Category Archives: LOST CLASSICS

Lost Classics: Come “Near Life Experience”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: COME
Near Life Experience // Matador, 1996

come380 The needles, the damage done and the subsequent cycles of kicking junk, sweating recidivism, then relapsing; toxic, destructive codependencies; the epic, bluesy intertwine of Thalia Zedek’s vocals and Chris Brokaw’s glassine guitar lines. Such was the stock-in-trade of Boston’s Come in the ‘90s. The band was made up of refugees from Live Skull and Codeine, and its austere, bleak rock was propelled by the weather-worn croak of Zedek, a recovering heroin addict. By Near Life Experience, the group’s longtime rhythm section had bolted; Zedek and Brokaw compensated by recruiting members of Tortoise and Rodan to help record Come’s most cinematic, diverse and accessible album.

Catching Up: After 1998’s underwhelming Gently Down The Stream, Come’s principals splintered into solo-album and guest-spot obscurity without officially breaking up. Zedek struck out on her lonesome; the Thalia Zedek Band issued Liars And Prayers last year. Meanwhile, Brokaw has performed and recorded with the likes of Thurston Moore, Evan Dando and Steve Wynn, scored films and issued a handful of overlooked solo records.

“Hurricane”:

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Lost Classics: The Elephant 6 Collective

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

neutral-milk545Though its name conjures some long-lost Saturday-morning cartoon, the Elephant 6 collective turned out some of the catchiest, most brilliantly art-damaged rock of the ’90s. Despite a sprawling roster of bands, each bearing a distinct take on vintage pop and lo-fi psychedelia, the Elephant 6’s founders and followers will always find themselves overshadowed by a surreal-yet-brilliant album by one of its founders: Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel (pictured). In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has earned justifiable accolades since its 1998 release, but the Elephant 6 got its start years earlier. Founded in Denver, Colo., by Mangum and longtime friends Robert Schneider, Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, the collective issued its first release in 1993: the self-titled debut EP by Schneider’s Apples In Stereo (then known as the Apples). With his persistently sunny songwriting and unabashed love for the trebly pop of the Beach Boys and the Zombies, Schneider was the architect of the E6 sound.

Hart and Doss set up shop in Athens, Ga., calling themselves the Olivia Tremor Control on a seven-inch bearing the E6 imprint in 1994. Backed by a revolving cast of contributors (including Mangum and Schneider) dubbed the Elephant 6 Orchestra, OTC released 27-song opus Music From An Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle in 1996. Culled from more than 200 four-track recordings, Dusk At Cubist Castle was a celebration of Revolver-era psychedelia embellished with layer upon layer of impressionistic sounds, tape manipulations and channel-spanning lunacy via Schneider’s final eight-track mix, giving the E6 its headphone masterpiece.

As its core bands signed with larger labels, the collective grew outward. Members of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Apples In Stereo begat Secret Square. In 1997, Mangum, Hart and Doss formed the Black Swan Network, an ambient project performing scores for dreams described by fans who responded to an invitation in Dusk At Cubist Castle’s liner notes. That same year, Schneider worked with San Francisco’s Beulah, which became the Elephant 6’s first West Coast representative. Soon, the collective’s second wave was underway, including the like-minded guitar pop of Elf Power, the Minders and the Essex Green.

The E6’s decline came slowly but steadily. After In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Mangum dropped out of the industry entirely. Dogged by breakup rumors, the Olivia Tremor Control issued Black Foliage: Animation Music in 2000, but its layers of ancillary sounds and thick noise resembled multi-tracked madness. The band split soon afterward, with Doss forming the Sunshine Fix and Hart gathering former Olivia members for the Circulatory System. Schneider officially disbanded the collective in 2002, but Elephant 6 re-opened its doors five years later. “We invite the world to join us,” Schneider told MAGNET in 2007. “Have big ideas, seek new perspectives, dream in bright colors, join with your friends to do something special, give others something to believe in.”

:: NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL
On Avery Island // Merge, 1996

Jeff Mangum’s debut full-length was so neglected by fans and so overshadowed by the colossus of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, you might assume On Avery Island was some amateur misstep or a ska album. But it’s an extremely sturdy bookend to Mangum’s other opus. Avery Island was considerably more electric than acoustic (the guitars were overloaded into the tape machine with a satisfying static crunch), Mangum’s singing was softer and less braying, and the punk/psych songs were fully developed, beautiful and strange.

“Song Against Sex”:

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Lost Classics: Home “13: Netherregions”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: HOME
13: Netherregions // Jetset, 1997

home360b Using a primitive version of ProTools—OK, a four-track and some Radio Shack cassettes—the members of Home spent the first half of the ’90s in Tampa, Fla., issuing volumes I through IX of their lunatic stoner folk. By the time of opus number 13, Home had relocated to New York and become darlings of the (mostly media-constructed) lo-fi bedroom-recording movement. Home’s bedroom, apparently, didn’t have walls: Netherregions embraces everything from disembodied boombox jams to sprawling piano nocturnes to acoustic hippie warblings from singer/keyboardist Eric Morrison.

Catching Up: Founding drummer Sean Martin rejoined the fold for 2006’s Sexteen, issued on Oneida’s Brah label. Morrison operates a studio and oversees Screw Music Forever, a label and recording collective.

“Our Blue Navy”:

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Lost Classics: Deltron 3030 “Deltron 3030”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: DELTRON 3030
Deltron 3030 // 75 Ark, 2000

deltron3030Hip hop’s own version of Ziggy Stardust, Deltron 3030 was brought to life by producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (pictured) and turntablist Kid Koala. Deltron 3030 may have had a sci-fi storyline—in which our hero saved humankind from Orwellian oppression by using his superior rhyming skills—but its execution was strictly down-to-earth. The album was leavened with a healthy dose of comic-geek humor (such as between-song skits advertising futuristic “rap battles”) and Del’s sing-song cadences. It was also Nakamura’s most consistent creation as beatmaker and puppet master. A cast of more than two-dozen characters—played by Prince Paul, Sean Lennon, Damon Albarn and others—made Deltron endlessly entertaining. High concept? These guys were absolutely stoned.

Catching Up: Albarn and Nakamura took the Deltron concept to cartoonish and commercial ends as Gorillaz, with Del rapping on the group’s 2001 hit “Clint Eastwood.” Kid Koala issued Your Mom’s Favorite DJ in 2006. Del recently issued his seventh solo album, Funk Man, as a free download as part of his “stimulus package.”

“Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)”:

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Lost Classics: Ganger “Hammock Style”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

ganger555:: GANGER
Hammock Style // Merge, 1998

Instrumental rock fiends who thought Tortoise’s patented double-bass thump was played out by the late ‘90s found salvation in Glasgow quartet Ganger. Hammock Style turbocharged the increasingly imitated Chicago sound with expansive, major-key melodies and stream-of-consciousness narratives from bassist Natasha Noramly. “I feel lost in a city of sound,” she whispered on “Capo (South Of Caspian),” a nine-minute tour de force that subtly tweaked a simple riff made from mandolin and Sonic Youth-style electric-guitar eruptions until it tumbled toward a blissful climax. This style of music has aged poorly (where art thou, Paul Newman, Pele and Billie Mahonie?), but the jams on Hammock Style still have the power to mesmerize.

Catching Up: Ganger split following 1999’s Canopy EP. Guitarist Craig B played in Aereogramme, while Noramly formed Fuck-Off Machete.

“Cats Dogs And Babies Jaws”:

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Lost Classics: Chisel “Set You Free”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

chise555:: CHISEL
Set You Free // Gern Blandsten, 1997

“Get ready for the invasion, self-satisfied smug-rock nation,” proclaimed Chisel frontman Ted Leo at the beginning of this sprawling power-pop masterpiece. That was as nice as it got in terms of Set You Free’s lyrical content, although Leo’s spot-on, acidic commentary was frequently overshadowed by Chisel’s arsenal of mod-pop hooks. Set You Free was the D.C. band’s sophomore effort and also its swan song, resulting in a criminal lack of recognition at the time of its release. The Jam may have pioneered the mod-revival movement in 1977, but 20 years later, Chisel perfected it.

Catching Up: After a short stint in the Sin Eaters with brother Danny, Leo launched his solo career in 1998.

“Do Go On”:

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Lost Classics: Cornelius “Fantasma”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

corneliuscombo550

:: CORNELIUS
Fantasma // Matador, 1998

Running ecstatic laps around Beck’s timid electronic samples and polite Tropicalia, the music created by Keigo Oyamada (the Tokyo trendsetter known as Cornelius) scrambled any brain cells caught between its stereo speakers. Fantasma sounded like Pet Sounds made anime, an album so hyperactive that it was difficult to keep up. By the time you realized Oyamada was playing Beethoven at 120 bpm, he was already splicing Raymond Scott cartoon music into a looped soundbite of monkey screeches. The representative artifact of Tokyo’s ultra-hip Shibuya district, Fantasma didn’t get lost in translation (a track such as “Star Fruits Surf Rider” spelled exuberant pop joy in any language) so much as it left all contemporaries in a cloud of crate-digging dust.

Catching Up: Oyamada issued the more organic, understated Point in 2002 and the sedate, sound-sculpted Sensuous in 2007.

“Star Fruits Surf Rider”:

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Lost Classics: Pre-New Pornographers Carl Newman

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

zumpano548bAs the New Pornographers’ critically acclaimed catalog makes obvious, Carl Newman is a sucker for ’60s AM-radio pop and ’70s FM-radio pomp. And he always has been—except that a little more than a decade ago, he segregated these twin affinities to vastly different bands. He first arrived as the singer and one of six guitarists for Superconductor, a messy amalgamation of Vancouver scenesters who released two albums of prog-metal mayhem that were endorsed by Robert Pollard and pretty much no one else. (Superconductor was nonetheless prescient in its anticipation of the now de rigeur Canadian indie-collective template.) With his concurrent other band, Zumpano (pictured), Newman stepped out from behind Superconductor’s thundercloud of noise and laid bare his fondness for the Beatles/Bacharach songbooks, a move that was so antithetical to prevailing lo-fi aesthetics that Zumpano was initially characterized as a latecomer to the dying lounge-core party.

:: ZUMPANO
Look What The Rookie Did // Sub Pop, 1995

If this sounds like a retro artifact, it’s only because its best songs (“The Party Rages On,” “Temptation Summary,” “I Dig You”) were on par with the Brill Building breezy-listening pop that inspired them, possessing the sort of pristine, heartfelt, melancholy melodies that were all but banished from the airwaves by 1995. To paraphrase one of the group’s heroes, Zumpano just wasn’t made for its time, but the superior songcraft on Look What The Rookie Did drew a direct line to Newman’s future as a New Pornographer. (Well, that and the fact the album title came from a gay skin flick.)

Catching Up: Zumpano’s second album, 1996’s Goin’ Thru Changes, would be its last. Anyone who’s read MAGNET in the past 10 years knows where Newman went next. However, let’s not forget the man who gave the quartet its name: drummer Jason Zumpano, who plays with Sparrow and Attics And Cellars.

“The Party Rages On”:

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Lost Classics: Drive Like Jehu “Yank Crime”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

drivelikejehu550:: DRIVE LIKE JEHU
Yank Crime // Interscope, 1994

In 1991, the self-titled debut from Drive Like Jehu was passed around the alt-rock cognoscenti like a talisman. The band’s principals—Rick Froberg and John Reis—hailed from San Diego semi-legends Pitchfork, and Jehu updated that band’s driving, post-Fugazi sound with a more complex approach. Drive Like Jehu struck a nerve and, for a minute or two at least, seemed like the most important band around. Until, of course, Reis’ other band (Rocket From The Crypt) erupted and prompted Interscope Records to offer ridiculous amounts of money to RFTC and Jehu for signing on the dotted line. Yank Crime was the band’s sophomore effort, major-label debut and swan song, an explosive tangle of careening tempo changes, hoarse-throat vocals, barely contained guitar histrionics and mindful aggression. Its appearance on a major label’s roster was as mind-boggling then as it is nostalgically naive now. Of course, Yank Crime, along with RFTC’s three major-label outings, proved to be money pits for Interscope.

Catching Up: Undeterred by label indifference and the demise of Jehu, Reis persevered with Rocket From The Crypt and, in 1999, re-teamed with Froberg in Hot Snakes (a.k.a. The Best Side Project Ever). Froberg moved to New York to work in visual arts; he’s now in Obits, which just released their debut on Sub Pop. Drummer Mark Trombino produces and engineers bands. Bassist Mike Kennedy played in Corrugated. In 2005, Reis disbanded RFTC in order to focus on his record label, Swami; he briefly fronted Sultans and now leads the Night Marchers.

“Luau”:

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Lost Classics: Seaweed “Four”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: SEAWEED
Four // Sub Pop, 1993
seaweed500bForming in 1989 as a teenage hardcore band, this Tacoma, Wash., fivesome matured quickly over the span of its first three albums, adding an increasingly melodic pop sensibility to its metal-inspired riffs. Not as polished as 1992’s Weak or 1995 major-label debut Spanaway, Four was nonetheless the catchiest of the three. (If epic anthem “Kid Candy” doesn’t get your fists pumping, no music will.) Frontman Aaron Stauffer was underrated as a lyricist, and his takes on the confusing years between adolescence and adulthood still resonate.

Catching Up: Spanaway sold miserably, and Seaweed was dropped by the Disney-owned Hollywood Records. The band resurfaced in 1999, signed to Merge and issued Actions And Indications, only to break up immediately afterward. The same year, Stauffer and Van Conner (Screaming Trees) released the decidedly less punk New Dawning Time under the Gardener moniker. These days, Stauffer fronts the Blue Dot, an eclectic quartet based in Mendocino, Calif. Guitarist Wade Neal is in To The Waves. Drummer Bob Bulgrien played with Judo For The Blind. Bassist John Atkins fronts the Fucking Eagles. Guitarist Clint Werner plays bass in Kittitas. About once a year, Stauffer returns to Tacoma, and Seaweed works on material for a new album. The band has played a handful of reunion shows.

“Kid Candy”:

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