Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More reunions: Alice in Chains, Blind Melon

According to the new Spin magazine (the one with Pete Doherty on the cover), we can expect new albums in 2008 from Green Day, U2, Metallica, No Doubt, Spiritualized, the Cure, the Breeders (really? nice!), Weezer, Portishead, and Beck.
But the big news is the return of two groups who haven't recorded in quite awhile.
Alice in Chains have been touring sporadically since 2006 with new lead singer William DuVall (replacing Layne Staley, who died of a heroin overdose in 2002 after 11 years of heavy drug abuse and 5 years of complete seclusion), though they're now expected to record a new album, their first of all-new material since 1995's self-titled album, which went double-platinum. Remember "Again"?

Big rock hit in early '96? Top 10 on the mainstream rock charts? No? OK, me neither, but I couldn't find embeddable videos for "Heaven Beside You."

It's hard to believe, based on their continued presence on rock radio, but Alice only managed to put out three albums and two EPs, due largely to Staley's heroin problems. Jerry Cantrell has released two fairly well-regarded solo albums (here's 1998's "Cut You In":)

Also back together are Blind Melon, who only managed to record two albums before lead singer Shannon Hoon died in 1995 of a heroin overdose.* New lead singer Travis Warren will make his recording debut April 22, when For My Friends is released. You can hear the new single, "Wishing Well," here.
The band certainly had their fans back in the day; 1992's Blind Melon went quadruple-platinum, and 1995's Soup went gold (in Canada). I know, everybody remembers them for the Bee Girl video, but they had some chops. Here's "Galaxie," from 1995:

*Strange but true story: I saw Sponge at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City the night Shannon Hoon died. We found out about it because Vinnie Dombrowski from Sponge announced the death from the stage, then the band played "Wish You Were Here." I'm still not sure how (or if) the guys in Sponge knew the guys in Blind Melon, but it still makes for a cool story.

Friday, February 22, 2008

From the Cutout Bin: Headswim - Despite Yourself

"The hype is as high as an elephant's eye." - Headswim, "Hype."

Here's what I know about this band: I was supposed to see them open up for Our Lady Peace and Black Lab in the spring of 1998 in New Orleans, but they didn't show up. Word in the crowd that night was they'd dropped off the tour entirely. Also, I vaguely remember hearing the single "Tourniquet" on 106.7 the End.
Here it is:

Headswim formed in the early '90s in Essex, England, released a couple of singles, then got picked up by Sony. Despite Yourself was their second album. Was the hype really that big for Headswim? Wikipedia says "Tourniquet" was a top 30 single in the UK and a minor radio hit in the US. They did tour the US with Brad (the Pearl Jam side project) and Kula Shaker, but sales weren't great, they got dropped, released one independent single in 2000, then broke up in 2001.

I realize I only paid $1 for this thing, but it was quite aggressively mediocre. According to AllMusic, their first album, 1994's Flood, was very Pearl Jam-influenced. This one sounds like they listened to The Bends 30 or 40 times and then sat down to write some songs. The two singles, "Tourniquet" and "Better Made," are decent, but I can only recommend this one as a 25-cent super-cutout bin purchase (such as they have at Hastings), not a $1 bin buy.

So where are they now? Lead singer Dan Glendining formed a new band, BlackCar, who released an album in 2003 and now appear to be dormant. Check out their Myspace here. There are some Headswim rarities (including a cover of Gary Numan's "Cars") here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

More reunions: STP, Filter

Following in the recent lead of the Smashing Pumpkins, two more '90s acts have announced activity for 2008, joining the comebacks of the Counting Crows and R.E.M. (see below).

According to multiple reports, Stone Temple Pilots are getting back together for a summer tour. So far, only one date has been announced, May 17 at a festival in Columbus, Ohio, but you would have to assume they'll play multiple summer festivals, just like Rage Against the Machine did last year. No word on what this means for Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland's supergroup with half of Guns 'N Roses; they're supposed to be touring Australia this week, though at last report Weiland was back in rehab. From what I've heard, both album sales for the band's last record Libertad and ticket sales for the supporting tour were weak, so who knows. Slash is saying publicly that recording on Velvet Revolver's third album could begin in April prior to the STP reunion.

What does seem more concrete is that the other STP-related supergroup, Army of Anyone, is pretty much dead, because the DeLeo brothers are back with STP, and singer Richard Patrick says he's getting Filter back together for their first album since 2002's weak-selling The Amalgamut, which failed to go gold (Filter's first two albums both went platinum). Filter are also playing the same festival in Columbus.

All this, of course, got me thinking about Talk Show, the band formed during a prior Weiland rehab stint that was STP with a new lead singer (who sounded oddly like Liam Gallagher). I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Talk Show open up for Aerosmith in the OKC in December of 1997, and they were pretty good. But, their album didn't sell, Weiland's solo album didn't sell either, and Stone Temple Pilots got back together for two more records (not as good as the first three, in my opinion) and a greatest hits set, before breaking up again in 2003.

Here's Talk Show's one hit, "Hello Hello:"

Since '03, the DeLeo brothers have produced an Alien Ant Farm album (which flopped), and formed Army of Anyone, whose single album did not chart. Drummer Eric Kretz has not done anything since STP broke up (according to AllMusic), and sadly neither has Dave Coutts, the lead singer of Talk Show. He's really the Gary Cherone in this whole mess, isn't he?

Considering that both Velvet Revolver and Army of Anyone have been doing STP songs live, there's clearly still a market for the band. Whether or not any new music is forthcoming has not yet been revealed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

R.E.M. is back

After the quite lackluster Around the Sun in 2004 left even the diehards (like me) deflated, R.E.M. have been on a campaign to win back our hearts. First was a series of live rehearsals in Dublin, Ireland last July, where new material was premiered and reworked in response to audience reaction:

(That's an early version of the new single, by the way).
Then the REM Live album came out last fall, showing that the Around the Sun songs weren't as bad as we thought, just overproduced on the album.
On January 1, the band premiered, which has different footage every day.
And in a strong effort to court the indie community, they premiered their new single "Supernatural Superserious" on Pitchfork. Listen to it here.
It's great, right? Like the perfect blend of 1994's Monster with 1987's Document (two of their most rocking albums). British critics who have heard the whole album are comparing it to Green Day's American Idiot. Others say it's the natural follow-up to 1996's criminally-underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
Whatever it is, I can't wait. I'm going down to Wuxtry Records in Atlanta to pick up my copy, because it's the place where the band recorded their very first demo in 1980. If you can't wait, either, check out this "trailer" for the album:

R.E.M. plays the Langerado Festival in Florida and South by Southwest in March, then embarks on a US and Canadian tour with Modest Mouse and the National in June.