Dig Me Out - The 90s rock podcast
#536: Lo-Fi in the 90s

#536: Lo-Fi in the 90s

April 20, 2021

Lo-fi isn't unique to the 1990s, but it is the first decade that the recording technique (meaning literally "lo-fidelity") merged with indie rock and take on a genre identity. Artists like Pavement, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, Liz Phair, and more found their bedroom and basement recordings appealing to more than just a tape-trading crowd with the advent of cheap CD reproduction and small labels with better distribution. But it begs the question - is lo-fi simply a recording technique based on circumstance, or an aesthetic artists strive for to attain a particular emotional effect.

 

Song In This Episode

Intro - I Am A Scientist by Guided By Voices

12:57 - Splendid Isolation by The Bevis Frond

22:49 - Drive All Over Town by Elliott Smith

32:37 - Losercore by Sentridoh

45:56 - Parting Shot by The Grifter

1:06:38 - Anytime You Want by Eric's Trip

Outro - Summer Babe (Winter Version) by Pavement

 

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#535: Rotting Piñata by Sponge

#535: Rotting Piñata by Sponge

April 13, 2021

After the early 90s explosions of Seattle grunge and alternative rock, labels swept up bands from across the country (and globe) that had any sonic resemblance to the chart toppers. By 1994, the signing frenzy was in full swing, and bands new and old found their way to major labels. Some were teenagers from Australia, while others might have veterans of midwestern hard rock and metal bands, as was the case with Sponge. If there is a reason why their major label debut Rotting Piñata from 1994 sounds so confident, it's because these weren't first timers figuring it out. That confidence shows as the album balances tight, melodic singles with album tracks that incorporate a wide pallet of influences from 80s Psychedelic Furs and R.E.M. to 90s shoegaze and metal.

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - Molly

16:32 - Miles

18:00 - Neenah Menasha

28:00 - Giants

31:36 - Pennywheels

Outro - Drowned

 

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#534: Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope by Jimmie’s Chicken Shack

#534: Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope by Jimmie’s Chicken Shack

April 5, 2021

Bands only get to make their debut album once, but for Jimmie's Chicken Shack, a few practice swings paid off. Taking tracks from several low-profile independent releases and combining them for the 1997 major label debut means the material on Pushing the Salmanilla Envelope sounds refined and well-thought-out without being stale and lifeless. Unlike some contemporaries who relied on thick, down-tuned guitars to push their angst, JCS work in layers of intricate guitar leads that recall 1970s progressive rock or 90s math rock but with a funk metal twist.

 

Songs In This Episode

Intro - High

21:00 - Dropping Anchor

24:16 - When You Die You're Dead

33:14 - This Is Not Hell

36:02 - Milk

Outro - Hole

 

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#533: Bring On The Juice by Hoss

#533: Bring On The Juice by Hoss

March 30, 2021

We've listened to plenty of Australian 90s rock that made little to no impact in the United States many times but rarely has a band sounded so US-based in its influences as Hoss. On their third album Bring On The Juice, swinging punk rhythms recall Detroit's 70s action rock scene, while more dissonant moments sound like pre-90s grunge from the likes of Mudhoney or early Dinosaur Jr. Attitude, confidence, and swagger abound on these eleven tracks, sometimes leading the band into overly long excursions that could use some trimming. But overall, Hoss finds a way to sound off the moment and timeless concurrently, not an easy feat to pull off.

 

Songs In This Episode

Intro - 11:11 Again

21:36 - Mighty Hand

28:04 - Lip From Lip

31:27 - Gentle Claws

Outro - The Tiredest Man Awake

 

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#532: Sophomore Slump Revisited - Congratulations, I’m Sorry by Gin Blossoms

#532: Sophomore Slump Revisited - Congratulations, I’m Sorry by Gin Blossoms

March 23, 2021

While 1996's Congratulations, I'm Sorry charted higher than 1992's New Miserable Experience for the Gin Blossoms, it failed to produce the same number of singles and managed only a quarter of the sales. The simplistic answer is to pin the decline on the loss of guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, who penned their biggest and most enduring hit "Hey Jealousy." But as we have learned, the landscape changed fast for bands in 90s rock. NME singles made an impact in 1993 and 1994, and the band's contribution to the Empire Records soundtrack, "Til I Hear It From You," was also a hit. Is it possible listeners had Gin Blossoms fatigue in 1996? The album charted well upon release, and "Follow You Down" was a hit, but no other singles connected, and the band would break-up the following year for a four-year hiatus. So does Congratulations, I'm Sorry deserve its sophomore slump status, or is it worthy of redemption?

 

Songs In This Episode

Intro - Follow You Down

20:38 - Virginia

30:54 - Day Job

45:46 - Competition Smile

Outro - As Long As It Matters

 

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#531: Mint 400 by Ammonia

#531: Mint 400 by Ammonia

March 16, 2021

By 1995, it was difficult for American "alternative" bands to make a dent in the US, let alone a rookie Australian band on a new label with just a handful of releases to crack MTV and radio. Ammonia did that with the quirky single "Drugs," which found singer/guitarist Dave Johnstone melding the quiet/loud bombast of Nirvana with a delivery more reminiscent of Wayne Coyne. But "Drugs" is the classic case of a single not exactly representing the sound of the record, as the rest of Mint 400 shifts between big fuzzed-out riffing in the vein of Swervedriver's shoegaze and Superchunk's early noise pop. The band works best in short, loud bursts, only losing focus when the tempo drops and running time drags.

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - Drugs

22:17 - Suzi Q

30:40 - Ken Carter

43:41 - Mint 400

Outro - Sleepwalking

 

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#530: Friction, Baby by Better Than Ezra

#530: Friction, Baby by Better Than Ezra

March 9, 2021

Of the all bands that scored alternative hits in the 90s rock, few managed to recapture that sales magic on ensuing albums. But that doesn't mean their follow-ups records were lesser, and in some cases they made superior albums that got overlooked by fickle record buyers. Case in point: Better Than Ezra. After having their 1993 self-released sophomore album Deluxe repackaged and reissued by Elektra in 1995, and scoring a hit single with "Good," the band quickly reconvened and recorded the follow-up Friction, Baby. What the 1996 album lacks is the killer-hook single, but what it gains is confidence. While still boasting a pair of quality radio friend tracks in "King of New Orleans" and "Desperately Wanting," the album overall has the air of a band confident and secure in the sound while still stretching. That can lead to some magic, like on the blazing "Long Lost" and somber "Speeding Up To Slow Down," but also some hubris to go too far on the bad funk of "Normal Town" and "Still Live with Cooley."

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - King of New Orleans

19:36 - Long Lost

27:33 - Scared, Are You?

31:24 - Speeding Up To Slow Down

34:31 - Normal Town

Outro - Desperately Wanting

 

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#529: Eyewitness by Shades Apart

#529: Eyewitness by Shades Apart

March 2, 2021

The balance between the "pop" and the "punk" in "pop-punk" can be tricky, especially when a band comes from the latter scene. On the Shades Apart 1999 album Eyewitness, the punk of the 90s (i.e. Green Day, The Offspring, Blink-182, Rancid, etc.) is represented more in the songwriting than the speed, something a lot of those bands would incorporate as time wore one. But Eyewitness goes one step further by adding subtle yet effective ska and reggae flourishes more akin to The Police than Less Than Jake. With producer Lou Giordano behind the board, the band crafts a well-manicured sonic pallet but like many, falls victim to the late 90s/early 00s guitar tones that haven't aged as well as the songwriting.

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - Edge Of The Century

19:35 - Stranger By The Day

31:14 - One Starry Night

37:03 - Chasing Daydreams

Outro - 100 Days

 

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#528: Tokyo An*l Dynamite by The Gerogerigegege

#528: Tokyo An*l Dynamite by The Gerogerigegege

February 23, 2021

Count to four. Do it seventy-five times, only interrupted by blistering feedback, screaming, and manic drums. And do it in about thirty-one minutes. That is Tokyo An*l Dynamite by The Gerogerigegege. In the world of experimental and avante-garde, noise has been tackled by artists as big as Neil Young and Lou Reed. Sonic Youth made a career out of crafting feedback into a symphony of melody. But if punk is about stripping rock 'n roll down to components and putting in the hands of the most rudimentary players, Tokyo Anal Dynamite might be the most punk rock album ever made.

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - Rock 'n Roll

Outro - Atama

 

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#527: Cats and Dogs by Royal Trux

#527: Cats and Dogs by Royal Trux

February 16, 2021

Despite what the million-dollar deal with Virgin Records might have implied, Royal Trux we're never going to be hitmakers. The label bought their cool factor based largely on the 1993 album Cats and Dogs, their first to embrace the songwriting end of their lo-fi aesthetic that danced on the edges of 90s rock via critical praise and underground hype. Part droning Velvet Underground, part deconstructed Exile On Main Street-era Rolling Stones, with touches of Sonic Youth and Pavement, Royal Trux concocted a stew of brittle, off-kilter blues without a hint of irony. The result is occasionally blistering, but not without fragile moments that sound like collapse is imminent.

 

Songs In This Episode:

Intro - The Flag

15:48 - Let's Get Lost

18:38 - Up the Sleeve

25:42 - Turn of the Century

37:22 - Driving in That Car (with the Eagle on the Hood)

Outro - The Spectre

 

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Listen to the episode archive at DigMeOutPodcast.com.
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