Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Forgotten Bands of the Nineties

There was an Archers of Loaf lyric that went like this...

"The underground is overcrowded."
At times, it did seem that way in the nineties. Nirvana-mania had every major label signing every band in flannel and feedback. A new indie label popped up every other week. There were more bands than I had time for.

Of course, the overcrowded music scene of the nineties is nothing compared to the current scene of GarageBand and MySpace users, but it still had more than its share of bands.

What tends to happen in such a musical climate is that either there's a plethora of unsuitable material, some good bands fall through the cracks, or a little of both. I'm concerned with those bands that are forgotten, orphan bands if you will. Bands that because of the congested music landscape are just sort of lost, doomed to bargain bins and a Wikipedia afterthought.

I realize the nature of indie bands is that they are often overlooked because bands with critical acclaim or major label backing get all the attention. Bands like Archers of Loaf, Brainiac, or Superchunk will never receive the accolades or wealth they deserve, but they did receive some attention and still do. This post is about those other bands that undeservedly received less attention than the nineties indie elite.

This is my list of forgotten bands of the Nineties:

This was a slow/hard-core band from Boston. Although they released three albums (one posthumously) in this decade, the meat of their catalog was produced in the nineties. In particular, their debut Karate was amazingly depressing. The album features a slow, start/stop aesthetic that would crush Pixies and make you forget Slint. The band's run ended in 2005 when front man Geoff Farina developed hearing problems.

Th' Faith Healers
I saw Th' Faith Healers open for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The Breeders in 1994. The band has "Krautrock" written all over them and they have a Can cover somewhere to prove it.

The Geraldine Fibbers
This might be arguably the most famous and productive band of the list. Carla Bozulich was the brains behind this San Pedro alt-country outfit. They put the cow in cow-punk. Nels Cline was even part of the line-up at one point.

Bettie Serveert
OK, this might be the other band on the list that could be considered the most successful. Bettie Serveert (Dutch for "Bettie serves") received some attention for their 1990 release Palomine. Later releases barely garnered anything past a 'zine mention here and there, but they could have been huge. They finally got a break (that didn't actually break them) when they covered a Bright Eyes song for The OC. I saw them once in Seattle with Teenage Fanclub.

Since I'm writing about Matador bands fronted by women, I should mention Helium. This was the band best known for their video portraying front woman Mary Timony dragging a hoe through a field while Beavis and Butthead giggled. Of course, Helium put together some amazing records. The crazy thing is that the band might be more famous for the people who quit over the years: Mary Lou Lord, Jason Hatfield (Juliana's brother), and Ash Bowie of Polvo.

Run On
Matador had a lot of lost nineties acts. I first saw Run On open for Yo La Tengo in 1995 and then for Will Oldham two years later. Run On held their own both nights. They have no Wikipedia entry and barely a mention on their label's site.

Noise Addict
Ben Lee fronted this band of adolescent Aussies who were thought to be the next big thing. Never happened. They recorded on Grand Royal and Lee dated Claire Danes, but that's about the extent of their fame. They were doing Weezer before Weezer knew it could be profitable.

What bands would make your list? Tells us about them.


secret glimpses said...

geoff's still kicking it with Glorytellers...

GE said...

Nice list.
My adds: Love Battery, Eleventh Dream Day, New Radiant Storm King, Spain, Blake Babies.

Austin said...

yeah this is interesting, i thought of the grifters and butterglory.

Kate said...

Ben Lee marrie Ione Skye, isn't that weird considering she used to be married to a Beastie Boy?

Sarah said...

I loved Th' Faith Healers. Was it Mother Sky that was the Can cover?