59 simple59. Simple Minds, Good News from the Next World

If I’d been forced to lay money on whether or not Simple Minds was still releasing new music in 1995, I would have placed my chips smack on “NO” and felt like I’d made a pretty safe bet. The band that peaked hard with the quintessential John Hughes soundtrack song one decade earlier never really stopped trying to outrace their biggest chart success, which came with the indignity of being the rare example of a track they recorded which they didn’t write themselves (they were at least the fourth different act to be offered the song). That led to a tendency toward the pompous and ponderous, and they gradually fell out of favor almost entirely. Good News from the Next World represents the last time they charted in the United States, either with an album or a single. Unlike a lot of bands that followed a similar course, Simple Minds never really stopped as a going concern, continuing to crank out records. Including on that discography is the dreaded covers album, which provides the weird opportunity to hear the Simple Minds take on Kraftwerk.

58 joe58. BoDeans, Joe Dirt Car

BoDeans were probably the biggest home state heroes of the Dairy Rock scene (as I called it) circa 1995. Violent Femmes were arguably a better and even bigger band, but their was something about the BoDeans approach to music — a steeped in the heartland quality — that made them feel more clearly Midwestern.  They were playing tunes that were suited to raising plastic cups full of tepid beer at Summerfest in solidarity. They were beloved enough at 90FM that they notched the most played album of the year just a few countdowns earlier. So naturally a live album was going to do well at the station, especially at a time when a BoDeans concert ticket was highly coveted by the members of the staff. Joe Dirt Car, a double-disc set, was their first live album. At about the time this album was released, the boys in BoDeans were just starting to get used to making TV theme song money.

57 green

57. The Jayhawks, Tomorrow the Green Grass

In the same way that Mudhoney was the touchstone group for those who wanted to prove they had a greater knowledge of the grunge scene than those who tagged along once Pearl Jam started scoring hits, the Jayhawks were one of the bands that could be cited to elevate oneself a notch or two above those who saw the No Depression alt-country movement as little more than Uncle Tupelo, the band whose album provide the name for the subgenre, and its offshoots. Their 1992 studio album, Hollywood Town Hall, is one of the foundational releases that cool kids would invoke. A dutiful consumer of those albums that demonstrated the appropriate taste in music, I tried to warm to Hollywood Town Hall but could never quite do it. Instead, it was the follow-up, Tomorrow the Green Grass, that I thought was outstanding.

To my ears, the Jayhawks expanded their sonic palette, for the better. There music is still clearly grounded in country-tinged folk music, with the spirit of Gram Parsons haunting the corners. It is also richer and a bit craftier than on previous records, as with the shimmer of sunshiny sixties pop on “I’d Run Away” or the boisterous punch of garage rock to “Real Light.” Across the album the songwriting of Mark Olson and Gary Louris uniformly sharp, imbued with a tender wisdom. When album opener “Blue” intones “Stood by on believing/ Stood by on my own/ Always though I was someone/ Turned out I was wrong” it sounds like a perfect thesis on tuneful heartbreak. And what more could someone want from an album, really?

The Jayhawks remained and still remain one of the stalwart bands of alt-country, though there have been both key personnel departures (most notably, Olson moving out of the band and then briefly back in) and at least one sizable gap between albums. There was also one instance in which Olson and Louris reunited to record an album under their own names. The band absolutely still has its fans (the most recent album, 2011’s Mockingbird Time, charted higher than any of its predecessors), but they seem to hang around the periphery these days rather than insert themselves into ongoing musical conversations. That’s fine, of course. It’s more important to keep making relevant music than to necessarily keep demanding all sorts of attention. They remain a band for those in the know.

Previously….

An Introduction
— 90-88: The Falling Wallendas, Parasite, and A.M.
— 87-85: North Avenue Wake Up Call, Live!, and Life Begins at 40 Million
— 84 and 83: Wholesale Meats and Fishes and Orange
— 82-80: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, Fossil, and Electric Rock Music
— 79-77: Coast to Coast Motel, My Wild Life, and Life Model
— 76-74: Gag Me with a Spoon, Where I Wanna Be, and Ruby Vroom
— 73 and 72: Horsebreaker Star and Wild-Eyed and Ignorant
— 71 and 70: 500 Pounds and Jagged Little Pill
— 69-67: Whirligig, The Basketball Diaries, and On
— 66 and 65: Alice in Chains and Frogstomp
— 64 and 63: Happy Days and Exit the Dragon
— 62-60: Lucky Dumpling, Fight for Your Mind, and Short Bus

29 thoughts on “College Countdown: 90FM’s Top 90 of 1995, 59-57

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