music-related; previously focused on obscurity, lately altogether unfocused

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Played 49 times

ditch croaker - “Thieves and Monumentals”

Imagine it’s the 90’s and you’re in a band. You’ve written a bunch of wonderful tunes and you want people to hear them, but laptop studios and mp3’s are only in the process of being invented, and blogs are still a few years away.

Still, you do want people to hear your music, so you make your own cassettes and 7” singles and you pile into a big van and you spend a couple of years playing many many shows. The label industry begins to take notice, and one day Reprise records offers you a contract. They’re going to put you on their brand new alternative imprint, In Bloom. They send you to Hartford to make a shimmering beauty of a post-grunge pop record with Rich Costey at Studio 45. Your buddy Kurt is down the hall, making Better Can’t Make Your Life Better. Veni, vidi, vici – things are looking peachy.

You head out on tour, opening for The Flaming Lips, with your new album in hand. The record’s selling well at shows… but every time you stop into a store, they don’t have it. Something is very wrong.

See, what has happened is your label head has been let go. The new label head wants to make his own mark, so he’s pulling the plug on In Bloom and axing it’s roster of artists. The label owns your record for the next seven years but is not going to sell or distribute it. Your record is stillborn. So sorry.

You make another record on your own, but the effort of doing so in the wake of tragedy tears your band apart.

Your band was ditch croaker. Your record was Secrets Of The Mule.

ditch croaker – “Meatgrinder” via YouTube

Played 175 times

Helium - “XXX”

And to get right back on my Matador At Twenty-One high horse, Helium is another band from that label’s “golden era” who appear to be notoriously absent from the proceedings.  1994’s Pirate Prude is an especially delicious offering, Mary Timony’s guitar blurring and slurring and burrowing and buzzing like a quaalude on a lazy summer Sunday beneath her breathy alto purr of lyrics like “I wear my heart around my neck like a locket.. so I can take it off.”  What end awaited those who succumbed to that kind of crazy siren’s call?  Only Ash Bowie knows, and unless cryptic Polvo and Libraness lyrics count, he’s not telling.

Helium, circa Ash Bowie

One of a slew of excellent 90’s indie records made at Philadelphia’s Studio Red (Ditch Croaker, Lilys, Versus, to name some others) with Adam Lasus.

Helium - “Baby Vampire Made Me” via YouTube

Helium - “XXX” via YouTube