It’s been almost exactly a year since my household began the segmented process of returning from a decade and a half living in southern states, resettling in our homeland of Wisconsin. During that span, I think it’s fair to say that each of us has occasionally felt the sensation of a unique culture doing its damnedest to welcome us back. The winter was milder, the beer has gotten better, the city has been alive and accommodating. Maybe best of all, there have been a handful of entirely unexpected musical gifts.
When I was at my college radio station, Swamp Thing was a band I longed to see live. It was also a band that I never expected to see before me on stage. I consider myself lucky that I arrived at college radio when I did, in 1988. Just a couple years later, and I would have been forced to contend with KoЯn. Still, sometimes I wish I’d gotten there just a couple years sooner, when I might have had a chance to play a Hüsker Dü album while it was in the new music rotation and experience some of the bigger college radio bands before they outgrew dingy little clubs. And, always lurking as a enormous missed opportunity, Swamp Thing wasn’t playing gigs anymore, at least as far as I could tell. Had I been a cooler high school kid, I might have gotten to see them, since their hometown was right up the highway from the crummy little town where I scowled toward my diploma. By the time I had cohorts who introduced me to the grand, goofy wonders of the band, their time had passed.
Then, driving home from work one day last week, I looked up at the humble marquee of one of my favorite bars. There, in mildly cockeyed letters was an unlikely promise: THIS THU – SWAMP THING. Surely it couldn’t be. While I knew reunion shows had happened previously, it defied belief that another one could be occurring now, when I could actually attend. I dove into the internet as soon as I got home and quickly found a confirming flyer, adorned with a familiar image:
In the modern manner of bands that can look back across decades to build a set list, Swamp Thing took the angle of performing one of their albums straight through. There were only two albums in the first place, so it was a reasonable enough idea. They opted for their debut, Learning to Disintegrate, which I once found on vinyl in a Raleigh, North Carolina used book and record store, causing me to embarrassingly gasp loudly. To indulge in a hackneyed phrase, it was a dream come true.
So there I was. I was at the Crystal Corner Bar, I had Chuck Taylors on my feet, a 90FM t-shirt under a flannel, and a Point Special in my hand. And, for at least one night, all was right with the world.
Listen or download –> Swamp Thing, “Learning to Disintegrate”
(Disclaimer: At this point, it’s especially important to me that I share that Swamp Thing’s Learning to Disintegrate is available for digital download on a website that is dedicated to making sure artists get proceeds from the sales. It cannot be purchased track by track. Since it is only available as a full album, please view the shared track as an enticement to turn over ten dollars to the best rock band Madison, Wisconsin ever produced. As was the case with the show I attended, proceeds on the sale of the album go toward our local community radio station, the rare current-day media entity that actually cares about its mandate to serve the public. Especially under these circumstances, I will gladly and promptly remove this track from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)