Today, we have a trio of woman-fronted bands, who all released albums in the 3rd year of the 90's. And they all have Boston connections. Plus, they all performed live on Jon Stewart's show.
We'll start with the Boston band Letters to Cleo. Initially, their 1993 debut album Aurora Gory Alice was going nowhere, until this song made it into the Melrose Place soundtrack, and the band blew-up (plus, Kay Hanley's really cute)
Letters to Cleo – Here and Now (live on Jon Stewart)
The famously unintelligible chorus is: And it might be...
The comfort of a knowledge of a rise above the sky above could
never parallel the challenge of an acquisition in the here and now.
Here's another hit song from the album
Letters to Cleo – I See
Their follow-up album, 1995's Wholesale Meats and Fish, got radio airplay with the song Awake, but otherwise didn't score big.
Next up: Belly - a side project for Boston native Tanya Donelly, who went from Throwing Muses (featured in a future installment) to The Breeders (see below), and then fronted the band that would score big with the 1993 debut Star. The album generated a bunch of radio hits, and made them a household name. Here's the big hit that everybody knows
Belly – Feed the Tree
They toured with their other hit
Belly – Gepetto (live on Jon Stewart)
They played big arenas. Here's another favorite song from the album
Belly – Dusted (with a bit of Full Moon) (live)
And we'll finish Belly with another song from the album that got radio airplay
Belly – Slow Dog
Their 1995 album King didn't do so well, and they broke-up after it was released. But they reformed a couple of years ago.
The final artist of this trio is The Breeders. Kim Deal formed the band with her sister Kelly, after leaving U Mass punk band The Pixies. Their debut album Pod (with Tanya Donelly as a member) didn't chart, although Kurt Cobain really liked it. But the 1993 follow-up, Last Splash, was a major success. Singles from the album include No Aloha, Saints, and these
We all know this one
The Breeders – Cannonball (live on Jon Stewart)
There are many great songs on the album, including this slow-burner
The Breeders – Do You Love Me Now
and this fun little ditty, containing one of my favorite verses: If you're so special, why aren't you dead?
The Breeders – I Just Wanna Get Along
and here's the other big hit from the album
The Breeders – Divine Hammer (live on Letterman)
These are acts I liked one song from back in the day, then heard one more song from that didn't rope me in at the time, so I never pursued them. But if I listen now with fresh ears, I might dig 'em. I've had that happen with a few artists. Back then, so much good new music was pouring out, a lot of good acts slipped between the cracks because there were so many great ones to enjoy!
As the saying goes, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. And nobody expects my next favorite artist. It's Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel. But he's known professionally as Seal. Yes, Crazy Seal. The guy with the rasta hair, who made this funky song for the brilliantly titled 1991 album Seal:
Chronologically, we're still in the early-to-mid 90's with my favorites list. And that could only mean one thing: more grunge!
Stone Temple Pilots took-off with their 1993 debut album Core, but they didn't fare as well with critics - some calling them Stone Temple Pearl Jam. Admittedly, Plush sounded a lot like Alive, and there was a similar vibe. But I liked the sound and the groove of these songs (including Creep), and Scott Weiland had a great live presence (once his mic is turned on)
Stone Temple Pilots - Wicked Garden (live on Letterman)
Stone Temple Pilots - Sex Type Thing (live compilation video)
Just a year later, they put out 1994's Purple, and it solidified their reputation as a band with a unique sound. They had hits with Interstate Love Song, Pretty Penny, and these
Stone Temple Pilots – Vasoline (live on Letterman)
Stone Temple Pilots - Big Empty (live acoustic)
Stone Temple Pilots – Unglued (live on Letterman)
They also released a great cover of this Led Zeppelin tune for the Encomium compilation
Stone Temple Pilots – Dancing Days (live on the Howard Stern Show)
Over the next few years, they released a couple more successful albums, with songs like Big Bang Baby, Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart, Lady Picture Show, Sour Girl, No Way Out, and this one
Stone Temple Pilots – Down (they blocked the live video, this is the studio sound with live video)
But they dropped off my radar somewhat, along with the declining health and sanity of Weiland. He went on to front Velvet Revolver, and a solo project. But he was in rough shape for many years, prior to his death.
I thought (and still think) Core is an essential rock album of the 90s.
I remember sleeping over my girlfriend's house (well, her parents' house, in her bedroom, after being told to leave, but that's a whole nother story) and waking up in the middle of the night to "Sex Type Thing" on MTV and thinking 'Wow this is good, I'll have to remember that band name when I wake up in the morning (awkwardly still here after having been asked to leave)"
Then came "Plush" and they broke huge. I really liked that one too. I had only ever sat at a drum kit once before my 20s (I might have been 12?) The second time I ever did it was at a party when someone was playing "Plush" on guitar next to an empty drum kit. I asked if I could play along, and he said 'sure'. I played a very basic beat mimicking as much as I could remember from the song. People started complimenting me. I told them it was only the 2nd time I'd sat a kit and they were really impressed. It inspired me to pick up the drums in addition to guitar. About 10 years later, I was playing guitar in one band and drums in another one, sometimes playing in both bands at the same venue on the same night. So "Plush" always reminds me of this.
Loved "Crackerman" and liked "Creep". Unfortunately, like some Pearl Jam and Nirvana singles, both "Plush" and "Creep" were beyond overplayed, so I'm still kinda sick of them even decades later. But "Sex" and "Crackerman" are still awesome to me. Same with "Dead & Bloated". "Big Empty" was one of many good songs on the Crow Soundtrack too.
But, as usual, here's where I go against the grain. I hated (and still hate) "Vasoline". Same reaction I had to "Bulls On Parade" by RATM (amazing first album, but then I don't like the lead single of the follow-up). The only song on Purple I liked/still like is "Unglued". I hated "Big Bang Baby". Hated "Sour Girl". Hated "Days Of The Week". Basically, aside from "Unglued", they lost me after "Big Empty" on the Crow Soundtrack. Well, I don't mind "Interstate" or "Tripping" but I don't go out of my way for them.
But there is a silver lining. I like "Roll Me Under" from 2018. Just heard it a few days ago and I still dig it!
Not tryin' to poop on the parade. Just my long and uninteresting history with STP. The good, the bad, and the unpopular opinion! =)
I like both openers from their first 2 albums - Dead & Bloated and Meatplow. I didn't include them because they are both dirge-like. You'll notice I included Unglued. And I generally agree that the newer stuff doesn't deserve consideration.
And I learned to play a drum kit when I was in a garage band in high school. I also played keyboard (we had a concert organ at home), and my first instrument was guitar. My brother had a music degree (trumpet major), so he brought home many instruments that I tried out. But I'm really a woodwind guy.
I own the CDs for Core and Purple. I have digitized only "Creep" from Core and "Vasoline", "Lounge Fly", "Interstate Love Song", "Pretty Penny" and "Big Empty" from Purple. I also have their song "Days of the Week" from much later from a collection CD.
Soundgarden predates the big album releases from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but it was the success of those groups that finally got them noticed. They had some radio airplay with a few songs off of 1991's Badmotorfinger (their 3rd album), including Outshined. I heard that on the radio and liked it, although it just sounded like everything else.
But by 1994, we were all ready for a different spin on the old grunge sound. And Superunknown was the answer. It rocked, it had energy, but also creativity. It's another one of those albums I listened to for about 6 months straight. Starting with Let Me Drown, it's packed with great songs. Fell On Black Days is one, although I'm sick of it. But I love these
Soundgarden - My Wave (live)
This is just a brilliantly written tune
Soundgarden - Head Down
This solo version has been widely played
Soundgarden - Black Hole Sun (live acoustic)