Sunday, December 16, 2007

From the cutout bin: Chalk farM - notwithstanding

I have a bit of a soft spot for Chalk FarM (no idea why the capitalization is that way). In the late fall of 1996, I went to see Better than Ezra at the UNO Arena in New Orleans, still (so far as I know) the largest headlining show BTE has ever done. It was the homecoming date and the last show on the Friction, Baby tour and it was awesome. Chalk FarM was the opening act, and during "King of New Orleans" the lead singer of Chalk FarM came back onstage and turned over cue cards with the lyrics to the song on them. Then he placed a crown on Kevin Griffin's head, which Griffin tossed into the crowd at the end of the show (I still have one of the plastic jewels from the crown).

I believe Chalk FarM came back through town in the spring of '97, but that was the last I ever heard of them, until I found this CD in the dollar bin at my local record store.
So who were they? A Los Angeles band made up of East Coast transplants, they were originally a two-man acoustic outfit that then expanded to a full band, and they were frightfully socially earnest (this really comes through in the lyrics). So a bit like Vertical Horizon crossed with Live. Their one big hit was "Lie on Lie," from 1996, which you can find on YouTube, but which I can't embed for some reason. They then had a minor hit with "Live Tomorrow," which skirted the edge of the mainstream rock Top 40 in '97. As a sidenote, they did much better on the mainstream rock charts than the modern rock charts, which is a little surprising, as the modern rock station where I lived played them a lot.

Chalk FarM was dropped by Columbia sometime in the late '90s, lost their drummer, regrouped enough to put out a second album on their own label in 2000, performed in the film Coyote Ugly, and broke up. The lead singer, Michael Duff, recently released a solo album, and appears from his website to have gotten fairly involved with Scientology... perhaps he can open for Beck.
notwithstanding is a decent album, neither great nor terrible, and considering the success Vertical Horizon had with this basic sound three years later, it's a little surprising that they were dropped by Columbia.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

From the cutout bin: Summercamp - Pure Juice

It's time for a new feature here at Tied to the '90s: From the Cutout Bin, where we dig up old CDs that have been forgotten for whatever reason and can now be found in the dollar (or quarter) bin at your local used CD store (if your community still has a used CD store).

First up, Summercamp and their only album, Pure Juice, released in April 1997. These guys came out of the surprisingly-varied Santa Barbara scene, which also produced Ugly Kid Joe, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Nerf Herder, Lagwagon, Dishwalla, and Sugarcult and were together in some form or another for a decade before Madonna made them one of the early signings to her vanity label, Maverick Records. Actually, that may be one reason why these guys aren't around anymore; Madge herself set the bar a little high when (in early 1997, mind you), she claimed that her new signings were better than Oasis (seriously; check it out here)

Not to be cruel, but I have no clue what Madonna was talking about. These guys sound absolutely nothing like Oasis; it's very, very typical mid-'90s alt-rock, distorted guitars with melodies influenced by late-'70s power pop. Think Dishwalla or the Posies, but a little more generic.
Their single "Drawer" went top 40 on the mainstream rock charts and top 25 on the modern rock charts, but the album never charted (Wikipedia says "Should I walk away" went top 10 in Japan). They played the Lollapalooza second stage in '97 (the year it tried to go electronica with Orbital, Tricky, the Prodigy and the Orb on the main stage), then toured with Tonic, did a couple of festivals in Europe and Japan, and dropped off the face of the earth.

So what happened? This article from February 1999 says the band had gone into a studio in Santa Barbara to record a follow-up with producer Gil Norton (Feeder, Foo Fighters, Pixies, Jimmy Eat World, etc.). Another website claims they subsequently recorded in LA, New York, and London, replaced their drummer, and were doing more recording with Bon Jovi's producer. The album was scheduled for fall '99, then fall 2000, but nothing ever came out, not even in Japan. Their Myspace page says they broke up in 2000.

Lead singer Tim Cullen has put out a solo album, toured Japan, and done some work with Bad Astronaut and Sugarcult. He's currently in the Playing Favorites with Marko from Sugarcult and a couple of guys from Lagwagon. Guitarist Sean McCue has played some shows with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and also has a solo album.

Here's a video of the band playing the Fuji Rock Festival in 1997:

This wasn't a bad album. It showed some promise, and their sound was quite similar to bands like Stroke 9, SR-71, and American Hi-Fi who got pretty big a couple of years later. Maybe Summercamp was a little before their time.
Check out their one sorta hit, "Drawer," which sounds a bit like Superdrag:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Nixons

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile; lots going on at the moment. Stay tuned for album reviews of the new Collective Soul, Foo Fighters, and Matchbox 20.

Keep entertained, though, with some videos from the Nixons, one of my favorite '90s bands of all time and recently named 59th-most influential Oklahoma musical artist of all time by the great Oklahoma in celebration of the centennial of Oklahoma statehood.
First, "Sister," from the late, lamented NBC show Friday Night (bonus points for a cameo at the beginning of the clip by Edd Helms, Jay Leno's first announcer).

And here's the video for "Happy Song," which is still their best track.

If you're so inclined, John Humphrey, the Nixons' drummer, now drums for Seether, whose new album is out this week.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Automatic for the People, 15 years on

Stereogum has a great online tribute to REM's greatest album (and, in my opinion, one of the top 10 albums of all time): Automatic for the People, which was released 15 years ago this week. Check it out:

you should see the drive xv player here if you have flash

My favorite is the Shout Out Louds' version of "Man on the Moon."

And here's one of the best songs ever, "Find the River,"

Monday, October 1, 2007


If you get a chance, check out Michaelangelo Matos' essay on Idolator about 1996's music and what it meant to him.
Seriously, though, who remembered that Primitive Radio Gods had the #2 modern rock hit of 1996, or that Tracy Bonham and the Eels were #9 and #10?

I remember being home from college in the winter of 1996 and attending one of those "X-Mas bash" concerts that were big at the time, where four or five disparate acts shared a stage. In my case, it was the 95X-mas Ball at the Travel-and-Transportation building at the Oklahoma State Fair complex, and we got to see the Eels (they did a great cover of "Damn! I wish I was your lover"), Goldfinger ("Here in Your Bedroom" had to be in the top 20, right?), the Chainsaw Kittens, and... two others? I can't remember. Sorry... I've been downhearted, baby.

Radiohead scare the pants off the record companies

According to this report, Radiohead are finished recording their new album and will make it available digitally in only 10 days. And you can PAY WHATEVER YOU WANT FOR IT! This is insane.

Personally, I tired of Radiohead around Amnesiac, so let's check out some classics, shall we?
My favorite Radiohead song ever:

The only song I have ever heard Radiohead perform (when I was in high school, I saw them open for REM on the Monster tour, got stuck in traffic, and only caught the set-closer, "Just"):

So what did he tell them?

And one of their most complex-yet-melodic songs, 1997's "Paranoid Android,"

Bonus points because that one's taken from Live on Jools Holland.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guess the song

Do you remember this song?

I do.

That's Hum's completely under-rated classic "Stars," off of 1995's You'd Prefer an Astronaut. It hit #11 on the modern rock charts that year. Good to see Hum (who broke up after 1998's equally-good Downward is Heavenward) getting some love from the mainstream media, even if it is in a Cadillac commercial starring that Grey's Anatomy-spinoff chick.

Fun fact: Hum formed in Champaign, Illinois, music hotbed that also gave us the Poster Children and REO Speedwagon (not at the same time, of course). They'd been around since the late '80s, and Allmusic Guide claims their sound was a template for the Smashing Pumpkins (who, of course, were from Chicago). Interesting.

Concert report: Everclear

So I saw Everclear yesterday... sort of. This isn't exactly the Everclear you or I remember. Bassist Craig Montoya and drummer Greg Eklund split in the fall of 2003, after touring for the poorly-received Slow Motion Daydream (Eklund is now playing guitar for The Oohlas, who had some blog buzz earlier this year and a song on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack... Montoya is in two bands: one called Tri-Polar who hearken back to '80s cock-rock and one called Castella that are more Angels&Airwaves-sounding).

Art Alexakis re-tooled with a second guitarist, an organist, and a new bass player and drummer, released a greatest-hits compilation, Ten Years Gone, got dropped by Capitol, and then put out a new album last year called Welcome to the Drama Club. It did not do well, though I think some of the songs are as strong as anything else in the Everclear catalog.

Which brings us to yesterday's show, which took place at 5 in the afternoon at my local college for about 500 people, only 100 or so of whom seemed actually into the music. Art's voice wasn't in very good shape (it cracked at least four times), but they did play the hits: "Everything to Everyone," "Santa Monica," "I will Buy you a new life," "Wonderful," even "AM Radio," which, let's be honest, was the jump-the-shark moment for this band (seriously, who thought a pop song about growing up in the early '70s, featuring a sample from "Mr. Big Stuff," would work for a post-grunge band?). They also dragged out "Volvo Driving Soccer Mom," their last charting song (#30 on the modern rock charts in 2003), some songs off the new album, and, bizarrely, covers of "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "867-5309" (during which Art wore some girl's oversized sunglasses... see the picture at right).

And... it was all right. The band only played for an hour, and the arrangements seemed to have suffered in the transition from a trio to a five-piece (especially on "Everything to Everyone"), but overall, it was a decent show. Everclear was one of those bands that were few people's favorites, but few people openly hated them, either. They were there, they had some hits on the radio that people liked, and now they're struggling (see this report on Art's severe financial problems, as well as his reaction to it on his Myspace blog). The most recent album proves that Art is still a fairly-talented songwriter, so here's hoping that this isn't the last I ever hear of Everclear. Considering he's a reported $3 million in debt, I imagine Everclear will keep touring like this until the last community college in Montana says no.

But while we're here, let's take a look back, shall we?
This site has a great collection of live and rare Everclear mp3s, and YouTube, of course, has most of the band's videos, like:

They did not play "Heartspark Dollarsign" at the show yesterday, which was a disappointment, as it's one of their best songs. Apparently, Art doesn't like it much anymore, since it was inexplicably left off the greatest-hits CD.

Here's one from when everything started to go pear-shaped (intercut with some random dude's trip to Wales, but that's all I could find), the aptly-named "When It All Goes Wrong Again." I like the odd implications that Art has become some sort of cult leader.

They didn't play this one, either.

And to wrap up, here's one from the last album, called "Glorious." I really like this song. Note all the new band members.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Welcome, all to your new one-stop shop for all things '90s (well, not all things... I won't be discussing O.J. Simpson, Beverly Hills 90210 or Saved by the Bell: the New Class). If a band made it on the playlist of a radio station that advertised itself as the Buzz, the Edge, the X, or Z sometime in the 1990s, chances are it's gonna get talked about here. Now then, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to a mid-afternoon free Everclear show at my local college. Back with a report later.