Our basement apartment eventually became pretty unbearable. It was dark, the ceilings were low, it was always cold. We called it “the cave”. Also, the family upstairs was unbelievably noisy. They ran on a NordicTrack non-stop and blared the stereo while they were doing it. The TV seemed permanently switched to the “explosion channel” and was located right above our bed. We had to park in front of their house and often didn’t have a space there because the girlfriend of one of the sons would take that space with her car. So we began looking for another place and eventually moved across town to an apartment in Urbana.
By that time we had made friends with Chris and his girlfriend Christine. They introduced us to a game called “Magic: the Gathering” that we got into with them. Chris and Christine were into a lot of the same things as me – games, science fiction, comics, so I became very good friends with them. Our new apartment turned out to be right next door to theirs, which was very convenient.
Meanwhile, Micro-Pace was destroying me and one day when I couldn’t take any more, I walked out of the place. (In fact, the day I walked out was the day we first met Christine.) I had never walked out of a job before, and it was a terrifying thing, but I just couldn’t bear it any longer. Fortunately I was able to get another job rather quickly, and I abandoned the world of computers that I had gotten sick of to enter the world of book production at Publication Services, where I was estimating the cost of producing a book based on the submitted manuscript. This job was a lot more interesting to me, and I made some friends there, including Brady, whose girlfriend Melanie was in the English department with Becky.
Brady also played Magic and soon we had a ritual of going over to Brady and Melanie’s apartment on Friday nights to watch “The X-Files” and play Magic afterwards. It was a really fun time. Champaign-Urbana was starting to feel more like a home to us.
More of the same, again mostly sponsored by The Planet. I know I’m coming off as very harsh towards this music but honestly, with very few exceptions, this is stuff I never listen to anymore. I don’t even have many of these CDs anymore.
- Machines of Loving Grace – Perfect Tan (Bikini Atoll)
- Brenda Kahn – She’s In Love
- Counting Crows – Round Here
- Matthew Sweet – Ugly Truth Rock
- Velvet Crush – Atmosphere
- The Cranberries – Linger
- Depeche Mode – Condemnation
- Gin Blossoms – Mrs. Rita
- Juliana Hatfield – Spin the Bottle
Don’t get me wrong. There’s some stuff in there I like, specifically Matthew Sweet and the Matthew Sweet-produced Velvet Crush tune. Brenda Kahn is good and that Gin Blossoms song isn’t bad. But wow…at some point I thought I’d want to hear “Linger” yet again?
- Nirvana – All Apologies
- Tool – Intolerance
- Pearl Jam – Jeremy
- Sugar – Hoover Dam
A lot of passengers are getting off the train here, including these guys. In Utero was stillborn for me (ha!), Vs. was forgettable, and Sugar’s follow-up, File Under: Easy Listening was almost embarrassing. Will shedding a lot of the growlers mean that the next tape will finally have some joy in it?
- R.E.M. – Star 69
Not to be outdone, R.E.M. decided to hop on the noise-train as well with Monster, a muddy, jagged, supposedly-Nirvana-influenced album which would eventually come to be recognized as the universal sign of the used CD store. Seriously, although the album went quadruple platinum, selling four million copies, five million can be found in secondhand CD stores across the country right now. I admit that Monster took a while to grow on me (and I do like this song), though it would not rank in my listing of the top ten first nine albums of theirs.
- The Offspring – Come Out And Play
- Green Day – Basket Case
Welcome to “punk rock” a la 1994! It’s not punk, it’s barely rock, but I’ll give it this: it’s fun.
- Hootie And The Blowfish – Hold My Hand
Yes, yes, roll your eyes. Truth be told, I borrowed this CD to include the song, no idea who from.
- Belly – Gepetto
- The Breeders – I Just Wanna Get Along
Two very bright spots here. Belly is just pure wonderful pop. And The Breeders give us one of the all-time great lines: “If you’re so special, why aren’t you dead?”
- Meat Puppets – Backwater
I suppose with the success of Nirvana (and the killing of that particular golden goose) there was a frenzy to see which other “punk” acts could be given some attention now, which is why the Meat Puppets finally found themselves on the radio. Like many others, I bought Too High to Die because of this song. Like many others, mine now inhabits a used CD bin.
- The Jesus and Mary Chain – Girlfriend
Leave it to the JAMC, as soon as the rest of the world wants to sound like them, they pick up acoustic guitars and write slow and dull songs. Stoned and Dethroned isn’t a bad album, but it’s not the kind of album you pull of the shelf and go, “Say, this is what I want to hear!” so much as “Man, I hardly remember this one!”
- Velocity Girl – Crazy Town
When trying to figure out how I discovered Velocity Girl, the only thing I can think of is that I spent so much time in used CD shops (see above) that I must have decided to give them a whirl.
- Toad the Wet Sprocket – Fall Down
These guys are back with something of a downer of an album. I liked Fear a lot, but Dulcinea left me cold, and attempts by friends to get me into their other stuff all failed. I think Toad is one of those bands where I’m really okay having only a single album of theirs.
- Frente – Bizarre Love Triangle
If Frente had given us nothing else except this heartfelt, wonderful cover of the New Order song (one that really shows the humanity in the dance band’s lyrics), we’d still have a lot to thank them for. Which is good for them, because that’s all they gave us.
- Veruca Salt – Seether
With all the testosterone fueling pop music at the time, it’s easy to overlook the number of all- or mostly-female bands that also got a fair amount of attention. Veruca Salt was one of the more promising ones, with a solid sound and intelligent lyrics, and this is one of the few CDs from this time that I occasionally find myself wanting to listen to.
- Cracker – Get Off This
I never really got into Camper Van Beethoven, despite attempts by Kelley to do so. I liked some of their songs and had tried out an album or two, but something about it just didn’t take hold for me. Cracker, on the other hand, which some would probably call CVB’s illegitimate redneck cousin, hit the right notes, and Kerosene Hat is just a phenomenal album.
- Ultra Vivid Scene – How Sweet
Out of all the bands we’re saying goodbye to, this one hurts the most. The third UVS album was so disappointing, and interviews with Kurt Ralske at the time had him saying how much he hated Joy: 1967-1990, which I loved so much. It was bad enough to get a disappointing album in the wake of a beloved one, but to then have the beloved one dismissed was just heartbreaking.
The regular Friday night X-Files/Magic date counted as our major social event at the time, and the tape’s title came from an X-Files episode. For some reason we thought it was a funny line at the time. The front and back covers are pretty obvious.
Click on the player below to listen to this mix!
(xspf player courtesy Lacy Morrow and Fabricio Zuardi.)