Evidently, Milwaukee’s the Gufs took their name from a Demi Moore, and I don’t there are many bands that can claim that. The band formed in 1988, the same year as the Moore-starring horror thriller The Seventh Sign, which puts forward the term as the place babies’ souls are stored before they’re born. As source material goes, this is certainly not as cool as, say, nicking a band name from a Don Delillo novel. Still, the Gufs were one of the bigger Wisconsin bands at the time, earning the 1992 Album of the Year WAMI award (the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards, which are, to my amazement, still happening) for Songs of Life. Collide is the follow-up to that award-anointed release, and it generated a healthy local radio hit with the track “Crash (Into Me),” roughly one year before Dave Matthews Band made it into the Billboard Top 10 with a song of the same name, minus the parentheses. The Gufs played live on campus that year, right next door the radio station. The student-run newspaper described them as “Milwaukee’s happier Toad the Wet Sprocket with hints of early R.E.M.” Yep, that’s exactly the sound that guaranteed plenty of airplay on 90FM those days.
Presumably, the arduous process of making Cowboys and Aliens is what broke Kitchens of Distinction. Their fourth album overall, the band started working on two years before its release and their label rejected it twice, in part because of the ever-popular complaint “We don’t hear a single.” The strain shows. The band’s previous lush elegance is jackhammered into peppier song structures that make them sound a little like a more anxious version of Psychedelic Furs, hardly a band in fashion at the time. Kitchens of Distinction were dropped by their labels — separate entities in the U.K. and the States — and took one last stab the following year with the release of an interesting single under the dopily truncated name Kitchens O.D. The band folded shortly thereafter. A reunion eventually happened, including the release of a fifth album, in 2013. In defense of the band, it’s important to note that this album has no connection whatsoever to the disastrous film of the same name.
36. Various Artists, Batman Forever Music from the Motion Picture
Just look at that hellscape lineup of talented actors (and Chris O’Donnell, too!) wedged into garish roles that are clearly making them miserable, even in heavily doctored poster art. Director Joel Schumacher’s claiming of the bat-baton from Tim Burton helped usher in the clear and ruthless rejiggering of the caped crusader’s film franchise as nothing but pure product. That may seem naive given that both of Burton’s Batman efforts yielding an exhausting number of tie-in items sold with hungry urgency, but it at least felt like the movies stood somewhat independently of that mess. Even with Prince spitting out a flurry of boring songs for the 1989 effort that started it all (never forget that “Batdance” was one of the Purple One’s five Billboard chart-toppers), the soundtracks for Burton’s films are a good indicator of the indifference to bending the project to suit perceived branding needs. Batman Forever is a different beast, from that cast assembled to lure in individuals from nearly every corner of film fandom to the soundtrack, one of those behemoths that is a buckshot blast of wild guesses as to what the alternative rock kids are going to like next.
Amazingly, this mess of a record yielded six singles. That’s more of an attempt to forcibly shake the upended piggy bank for every last nickel than even mid-eighties multi-platinum soundtracks for Footloose and Top Gun provoked. As might be expected, only the first couple of singles made a commercial impact. The album’s big get was a new song from U2, just locking in as a permanent fixture Great Big Rock ‘N’ Roll Band. Pushed hard as the lead single, it wasn’t as significant as it seemed, as it was ultimately a track deemed not strong enough for the band’s middling Zooropa release. The bigger hit was Seal’s “A Kiss From a Rose,” an edited version of a track that originally appeared on the singer’s album from the prior year. It managed to make it all the way to #1 on the Billboard chart, because drippy, high-gloss love songs apparently sound better when sung in front of an illuminated bat-signal in the music video.
In the usual manner, only five of the songs on the soundtrack actually appeared in the movie, meaning the release is filled out without whatever stuff the label wanted to get out there, presumably to give the artists a boost. That means cover songs that can cause physical pain as well as the occasional inspired reworking. Mostly, the soundtrack feels assembled at random, or at least with the haphazard indifference of someone cleaning out a desk drawer and finding something to do with a bunch of stray songs they found amidst the rubber band balls and loose change. I’ll admit that I’m probably being overly unkind to the soundtrack on the basis of the messy film it stems from. Any album that has both the Flaming Lips’ “Bad Days” and Nick Cave in full-on theatrical mode is worthy grabbing every now and again when it’s trudging through the new music rotation. Hell, even the movie’s not that bad, if only because Schumacher would soon enough prove how much worse things could get.
— 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
— 59-57: Good News from the Next World, Joe Dirt Car, and Tomorrow the Green Grass
— 56 and 55: …And Out Come the Wolves and Clueless
— 54-52: We Get There When We Do, Trace, and Twisted
— 51-49: Thrak, Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig), and You Will Be You
— 48 and 47: Shamefaced and Here’s Where the Strings Come In
— 46 and 45: 13 Unlucky Numbers and Resident Alien
— 44-42: Elastica, Private Stock, and Death to Traitors
— 41-39: Optimistic Fool, Ben Folds Five, and Above