Amoeblog

One Album Wonders: Mad Season

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 2, 2015 02:31pm | Post a Comment

The Scientists were likely both grunge's inventors and the genre's first supergroup (members had previously played in Cheap Nasties, Slick City Boys, and Victims). However, if one hears “grunge supergroup” they more likely think of Temple of the Dog, a one album wonder the members of which had previously played in Seattle grunge bands including Soundgarden, Green River, and Skin Yard (as well as the not-really-grunge one album wonders Mother Love Bone and not-at-all Seattle - since they were from San Diego - Bad Radio). Mad Season, when they're remembered, are that other grunge supergroup. 
 
Mad Season's Above


Mad Season arrived pretty late on the scene, toward the end of 1994. In April of that year, Kurt Cobain had killed himself but alternative and music had by then long ceased to be anything remotely underground and was resolutely mainstream. In 1992, MTV had replaced 120 Minutes host Dave Kendall with, Lewis Largent and the program, which had previously showcased a host of bands playing diverse music became a parade of bands whose members dressed like Largent, in shorts, combat boots, flannel, and backwards baseball cap. If that wasn't mainstream enough, MTV also launched the ironically named Alternative Nation as a showcase for the manufactured corporate guitar rock favored by soulful dudebros (eg Candlebox and Stone Temple Pilots).
 

In 1993 Marc Jacobs had served up grunge realness on the catwalk for Perry Ellis -- five years after Martin Margiela had pretty much done the same thing, serving up a fantasy of homeless fashion for the one percent. By 1994 pre-ripped jeans and combat boots were part of a uniform adopted by the knavescene and celebrities like Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Keanu Reeves. Their female counterparts, such as emaciated supermodel Kate Moss,  were used to promote heroin chic. After not having heard any interesting new American rock in what seemed like forever, I gave up on it. I would hear the names of new bands, including Toadies, Seven Mary Three, Sky Cries Mary, Jars of Clay, Primitive Radio Gods, Eels, DC Talk, Duncan Sheik, Sister Hazel, Local H, and more. All would have their champions but like every Steven Spielberg movie since Raiders of the Lost Ark, if I gave any a chance I'd almost certainly be underwhelmed. 

 
 

Mad Season were one of those bands I was aware of but never heard the music of (until now). I was familiar with the most of members’ respective bands. Barrett Martin (drums) came from Screaming Trees, a psychedelia-tinged grunge act that I appreciated. Layne Staley was from Alice In Chains. He had an interesting voice, although Jerry Cantrell wrote that band's best songs. Mike McCready was a guitarist in Pearl Jam, a band whose first record I’d connected with when I lived on an Iowa hog farm and they were an actual alternative to the Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, Billy Ray Cyrus, and conservative classic rock playlist of KGGO that seemingly sustained my classmates. John Baker Saunders had played in a bunch of blues bands but after the end of Mad Season would play in the sometimes excellent Seattle (and not-at-all-grunge) band, The Walkabouts.

Saunders and McCready met whilst kicking heroin at a Minneapolis rehab facility. Upon returning to Seattle they formed a band with Martin and, after working on a couple of songs, brought in singer Staley, still very much in the throes of his own dope addiction, which ultimately killed him. They wrote a batch of songs quickly, rehearsed twice, played four shows and cranked out Above in just over a week in the studio. Given their respective bands, that Above is steeped in ‘70s arena rock theatrics comes as no surprise. Despite the guitar licks and solos, there are no real anthems though, or even especially memorable tunes. 

Martin adds nice bits of color with occasional double bass, cello, marimba, and vibraphone but the songs get by more on groove than melody. There's less color to the lyrics, however, which are relentlessly serious and unceasingly hopeless. Allmusic’s allstar reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine astutely observed that the album, “sounds like a cross between Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam.”
 

Above was Top 40 — it reached 24 and produced two expectedly nihilistically-toned singles, “River of Deceit” and “Don't Know Anything” but it wasn't apparently intended as anything more than a sidegig and after the album's release, the members returned to their day jobs. Attempts were made to revive the band but Staley’s addiction had worsened his health to the point where his involvement was impossible. Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan, who’d contributed vocals on several tracks on Above, took over lead vocals and the four continued as Disinformation. Disinformation began working on an album but when Saunders died of a heroin overdose in 1999, the band was again on hiatus. When Staley died in 2002 it seemed likely the end of Mad Season but in 2012 the surviving members (and Lanegan) joined Loaded singer Jeff Rouse and bassist Rick Friel to play once again. In an interview on Louisville’s WFPK McCready claimed that Mad Season were at work on a new album. However, when Above was re-released in 2013 it included five unreleased tracks from the unreleased second album and a disc of live material, and that was apparently the end of Mad Season.

The members of Mad Season’s primary bands were certainly influential on a quite a few bands but I've never heard anyone cite Mad Season as an influence. A search online of bands influenced by Mad Season led me to the Werehouse music website, which suggested Godsmack, Sinch, Creed, and 3 Doors Down. I’m not sure if Mad Season can be blamed for any of those (and I’ve never heard Sinch, who might be excellent for all I know) but I do blame Staley in part for the resurgence of the topknot. Ever since the 1970s there’s been a twenty year revival cycle and like clockwork, twenty years after Staley started rocking that ridiculous ‘do, a Pinterest memo went out to the world’s conformists alerting them that it was time to grow out their hipsterjugend 'dos into that most unflattering of hairstyles and within a fortnight the unflattering coiffure was being donned by the likes of Colin Farrell, Mr. Posh Spice (David Beckham) and every insufferable, pretentious bartender who wants to be referred to as a "mixologist." 

*****

Follow me at ericbrightwell.com

Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Flashback To 1994 SF Concert, A Reminder Of Those We've Lost

Posted by Billyjam, January 21, 2014 08:18am | Post a Comment

The other day I stumbled across the above flyer from now (gasp!) 20 years ago. It was for a rap/hip-hop concert with mostly Oakland/Bay Area acts at the long gone Townsend Club in San Francisco that took place on a Friday night, August 12th, 1994. It was for The Conscious Daughters (TCD), who that year released "We Roll Deep" on Bay Area hip-hopper Paris' label Scarface Records distributed by Priority Records, along with fellow Oakland rap talents Seagram, EA Ski & CMT, and Rally Ral, plus visiting Texas rap star Big Mike of the Geto Boys affiliation (misspelled "Ghetto Boys") on this basic design flyer. Beyond the initial reaction, as a longtime hip-hop fan/follower, to fondly reminisce on a golden time period in Bay Area rap the other thing that jumps out at me from this flyer is the sad realization that we have lost two of the famed Bay Area rap artists on this flyer way too early in their lives: promising East Oakland rapper signed to the Geto Boys' Rap-A-Lot Records label Seagram died at age 26 (he was shot) just as his career was starting to take off, while fierce female emcee Special One who was one half of The Conscious Daughters tragically died a little over two years ago (only in her 40's) as a result of complications associated with blood clots that had reached her lungs. In honor of both of these two fallen East Bay talents below are music videos from each: TCD's "We Roll Deep" and Seagram's Oakland themed 1993 gangsta rap single "The Ville" from the late rapper's album The Dark Roads (inset).

Continue reading...

The 90s...the best albums of 1994...

Posted by Brad Schelden, February 8, 2013 05:44pm | Post a Comment
The year is 1994. Here we are in the middle of the 90s. This list of my favorite 10 albums of 1994 was not hard to come up with. But I honestly can't think of too many other albums that I loved this year other than these 10. I listened to a lot less music back in 1994. What I mean to say is that I listened to a lot less different bands. I listened to music a lot and it was a big part of my life. But in these mid 90s years I mostly listened to the same artists and albums over and over again. I was very into Britpop throughout the mid 90s. But there are really only two albums on this 1994 list that were really classified as Britpop. But there are some big albums missing from my list this year. Definitely Maybe by Oasis was of course also released in 1994. But I am saving them for my 1995 list. Blur released Parklife and Suede released Dog Man Star in 1994. And these albums was also a big part of my life and two of my favorites of the year. But I have already picked my favorite Blur and Suede albums for 1993. Split by Lush was another one of my favorites of 1994. But I already have them in my 1992 list. Maybe I should take another look at my self made rule of only putting one album by each band in my entire 90s list. But I still think it is a good idea. I don't need to keep talking about each band over and over again. And I always have my favorite one album for each band. There is just also usually a second album by each band that I love almost as much. Both 1993 and 1994 were two of my favorite years of the 90s. They were very similar and included many of the albums that I can't imagine my life without. Six of the albums on my list for 1994 were from bands from England. So no surprise there.
So here it is. My top ten albums of 1994...

Pulp-His 'n' Hers (Island)
1994 will always be remembered as the year that I discovered Pulp. I am still not exactly sure how or when it happened. But I know it happened at some point at the end of 1993 or the beginning of 1994. It is hard to imagine my life as existing before I discovered this band. What is funny is that this band had existed for over a decade already! They had already released It in 1983, Freaks in 1987 and Separations in 1992. But I don't think any of my friends had ever even heard of this band until 1993. The band released two singles in 1993. "Razzmatazz" and "Lipgloss." Both ended up on the U.S. version of His 'n' Hers. His 'n' Hers also included "Babies," "Do You Remember The First Time," "Joyriders" & "Acrylic Afternoons." This album was released in April of 1994. I probably listened it more than anything on this list. Pulp really did seem to take over in 1994 and 1995. You either loved them of you just didn't know who they were. Jarvis Cocker was the amazing and hilarious leader and singer of Pulp. I seriously did not know that this band existed before 1993. It is an amazing story that they even lasted that long and finally made the big time in 1994 and 1995. I didn't actually go back and discover the older Pulp albums until years later. Different Class was released the following year. It was probably one of the most anticipated albums of 1995 for me. And it also became one of my all time favorite albums.

Stereolab-
Mars Audiac Quintet
(Elektra)

I still remember the first time I heard Stereolab. It was the year before this in 1993. Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements was released in 1993. One of my friends had it on cassette and I loved the name of the band. I loved the name of the album and the artwork. I didn't know anything about them. But I sort of already somehow knew that they would become one of my favorite bands. I never gave my friend's cassette back and I know I purchased Mars Audiac Quintet on CD as soon as it came out in 1994. I really did love everything about this band. I was hooked on this band for life after this album came out. They were seriously the coolest band that I liked and sounded like nothing that I had heard before. This was years before I had ever heard of bands like Neu! or Faust. They fit into my love of shoegaze and electronics. They were sort of a mix of lounge music and shoegaze. Emperor Tomato Ketchup came out two years later in 1996 and was probably their most popular album. Dots & Loops was released in 1997 and was probably the last album of theirs that I was obsessed with. But I will remain a fan of this band for life.

echobellyEchobelly-
Everyone's Got One
(Rhythm King)

Everyone's Got One was Echobelly's first album. I was hooked as soon as I first head "Insomniac." I think I might have read about this band a while before this album actually came out. But it really is one of the best albums from the years of Britpop. The album also featured "Father Ruler King Computer," "Bellyache," "Call Me Names" & "I Can't Imagine The World Without Me." Every album on this list takes me right back to 1994. But this album in particular. I am seriously transported right back to how I felt at the time. And I honestly remember being so happy when I listened to this album. This album just put me in a good mood. Echobelly went on to put out another great album On in 1995. They put out three more albums after that. But nothing was ever as great as this debut album. This is one of those albums that went out of print and is now surprisingly hard to find.

Heavenly-The Decline & Fall of Heavenly (Sarah)
Heavenly was probably the first band that I listened to on Sarah Records. A couple of years later I would be exposed to the greatness of Sarah Records and Blueboy, The Field Mice, Brighter & Even As We Speak. There is really nothing like this label. I love almost everything that they put out. But it all started with Heavenly. This was also the beginning of my love of twee music. Twee music and the jangly pop music associated with it had been around since the 80s. But I had not really been exposed to it until the mid 90s. Heavenly was basically a reformed Talulah Gosh. They had been around in the 80s. I would of course go back and become a fan of all things Heavenly after getting obsessed with this album. The album cover is ridiculously cute just like the music. Heavenly had already released Heavenly Vs Satan in 1991 & Le Jardin de Heavenly in 1992. And they put out one more album after this one. Those first three albums are all classics of the genre. Perfect and brilliant pop albums. Simpatico! by Velocity Girl almost took this spot in my top ten for this year. But Heavenly beat them out by a bit. But I did love both albums.

portisheadPortishead-Dummy (Go! Beat)
I can't think about 1994 without Portishead. I can't really even think about the 90s without thinking about this album. Dummy was everywhere in my life from 1994 to probably the end of the 90s. I am sure I listened to this album more than most anything else in my collection. This band seemed to come out of nowhere and just took over my life. I think most everyone I knew owned this album. This album was a blend of downtempo electronica and hip hop. Massive Attack had basically started the genre know as Trip Hop. But Portishead really made it crazy popular this year. Tricky released Maxinquaye the following year. This album is amazing from the beginning to the end. And it really still holds up after all these years. The album featured "Sour Times," "Numb," "Roads," "Glory Box" & "Mysterons." I really can't express enough my love for this album even all these years later. I did probably listen to it too much at the time. But after a bit of a break I still find myself going back to it a couple of times a year.

nine inch nailsNine Inch Nails-The Downward Spiral (Nothing)
This is another album that I simply could not ignore. This album was too important and too big to leave off this list. I was already a big fan of Nine Inch Nails way before this album came out. Pretty Hate Machine came out in 1989. However I probably didn't get really obsessed with that album until 1990 or 1991. The Broken EP came out in 1992. I was ready and waiting for this monumental album The Downward Spiral to finally be released in 1994. This album was huge. Like Dummy and Live Through This by Hole. They all dominated 1994 and 1995. I still watched a lot of MTV in 1994. And this album was all over MTV. The album featured "Mr. Self Destruct," "Piggy," "Closer," "March of the Pigs" & "Hurt." I don't think I listened to much else other then these 10 albums in 1994. Because I listened to them so much I really did not have time for much more. I do associate certain songs on this album with certain people in my life at the time. But I also did listen to this album a lot by myself. It is just one of those huge albums that will always be with me.

Sunny Day Real Estate-Diary
(Sub Pop)

Diary was the first album released by Sunny Day Real Estate. They were on Sub Pop like Nirvana and they were from Washington like Nirvana. They also infused elements of punk and metal. They were probably the first Emo band that I got into. I think I actually first heard this band on MTV on 120 Minutes. I was again hooked on another new band in 1994. Sunny Day Real Estate went on to release LP2 in 1995 and then broke up. They reformed in the late 90s and put out How It Feels To Be Something On in 1998. That album was also one of my favorites of 1998. This band always remained sort of a mystery to me. I knew very little about them. But I really did love this album and do still consider myself a big fan of this band. I go back to this album often. The album is an emotional journey for me. It makes me feel all emo again every time that I listen to it.

tortoiseTortoise-Tortoise (Thrill Jockey)
1994 will also be remembered by me as the year that I discovered Tortoise and the year that I discovered Thrill Jockey. I will be honest and admit that I only listened to this album because this dude I had a crush on told me that I had to listen to it. So I of course went and bought it so that we would have something to talk about. But I did end of becoming a big fan. This album sounded like nothing that I had heard before. I had never listened to anything remotely jazzy my whole life. I was into checking out new things this year. And Tortoise was for sure a new thing for me. They were a sort of post rock mash up of electronica and jazz and rock. This album is what I think of when I think of Chicago. This was their first album. I also really liked their next couple of records. Millions Now Living Will Never Die in 1996, TNT in 1998 & Standards in 2001. I became hooked on the label Thrill Jockey after this album. And got into albums by The Sea & Cake, Trans Am, Eleventh Dream Day, Mouse On Mars & Oval. I had not listened to this album in over 10 years probably. But it has been fun to rediscover this band and remember why I got into them in the first place.

bark psychosisBark Psychosis-Hex (Caroline)
This was one of those records that I bought just based on the cover. I knew nothing about Bark Psychosis. But I liked the name of the band and the cover. It also fit right in next to my Tortoise album. They were sort of a darker version of Tortoise. They were from London but still had that post rock sound. They have some instrumental songs like Tortoise. But they have vocals on this album as well. The album is sort of a combination of Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil with the jazzy post rock sound of a Tortoise album. This is sort of goth jazz. The album is still intense and dark. And I do remember often listening to this album when I was a bit depressed. But it always seemed to help me out of it. I am not sure this album would have the same effect on me if I was listening to it for the first time in 2013. I listened to this album many times throughout the mid to late 90s. I took a long break from this album like the Tortoise album. But it just got reissued on LP a couple of months ago so I was able to revisit it and fall in love with it all over again.

hole live through thisHole-Live Through This (DGC)

I still remember going to buy this album the week that it came out. It came out on April 12th 1994. Just a couple of days after Kurt Cobain died. I turned 20 a couple of weeks after that. It was an important year in my life for many reasons. Hole had already released Pretty On The Inside in 1991. But this was my first Hole album. It was just a crazy and sad set of circumstances surrounding this album. But the album still became a huge record that year. And everyone either hated or loved Courtney Love and Hole. I always try and imagine what the rest of the 90s would have been like with Kurt Cobain still around. But I was happy to have this album to console myself. The album featured "Violet," "Miss World," "Jennifer's Body," "Asking For It" & "Doll Parts." There is no denying how great this album really is. And it still holds up against any album released since then. I really got obsessed with this album and Courtney Love throughout the rest of the 90s. It is the kind of record that gets me a bit down and emotional. It is sort of like Courtney Love's version of emo. I can seriously listen to "Doll Parts" over and over again. This is another great record from 1994 that I will never forget. A record that will always be attached to my life in 1994.

Check for these albums here on Amoeba.com

Check out the video for "Glory Box" by Portishead from the album Dummy...



Check out the video for "Seven" by Sunny Day Real Estate from the album Diary...