Back in my freelance days I interviewed a lot of bands and a few of them even went on to enjoy some success, both commercially and critically, like Radiohead*. But far too many really good bands never achieved what they should have, commercially at least. Here are just a few (not all of whom I ever interviewed) who are well worth the time to check out.
Hoodoo Gurus: We will start in the way, way back machine with this funky little band from down under that I bet you have never heard of. And that is a shame as the Hoodoos should have been right at home in the wacky music world that was the mid 80’s when quirky bands were breeding like bunnies. Now there were a lot of good bands from Australia in the 80’s/90’s and quite a few of them did break in a big way: INXS, Midnight Oil, Crowded House to name a few, but sadly not these guys who never broke the US top 100.
I’m pretty sure I remember seeing these guys on MTV once or twice in its glory days, that wonderful magical time when MTV actually showed music videos all day, some of which were bloody awful (you’ll see), but it was a new medium and it was FUN so who really cared about a little thing called production values? Well maybe Duran Duran but we aren’t talking about them here. I forgot all about Hoodoo Gurus until I somehow ended up at one of their shows in the early 90’s at the Cabooze of all places. They were energetic and fun and you could tell they were having a blast so you bloody well should too and I did. Every time I hear this song or I Want You Back (could not find that video) in my car you can bet I am singing at the top of my lungs, at least until I get to a stoplight where others might see me, then I pretend I was yawning. I yawn a lot.
Nada Surf: if you only recognize the band from their mid 90’s teen-angst high school anthem Popular (which by the way is AWESOME) , then you have been missing out on an additional 20 years of them continuing to make interesting music. I just really like bands and singers who can actually sing, something I can’t do particularly well, especially harmony, so I deeply admire it in others. And Nada Surf can harmonize with the best of them which works for me just about every time. Here is a clip from their 2012 release Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy:
I have to add in Popular here, because I like to see how other people (myself not so much), have changed in 20 years and I was never last picked for reals and I was a cheerleader, but only for a year and I hated it.
The Posies: I am just going to come right out and say it. Go buy Frosting On The Beater, this band’s classic 1993 release. There is not a dud on the entire album and I can pretty much guarantee* that if you like pure power pop and have a soul you will not regret it for one moment. I had this on cassette (miss you guys) and the silly tape got eaten up by the evil player in my car and I cried real tears as I was frantically trying to save it while shifting gears and drinking pop until I remembered that I had made a back up copy with my handy-dandy dual tape deck device back home, crisis averted. Now in modern times all our music comes from iTunes and lives on fluffy marshmallow clouds in the sky so that shouldn’t be a problem for you.
* Oh-Amy’s legal representation requires me to say that this is in no way any sort of fiduciary guarantee that we will actually fork over any real or imagined monies you may have spent on Frosting On The Beater should you not like it. But we will judge you harshly for trying.
Teenage Fanclub: Pure pop for now people as Nick Lowe would say. I love this Scottish band so very much that I want to take them all out for a nice seafood dinner and call them again and again until they put out another album as perfect as Bandwagonesque. It almost personally hurts me that they did not reach the level of commercial popularity in this country that they so richly deserved. Bandwagonesque is a masterpiece and TFC did achieve a lot of critical success, even in the US. In fact Spin magazine picked Bandwagonesque over Nirvana’s Nevermind for best album in 1991 and no less a musical smarty pants than Liam Gallagher himself called them the second best band in the world (after his band at the time Oasis, of course). They have put out plenty of good album prior to and since Bandwagonesque but that one is just so perfect and pretty everyone should own it.
Major props to Simon Pegg for featuring Teenage Fanclub in one of my favorite films of 2013’s The World’s End.
*according to the band’s publicist at the time, I was the first US journalist to interview Radiohead. Now I can not verify this fact because music publicist + truthiness do not necessarily go together but suffice to say I will continue to repeat this forever and ever.