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

Mudhoney Doc "I’m Now" Premieres in San Francisco August 4th at The Vogue Theatre

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, July 18, 2012 04:20pm | Post a Comment
Head on out to The Vogue Theatre on August 4th for the San Francisco premier of I’m Now, a documentaryI'm Now Mudhoney about the seminal band Mudhoney, directed/edited/produced by Ryan Short and Adam Pease. 

Today Mudhoney stands as one of the only survivors of a musical movement that inspired a generation and changed Rock and Roll forever. The band’s seminal hit “Touch Me I’m Sick” is on the short list of songs that define Grunge, the early ‘90s rock renaissance and, let’s face it, is one of the best rock songs ever, regardless of genre niche or time period. Mudhoney’s music and attitude have inspired countless artists and continue to do so today.

This documentary tells the story of Mudhoney from their very beginnings, to following them on their recent world tour and everything in between. Complete with testimonials from friends, music industry veterans, and musicians such as Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, and Mudhoney themselves, this movie shows the true story of the founding fathers of Grunge (please do not describe Mudhoney as the founding fathers of Grunge).

Get your tickets HERE!
Follow @AmoebaSF on Twitter for a chance to win tickets to see I'm Now!

(In which we consider Vince Clarke.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 22, 2008 10:49am | Post a Comment

Vince Clarke, worshiping in his own way.

Oh! Something I meant to tell you: The other day I was talking on the phone to Vince Clarke about Yazoo (or Yaz, for those few of you who live in the quaint li’l province of The United States of America). He’s on tour right now with the indomitable Alison Moyet. For those of us who discovered the two, flawless Yaz albums in youth and remained loyal to the duo long after they weren’t to each other, this reunion tour is nothing short of a miracle.

Corey and I saw them perform recently and I’m telling you now, kids – find out when they’re playing near you, buy your tickets fast and GO! I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a concert more.



Because I signed away all legal rights (I wasn’t using them anyhow) I can’t post my chat with Mr. Clarke on the Amoeblog, but you can read it by clicking on the sentence below:

This sentence serves no purpose other than providing a convenient link upon which you may click with your (rather dirty and in need of cleaning) mouse.

In other news, a bunch of we Amoebites went to the Hollywood Bowl Sunday night to see Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Feist, but I’m not going to report on it until Logan sends me the [insert cuss word here] pictures.

So, what does this blog entry have to offer you besides promises of reports elsewhere available?

Well… um… how about this?



No, but that’s not good enough. Last I checked, Amoeba Music isn’t selling baked goods (although there’s rumors that we might replace our Freestyle section with a smoothie stand).

My mind is still with Vince Clarke. He’s brilliant. My favorite Depeche Mode album is their debut, Speak & Spell, for which he did the music.



He then quit the band and formed Yazoo, which (sadly) only produced two albums: Upstairs at Eric’s (Eric being E.C. Radcliffe, one of the producers) and You and Me Both, which has the distinction of having my favorite cover album art of all time (at least, I think so – don’t hold me to that).


From 1983 to 1985, Mr. Clarke formed The Assembly, which was more a project than a group. The concept was that Clarke would write music that different vocalists would sing for. Very little output came out of this, though it did produce one UK hit, “Never Never.”



After that came Erasure. I remember, in high school, being backstage at our production of Camelot in which I played Tom of Warwick (which meant I spent two hours backstage and, at the finale, running on stage dressed like a cross between Gidget and Bea Arthur and screaming precociously to King Arthur). One of the techies, a pretty girl named Star, was listening to her Walkman. I asked if I could hear her music and she offered it to me. It was their album Wild! and I thought it was keen, but for whatever reason I could not manage the name Erasure.

“It’s Erasure,” she informed me.

“A razor?” I asked.

“No, Erasure,” she said again, unjustifiably annoyed and taking the Walkman back. But I still didn’t hear correctly and for the next year I thought my new favorite band was called Your Asia. Which isn’t a bad name for a band, actually. Any of you readers who’ve recently formed a music group but not yet decided on a name, might I suggest you call yourselves Your Asia? It’s yours for free, but please do give me props in your “special thanks” section.

It’s rare these days to find anyone outside the GLBT community who’s willing to take Erasure seriously, which is a shame. Their lyrics are unabashedly vulnerable and romantic, and certainly go against the grain of what we collectively signed onto when we looked to the Seattle grunge scene to determine what was proper etiquette for cool.


The in sound from way out.

I’m no exception. At a certain point I decided they were “too” something and stopped listening, but recently I’ve been re-investigating their catalogue and secretly enjoying them. I’m still sometimes embarrassed by Andy Bell’s gushing, emotive vocals, but their ability to craft a catchy pop song is undeniable. They rival ABBA in their understanding of what makes a song stick in your head happily. Someday, when you’re not feeling so cynical, you should give them another chance.

Of course, enough time has passed for even you hard-hearted Hannahs to enjoy their 80’s catalogue. If nothing else, you can shield yourself in the cloak of irony which is so fashionable these days. (Just be certain to accessorize appropriately.) And if anyone gives you grief for rocking out to some Erasure, just point out the ridiculous amount of Journey in their iPod and tell them to feck right off.
 

FINALLY, A FILM ABOUT THE REAL PIONEERS OF GRUNGE: TAD

Posted by Billyjam, January 29, 2008 08:00am | Post a Comment

They may never have made as big a splash commercially as some of the other "grunge" (a genre they pioneered) acts out of the Great North West, but Tad (named after band leader & ex-butcher Tad Doyle), who formed in 1988, sure made their mark in other lasting ways.

They were banned by MTV, sued by Pepsi, dropped by their label and got into heavy drinking and drugging, not to mention heavy situations, it seemed, wherever they went-- including landing in legal trouble over the found picture of a couple that they utilized (without permission) as an album cover.

Now finally there is a film about the long-defunct band Tad.  Titled Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears and made by Ryan Short and Adam Pease for King of Hearts Productions, it's planned for release on DVD on February 19th. Check out the clip above and visit the film makers' MySpace for more info on this documentary which looks like it will be pretty damn good.

Exactly twenty years ago, in early '88, Tad was formed by singer/guitarist Tad Doyle and bassist Kurt Danielson who recruited both Gary Thorstensen as guitarist and Steve Wied (formerly of Skin Yard) as their drummer. That was the original lineup and the band signed to the then new label Sub Pop, who released their debut album God's Balls in early 1989. The album track "Wood Goblins" was released as a single and video but was reportedly banned by MTV over content (scroll down to see the video).

Continue reading...