The Return of the Box (3)

This week some more alt rock from the States and one that I think JC may have featured a few weeks back.

Hum – You’d Prefer An Astronaut

Hum originate from Illinois and are an alt rock band perhaps best known for the song Stars which achieved a lot of radio play on the American alternative stations. They released four albums between 1989 and 2000 when the split, and this their third was their most commercial successful, although saying it hardly set the world alight. Hum sound a lot like a previously mentioned band Superchunk and have that slowed down slacker feel to their music. The album is pretty good, with ‘Stars’ and ‘The Pod’ being the stand out records on it. This was I think the only one of their four albums that was released over here, it came out on Dedicated records, who at the time in 1995, also housed Spiritualized, which brings up nicely my connection to this band.

Amazingly in 1995 I was (briefly) a member of Hum, now don’t search Wikipedia because it isn’t there –and here’s why. I was sent to interview Spiritualized (I say sent, I kind of begged like a hungry dog) on tour in London, and Hum were the support band. When I arrived at the venue Hum were sound checking. The guitarist at the time, the wonderfully named Tim Lash was half way through when his manager told him that there was a phone call for him. I had been sitting watching the soundcheck, and had,I thought slyly pinched a can of Red Stripe from their rider, which I was drinking at the side of the stage. The singer came over and said, “hey if you can drink our beer, you can help sound check our songs”. So for roughly six minutes I got on stage and strummed a guitar with Hum. Tim Lash came back and stood and watched and then said dryly, “I hope your interview skills are better” and then before they had the chance to sack me I said “You know guys, this just isn’t working, our musical tastes are just too different” I quit the band and claimed musical differences.

mp3 : Hum – Stars

Engine 88 – ‘Clean Your Room’

Engine 88 were from San Francisco and were doing the rounds in the 1990s. They released three albums, two of these were released on Caroline Records, who kind of made a habit of releasing a lot of albums in the mid 90s that sounded almost identical. Something which I think I called frat boy punk at the time. By this the records were largely punk in the vein of Green Day played by white kids with guitars, with spiky haircuts and a range of stupid gurning faces for the cameras. Engine 88 are not really that different, they cite Fugazi, Nirvana and the Breeders as their influences but really this is Green Day or Rancid by numbers. It’s not terrible though. You kind of feel that around the time there were releasing records there was a bit of frenzy going on as labels looked for bands like Green Day to sign.

Clean Your Room was the debut album by Engine 88 and featured at least two fairly decent singles, Funny Car and Twenty both of which failed to chart in the UK (they were only released on 7” though). The band have now split and gone on their separate missions, and I will list these because its kind of interesting. The singer is now in a soft rock band that sound too much like Counting Crows for my liking, the guitarist is in a Pretenders Covers Band (obviously, why wouldn’t you), the bassist teaches martial arts to kids and the drummer runs a video store with the manager of Green Day. Punk really is not dead.

mp3 : Engine 88 – Funny Car

Marion – Lets All Go Together

JC may have posted this a few weeks ago on his excellent piece on Marion. Assuming he did, I will just add this. I loved Marion and they didn’t get anywhere near the success they deserved. They were perhaps the one band who might have justified the ‘New Smiths’ tag that was lumped on a lot of bands in the 90s. Lets All Go Together was the fourth record off their debut album The World and Body and you know its kind of ace.

mp3 : Marion – Let’s All Go Together