One for Friday — Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”

soul asylum

Thirty years ago, in the spring of 1988, Soul Asylum released the album Hang Time. In the Minneapolis regional of the nineteen-eighties tourney for the hearts and minds of college radio kids, Soul Asylum was doomed to never finish better than third place. The Replacements had the sublime songwriting of Paul Westerberg, and Hüsker Dü expertly snapped together pop gracefulness and hardcore fervor like Lego blocks. Soul Asylum played with thunderously throbbing heart, but they suffered from comparisons. Their immediate peers felt like they were refining the boundaries of rock music in thrilling ways, flinted with danger. Soul Asylum just based out good songs.

Sometimes, though, they based out great songs. Most of those are housed on Hang Time, including “Sometime to Return,” which served as a single. It was a slightly risky choice for an emphasis track, because the portion of the lyrics that intoned, “Picked it apart for hours and hours and hours/ Of turning, tossing and looking and listening/ To you and all the fucked up things you do,” required the distribution of a radio edit, at least for those stations invested in playing nice with the FCC. In my experience with circa 1988 college broadcasters, seeking out the spare disc in the library was occasionally one task too many. Some songs can’t be denied, though. It helps, of course, if the song seems to address the romanticized misery that often comes with living on the cusp of one’s twenties. Even nonsense like “Throw away your calendar/ And saddle up your salamander” can sound profound.

If Soul Asylum couldn’t best their most notable Twin Cities brethren in the nineteen-eighties, they demonstrated how some races that appear to be sprints are actually marathons. Hüsker Dü and the Replacements were both effectively done as going concerns as the nineteen-nineties launched (The Replacements’ All Shook Down, from 1990, is really Westerberg’s first solo album, and everybody knows it). Soul Asylum, on the other hand, lasted long enough to release new music after Nirvana and their fellow Pacific Northwest bashers changed everything. Soul Asylum’s 1992 album, Grave Dancers Union, went triple-platinum and yielded a Top 5 single.

Listen or download —> Soul Asylum, “Sometime to Return”

(Disclaimer: I believe Hang Time to be out of print as a physical item that can be purchased from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of the store in question and the original artist. “Sometime to Return” is almost assuredly included on any and all Soul Asylum “best of” compilations, and they are a band that is probably well-served by some popularity-based curating. So I’m sharing this not to impede commerce, but to encourage it. And I think it qualified as fair use. Even so, I know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file 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.)