Album – Dig (Self Titled)
Artist - Dig
Key Players – Anthony Smedile – drums. Phil Friedmann -bass. Johnny Cornwell – guitar. Jon Morris – guitar and backing vocals. Scott Hackwith – lead vocals, guitar.
Produced By – Dave Jerden and Dig
Release Date - 1993
What caused me to blow off the dust? - I recall a song or two, but stumbled upon this in a buy 2 get one free bin...and the rack was all $1.00 cds to start with..sooooooooooooo.
Overview – Los Angeles, California based band Dig formed in 1991 at the dawn of the grunge movement. They'd blend grunge with alternative rock and a dash of shoegaze. They'd garner their lone “hit” from this record (“Believe”) which would be played on MTV and chart on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts. They have issued two follow up records.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - “Let Me Know” opens with a big wall of guitars, after a few looping riffs one guitar breaks out some before the bass and drums join in. It has that early 90's alternative rock feel. Hackwith has his vocals compressed and the band resorts to the big guitars after each verse, filling with big riffs. The drums and bass are low in the mix, freeing it up for the three guitar players to strum along. It is not overly interesting musically and the compressed vocals get a little grating. At the same time the band seems to be working on setting their own sound. We get a quick guitar solo before returning to the main hook of guitars and the song concludes. We get a more “grunge” feel at the start of “I'll Stay High” with the guitars having more a deep tone. The bass is a little more a focal point repeating the same few notes. The band repeats the intro riffs before getting a little more aggressive and Hackwith begins to sing. Uncompressed, Hackwith has a decent set of pipes for a rock band. The band likes to lock in to a riff and there are no break out drum, bass or guitar fills/solos. They keep the track in a straight line for the verse/chorus and second verse. They get a little hushed before the chorus but come up back and heavy and it then ends abruptly. A single, out of tune guitar opens up “Unlucky Friend” with Hackwith singing along, sometimes not really on key. This goes on for about one minute, then the full band comes in. Semdile hits the drums a little harder and they band seems to “right the ship” after the intro. It still feels pretty vanilla for a rock tune. We get the first real guitar solo with just one guitar taking the lead and the others giving chords. It comes back around but mellows out where it could have taken off. Hackwith takes the song back through another verse and feels almost “too long”.
“Anymore” is a little atmospeheric. I can see/hear why the band had a shoegaze tag, but up to this point barring the intro they are not a band I'd call shoegaze. Hackwith is hushed on his vocal delivery while Smedile is hesitant to take off on the drums. Friedmann seems to be a little more open on his bass and you can hear some nice fills on the back sides of the verses. This is the most laid back track up to this point (only 4 tracks in). The track has a false ending after the guitar solo, just another short guitar interlude, but makes for an odd ending. “Conversation” starts off as such, a series of people talking and bottles opening et all. The guitar and drums begin to set the tone, but Hackwith is singing very slowly as the conversations continue underneath. After the second verse the band comes in a little harder and heavier and Hackwith pushes himself. The band is quick to change their mind, where a heavier section could continue they fall back to a more somber/blues riff. When that should go on, the vocals take over. It is an curious song, can't sing along to it too well, but has some big riffs at times. The track that was the single comes in “Believe”. Here I can see a little of the “shoegaze” tag. Friedmann and Smedile start things off and while one guitar buzzes a second does more of the big swooping notes one would associate with “shoegaze”. Hackwith pushes himself just right on the vocals and the backing vocals from Morris are very nice. The track blend a great bit of rock with the more “jangle” of the guitar. We haven't heard the good harmonies until now and the band latches on and this works to their benefit. They seem to do the chorus that one extra time which is a nice touch since it works so well. Smedile rumbles the drums again and the guitars ring out over it as the song wraps up. “Feet Don't Touch the Ground” has a swirling intro as well, with Friedmann high in the mix and the guitars working off the drum line. As the verse starts everyone settles back and lets the song begin to take a more focused shape. Morris again is on backing vocals for the chorus and guitars seem to come at you from everywhere before the bass rings out. This track is really a stand out from a production standpoint as each player seems to be on the same level. The bass work is the most exciting with some bigger/swooping fills. A decent track. “Ride the Wave” gets back to the more driving rock feel with some big runs on the bass and drums. “Green Room” has a laid back feel on the instruments and vocals as the band sings about getting high, but they break out after the first verse where everything seems to get louder and faster before it settles down again. They repeat this formula a few times. “Tight Brain” is a tight rocking opener, the band sounds best at times like this, just a big whallop to the ears. They are in and out in just over 2 minutes. “Fuck You” has some chugging guitars and bass and, as one would expect its a pretty straight forward song with regard to subject matter. The album concludes with the track “Decide” a little more slow and mellow dramatic track. Lots of emotion pouring out but it feels a little out of place at the same time. Sort of a drag to end the record with. Oh but wait, there is a rowdy rocker at the end, its a different track, but not broken off the final track. It sounds a little “rough” and the band is just making some rock noise as Hackwith sings some unrecognizable lyrics. It ends abruptly, thankfully.
Where are they now? - The band is still listed as being active, their last release was in 1999. The band is largely intact as well. Cornwell and Smedile have been replaced.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – I never saw the band live.
FDF Overall Take – The first few songs are average at best. It feels very generic and almost boring at times. It was just “that time” in music when labels were after anything “grunge”. It hasn't aged the best, sounds a bit cliché and is largely unremarkable. “Believe” is the stand out to these ears and is worth seeking out.
Sorry for the lack of an update last week. I was “off the grid” as they say. A music junkie never rests really though and I was able to get to a cool little indie music shop on my time off and I grabbed a fair number of cds that are strong candidates for future entries.
I guess when I write “What caused me to to blow off the dust” I'll have to admit that it was the “Buy 2 for a buck get a third for free” cuz the deals were that good.
Album – International Pop Overthrow
Artist – Material Issue
Key Players – Ted Ansani – bass, vocals. Jim Ellison – guitars, lead vocals. Mike Zelenko – drums.
Produced By – Material Issue and Jeff Murphy
Release Date – February 5, 1991
What caused me to blow off the dust? - I actually read on another blog how vastly under rated this band is/was and it got me to thinking I needed to go back to see for myself.
Overview – This was the debut album from Chicago power pop band “Material Issue”. The band formed in 1985 and would form in college and release an ep before recording this debut full length. The label reportedly didn't expect it to sell too well, but it would sell about 180,000 copies in the US and would reach number 86 on the Billboard charts. The band would release two more full length records to even less fanfare and they'd be dropped by the label. They'd garner a strong reputation for their live shows and their hard work seemed to be turning things around with new material and a hopeful new deal. Sadly Ellison committed suicide in June of 1996.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) – The album starts with the bands highest charting single in “Valerie Loves Me”. The song would hit #3 on the Modern Rock charts. Opening with a lone guitar before Zelenko comes in with Ansani. The bass and drums have a light pop bounce to them and Ellison begins to sing. It has a little UK pop band vibe to it, as the verse comes towards an end the band gets urgent and they return to the simple, more calm back beat. They do this leading in to the chorus when Ellison screams the song title. They like to do the quiet to loud bit a few times, each coming off the verse and before the chorus is shouted. “Diane”, the second of three songs in a row with a woman's name in it, again starts with the guitar before Ansani really comes up on the bass. Ellison has a scowl to his voice while it still keeps the light heartedness. This track seems to be a little bit easier on the ears than the first for its pop/radio friendly aspect. This track was also released as a single from the record. Ansani and Ellison have good harmonies and there is a short instrumental break after the second verse, but no real flashy guitar. The chorus is one of those easy to sing along to anthems sure to have you clapping along (or tapping your feet at the very least). The third song with a female name in the title comes in “Renee Remains the Same”. Once again, a single guitar starts the track off before the bass and drums. Ansani has a strong stroke on the bass and Zelenko is careful to not open up too much on the drum line. The guitar has a great sound to it and the band is very tight. The band is quickly establishing its sound and pop sensibility. There is not a lot to be bummed out about on this record. “This Letter” seems to pull some acoustic guitar and is a little more laid back than the other tracks up to this point. The backing vocals and drums are much more in the mix on this. The drums are struck hard but within the context of the track. The guitar(s) compliment the range that Ellison works to push. The harmonies later in the track are once more strong and Zelenko is hard at work on the percussive instruments. After a quick short drum burst “Out Right Now” comes right in with the vocals. Ellison seems to be spirited in his delivery here and the song has a quicker vocal delivery. He gets aggressive at the chorus, but it is more an urgent push than “anger” if that makes any sort of sense. The mix on this track (and the record) is very good, the subtle shake of the tambourine is just as high in the mix as the bass and guitar. We are also in and out of the song in under 2 minutes. “Crazy” has the big dueling stadium rock sounding guitar as the vocals come in. Ansani has a strong bass line that punches at the right time while Zelenko continues to shine on the drums. Ellison and Ansani harmonize nicely at the chorus as the song keeps its wonderful pop bounce for the duration. Ellison has about as big a guitar solo as he has had. It is nothing flashy at all, and once again the band uses the right balance with the length of it before coming back in for another round of the chours. “Chance of a Lifetime” is a little more dark feeling and Zelenko and Ansani set the tone. The drums are choppy, at a marching band tempo. The harmonies are very strong at the chorus with the highs and lows more extreme than they have been. You can really hear the band break things apart vocally. Once again Ellison has a run on the guitar and the band is a bit more frantic here. It is a nice change for the band, and again they know the right time to switch back to the poppy chorus. The title track, “International Pop Overthrow” follows and it has almost a “Ramones” feel at the start. Everyone is firing off one another and the vocals seem a little compressed and distorted some. It is a pop/punk track without a doubt and the repetition of the chorus I find simply charming. We lay it back some on “Very First Lie”. Acoustic guitars come out and Zelenko finds comfort on the rim of his snare. It is not a ballad, but it is a heartfelt song, as you can tell by the way the lyrics are delivered. The band gets a little antsy and rock out more about 1:40 in and it gets a bit more urgent. The drums are higher in the mix to push it along but Ellison has struck a chord and lays it all out there. Ellison opens “Trouble” with some big pop power chords before Ansani and Zelenko kick it in to higher gear. At this point I realize that Ellison is one of those singers, that you might not see as being “excellent” but for what he does in the context of the tunes is perfect. He seems to understand the right range to go, and I never hear him strain to get to a particular range. The song is a straight up rocker with a burst of guitar for good measure. “There Was A Few” finds Ellison right up on the vocals from the start. Everyone seems to be a little more in the background with their instruments at the start. The guitar is not flashy and the drums don't overpower. The band was looked at as a version of the “Replacements” and that seems to hold true on the pop punk “This Far Before”. The guitars and bass just chop in to you and the drums drive right at you. The harmonies continue to be very strong, they have this down. We go a little mellow again on “A Very Good Idea” which is strumming guitar chords from Ellison with a very simple Zelenko drum part put down. The lead up to the chorus is nice and the bass of Ansani starts to swell up wonderfully, a mellow track as noted, but far from a “ballad”. “Lil Christine” is a rocking album closer with Ellison slicing across the strings for a few bars at the intro and having the bass and drums come right in. A strong album closer showing off all the elements that make the record so strong, the harmonies and most notably the fine playing from each member.
Where are they now? - After Ellisons death in 1996 what was recorded by the band was released as “Telecommando Americano” in 1997. Ansani still works in the music business, released solo work and played with many bands. Zelenko also still performs most recently linked to a band called “The Ladies and Gentlemen”. In 2011 Zelenko and Ansani reformed the band for one show as “Material Re-Issue” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IPO. The gig went well enough the band was slated to play again in June of 2011. There is a music festival named in honor of this album as well. (See links)
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw the band live.
FDF Overall Take – So, are they under rated? I will have to say yes, but not WILDLY under rated. It is not criminal that people may not know who they are, but if you like pop/punk, pop rock with that 90's alternative feel you will be right at home. The harmonies are really strong, and they are very full sounding for a trio. I enjoyed going back to this record and I am sure I'll dust off the others to just listen while they are on the brain.
Disclaimer – By now people realize this was a “made up band”. I realize this as well. Rather than try to be funny, and continue with the parody I'll treat this like any other release from a band (fictional or otherwise) with the write up and where are they now etc.
Album – Break Like the Wind Artist – Spinal Tap Key Players - Derek Smalls – bass and vocals. David St.Hubbins – guitar and vocals. Nigel Tufnel – lead guitars and vocals. Caucasian Jeffery Vanston – keyboards. Ric Shrimpton - drums
Produced By - Danny Kortchmar
Release Date - 1992
What caused me to blow off the dust? - I can honestly admit hardly a week will pass that I don't think of, or quote something from the film. I tend to focus on the “black album” and don't, or haven't spent much time on the others, so this was just a good excuse.
Overview – This was the follow up album from the band “Spinal Tap”. Their debut was the soundtrack for the film “This is Spinal Tap”. This is the 13th (fictional) or 2nd “legit” release from the band
FDF Comments (aka the songs) We get hit right away with the bass and drums as “Bitch School” starts. St.Hubbins has the lead vocals and has a certain ring to his voice. The guitars are crunchy and the drums are straight forward. Smalls bass work is a little hidden but he and Tufnel offer some harmonies on the chorus before the first guitar solo gets underway. Shrimpton shows attention to his ride cymbal and the band follows the standard rock format of verse/chorus/verse. “The Majesty of Rock” has a quicker tempo than the opener. The band falls in to the mystic, magic type feeling. The keyboards are big and there are big orchestral feeling sweeps. The style will get you to crack a smile for their overall vibe on the song. The lyrics are sung quickly but it is the over the top feeling of the music that is fun. Tufnel gives a quick guitar solo with an instrumental breakdown along with him. Shrimpton hits the drums pretty hard as Smalls slides down the bass strings. Dweezil Zappa sits in on guitar and opens “Diva Fever” with a punch. The lyrics are chanted and sung quickly about how the band can't go back to places, or women of their past. Zappa gets to really show off, I honestly never knew he was as strong as he is. He gets a few turns to really show off, and he doesn't disappoint. Another one that blew my mind was singing backing vocals on “Just Begin Again” was none other than Cher. Yes..that Cher (is there another?) A much mellower track, full of a string section and piano intro to boot. The band shows their sensitive side. The first part Cher is hardly heard, but she gets a solo verse after a Tufnel guitar solo. St.Hubbins sings along with Cher at times as well and the two sound quite good together and at one point both holding a high note almost comically long. A fun and funny head scratcher of a song. The rock comes back with “Cash on Delivery” with the guitars both feeding off one another. Timothy B.Schmit (The Eagles) offers up backing vocals with Tommy Funderburk. The song has that big 70's arena rock sing along feel to it. The harmonies in the backing vocals are strong and the Tap never fails when it comes to a guitar solo, short or long. Smalls gets to run off the bass before the return of the verses. “The Sun Never Sweats” comes at you with some neat synth and guitars working in tandem. The band does have a big sound more often than not. The vocals are clear and the harmonies continue to be strong. The band has struck a chord, because the sun doesn't sweat..now does it? Good point guys. The guitar solo is quick and to the point, before the band finds a neat syncopation to change things up before the verse resumes. We keep with a “sun” theme in “Rainy Day Sun”. This track as a beatles type feel. The piano intro and the vocals sung only through the right channel will do that. The London Panharmonic Orchestra compliment the piano work from Nicky Hopkins and the strings continue to round things out. The orchestral part is rather long and really breaks the mold for the bands sound. “Break Like the Wind” is chock full of guitar guests. Tufnel will take the middle solo, but Slash, Jeff Beck and Joe Satriani all play on the track as well as Steve Lukather from the band Toto. The early verse has you unsure where these guitar players are, but after part of the first verse it all opens up. Once the guitars do come in, do they ever come in. Each player gets a run and you can pick out the styles pretty easily, with each screeching higher than the last and playing faster than the last. It all ends on a big note and you breathe a sigh of relief. “Stinking up the Great Outdoors” follows with Jimmy Wood on harmonica opening the track before St.Hubbins starts to sing. Waddy Wacchtel provides a great slide guitar solo over this fun bluesy stomp rocker. Tufnel takes the lead vocals on “Springtime”. The track still has the big rock feel but has more keyboard work from Vanston than other tracks. Tufnel sounds great, with a little more of a soothing voice than St.Hubbins, but each fills the correct moment so it is a nice mix. The track has sort of an odd approach after the second verse, seemingly falling apart before it comes back around. “Clam Caravan” is another track that Tufnel take the lead vocals on. Luis Conte adds percussion and Steve Lukather piano. Tufnel spreads his wings even more playing the Coral Sitar. This is the most mellow, ballad sounding track on the album. Tufnel is laid back in the vocals and once the sitar comes in the band has you feeling as though you are in a caravan. It is a little plodding at times, but the band continues to shine by not just playing, or doing the things you think a rock band should. Schmit and Funderburk offer vocal back ups on “Christmas with the Devil”. A rock and roll Christmas song, you don't hear this on the radio at the holidays..time to fix that folks. It could be the extended guitar solo that keeps people away, not really sure but it rips pretty darn good. Track 13 is not listed on the liner notes or in the lyrics. A piano track with spoken lyrics, almost more of a story told by St.Hubbins and Tufnel It is less than 2:30 long as well. The album wraps up with the track “All the Way Home” a song the band mentions (and sings a capella in the film). This time around it has a more rockabilly feel with the guitars and drums. The recording has the “rough demo” sound to it as well which adds a nice touch.
Where are they now? - As far as “Spinal Tap” the band would release a third album in 2009 called “Back from the Dead”. This was viewed as a 25th Anniversary Tour/Album etc. Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls) continues to voice multiple characters on “The Simpsons”.
Christopher Guest (Nigel Tufnel)- has been married to actress Jamie Lee Curtis since 1984. Guest has worked in film and music in various roles for years.
Michael McKean (David St.Hubbins)- has kept busy with TV roles, (Winning a celebrity Jeopardy tournamnet) working on stage, screen. He continues to play music as well.
All three of them have extensive reumes. Reading their wiki pages alone will impress most.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – Yes, Spinal Tap has toured, yet I did not go see them. Shame on me.
FDF Overall Take – There are moments for sure. As noted the band are VERY accomplished musicans. They write and play very well together and with others. Some of the lyrics will get you to roll your eyes, but chuckle at the same time. If anyone was to look for Tap music they'd probably go with the albums soundtrack as that is the most familiar. Still, this is worth tracking down, even of its just for “Bitch School” and the guitar solos.