Friday, May 23, 2008

From the Cutout Bin: Super Deluxe - Via Satellite

Welcome to 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). This installment features 1997's Via Satellite, the second album from power-poppers Super Deluxe.

An example that this band has been almost completely forgotten? Their Wikipedia page wasn't created until two months ago (and not by me, OK?). And now that is a comedy short-film website (check out the Team Tiger Awesome stuff on there, it's hilarious), few people even realize that Super Deluxe was a band.

There were two streams in the Seattle scene of the '90s: grunge and power-pop. The power-pop scene was led by the Posies (you could probably make a case for lumping the Presidents of the United States of America in there too). Super Deluxe were firmly in the latter camp.

Via Satellite was released in the summer of 1997, when the big hits on modern-rock radio were "Semi-Charmed Life," "Impression that I Get," Sugar Ray's "Fly," and Smash Mouth's "Walkin' on the Sun." The atmosphere was ripe for a power-pop band to make a big splash on the charts.

But this album stiffed, big-time. Unfortunate, because it's good, but there's no stand-out hit single. It seems to be the classic example of a band zigging when they should have zagged; this album is much harder and grunge-like in its sound (especially on songs like "Lost in Your Failures") just as modern-rock radio was taking a turn to softer and more poppy. If they'd stuck with the lighter sound of their 1995 debut (which featured "She Came On")...

It's a grower. "Your Pleasure's Mine" wasn't a great song the first time, but was really good the second time. There are big-time Queen influences in "Alright," and "Half Asleep" is good in that "could have soundtracked the closing credits of a late-'90s teen movie" way. "I Can See" is good, too.

It's too long by 3 or 4 songs, at 14 tracks (see the Connells, an album that came out at the same time with similar problems), the back end is better than the front, which is bad for a new band that needs to prove itself to radio programmers and fickle reviewers, and there's nothing as great as "She Came On," which got almost no airplay itself.

Of note to '90s rock fans: the producer and mixer on this album is Tim Palmer, who did mixing work for Pearl Jam, Catherine Wheel, Concrete Blonde, Stabbing Westward, Reel Big Fish, U2, Live, and the Cure, and producing work for Kajagoogoo, Big Country, Tears for Fears, Goldfinger, and Switchfoot. He produced and mixed Sponge's Wax Ecstatic (which is very underrated), and mixed the last two Better than Ezra albums, Closer and Before the Robots. And he's still quite in demand: he's done recent work for Robert Plant, Hot Hot Heat, and H.I.M. Clearly, the man transcends boundaries, a nice way of saying he doesn't have a particular "sound." The production here is workmanlike, and doesn't get in the way of the hooks.

Here's one of the two (unsuccessful) singles: "Your Pleasure's Mine." Apparently it was featured in an early episode of Dawson's Creek (and Revolution didn't bother making a video for it):

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently talking about the prevalence of technology in our day to day lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of downloading our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about almost every day.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4i SDHC[/url] DS SeKu)