino (1996) through these channels.
Maids of Gravity – Medicine off-shoot band that signed to Virgin for two albums, the excellent s/t debut released in 1995 and the more psych-country influenced follow-up, The First Second, in 1997. The two primary songwriters would go on to form The Radar Bros.
P.J. Harvey – Inclusion is based entirely on the massive power and greatness of her sophomore LP, Rid of Me (1993, Island).
Pell Mell – The M.L.F.F. was reaching into some genuinely bemusing nooks and crannies of the underground, as shown by Geffen’s acquisition of left-field surf-jangle instrumental outfit Pell Mell for what appears to have been the one-off Interstate album in 1995. Somehow, this is weirder than Morbid Angel releasing not one but two uncompromising albums on a major label (see below).
Poster Children – Had a relatively long and storied major label relationship with Sire/Warner’s, beginning with 1992’s Daisychain Reaction and continuing until 1997’s RTFM.
Pram – A large chunk of their best (and earlier) material was released by American Records as part of that label’s relationship with the UK’s Too Pure Records. These records were way ahead of their time, really weird and unlike anything else in the early-to-mid 90’s, aside from, perhaps, their label-mates.
Shudder To Think – One of two Dischord bands to defect to a major label** during the feeding frenzy. This was also one of, if not THE, weirdest band on Dischord by a measure. 1994’s Pony Express Record (Epic) tanked intensely, but the band remained signed for a whopping three more full-lengths (including the soundtrack for High Art) before disbanding in 1999.
** The other was Jawbox…and they were cut from this list before it was finalized and sent the other night, but perhaps they fit?)
Silverfish – Really intense noise-rock band from the U.K. who released several EP’s leading up to and following the release of one full-length (their second, titled Organ Fan) on CBS Records.
St. Johnny – Like Cell, this band was signed to DGC by then-new A&R scout Thurston Moore. Released a great album (their second afterSpeed is Dreaming, 1994) and a confusingly-awful one (Let It Come Down, 1995) before disbanding.
Stereolab – Debut album Peng! (Elektra, 1992) was released through the Too Pure/American/Warner’s relationship but the band signed to Elektra Records for a six-figure sum and released their (and one of the decade’s) most challenging, inspired and all-around amazing albums, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements in 1993. They stayed on Elektra for the remainder of the decade, releasing several more full-lengths of lesser but still-great material.
Surgery – After all these years, Surgery sometimes sounds like AmRep’s answer to The Black Crowes, but this is one of the more clear-cut, direct-result signings re: Nirvana’s leading role in this whole feeding-frenzy thing.
Swell – …Well? (Def American, 1991) and 41 (American, 1994) are categorically strange but fantastic records by this weird duo.
Swervedriver – Raise (A&M, 1991) and Mezcal Head (A&M, 1993) are notable for having the teeth that so many of their shoegazing colleagues lacked, and for striking a middle ground between said movement and the heavier stoner-rock concerns of Kyuss, etc.
Techno Animal – A duo of Kevin Martin (God ringleader) and Justin Broadrick, then of Godflesh. Virgin Records released their 1992 double-CD, Re-Entry, and it was way ahead of its time re: the ambient and drone noise-scape scene.
Timco – This was a post-Nice Strong Arm band that released two noise-pop/rock albums on Priority Records, Friction Tape in 1994 and Gentleman Jim in 1996.
Tindersticks – though pretty and somewhat classy, Tindersticks’ dark and fatalistic marriage of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen and UK dream-pop was a brazen antithesis to the alt-rock of the day. They released their second full-length (and second album to be self-titled) on London Records in 1995 (along with a slew of singles and EP’s) then went over to Polygram for the rest of the decade.
Truly – Released a little too late for comfort by Capitol in 1996, Truly’s 72-minute masterpiece Fast Stories…From Kid Coma is such a wonderful album, as well as sufficiently out-of-place on a major label…or at least enough to justify inclusion on my short-list.
Reginald Bakeley, the author of Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop and
Other Practical Advice In Our Campaign Against the Fairy Kingdom. It
should be noted that he, as the saying goes, is not futzing around here.
Now check out some pics anchored around the shift from 2012 to 2013.