Thirty years ago, in the autumn of 1988. Scruffy the Cat released their second and final full-length album, Moons of Jupiter. Raucous rockers with a touch of roots styling to their music, the band had a prime place in a Boston scene that accommodated a thrilling range of off-kilter practitioners. They churned out new studio and live releases at a breakneck pace through the mid-eighties. In a manner entirely consistent with times for living on the left end of the radio dial, Scruffy the Cat aggressively fed the new content into the machine, presumably in an effort to keep student programmers from drifting off to some new favorite. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but in college radio it instead makes the ever-shifting on-air staff oblivious to the great music in the stacks.
Moons of Jupiter connected Scruffy the Cat with producer Jim Dickinson, a fine musician in his own right who inspired a reverence in certain quarters for his place behind the boards on Big Star’s Third. The previous year, he’d overseen the Replacements’ great Pleased to Meet Me, which some brave, foolhardy souls consider their very best record. (The brave, foolhardy soul I have in mind is me.) Without sacrificing agreeable roughness, Dickinson brought a useful discipline to the Minneapolis hooligans. Scruffy the Cat didn’t require the same wrangling, but there’s an unmistakably similarity between the two records in smeary polish.
As I was assimilating to the strange, intoxicating atmosphere of college radio during my first semester at my humble, Midwestern station, Moons of Jupiter was precisely the sort of gateway I needed. It was a clear relative to the album rock that dominated my high school indoctrination into music fandom, but there was clearly a looser vibe, built on freedom and ingenuity, that differentiated the material. There was a secret language to this new realm I was in, and Moons of Jupiter was one of my most valuable decoder rings.
Listen or download —> Scruffy the Cat, “Moons of Jupiter”
(Disclaimer: I believe much of the Scruffy the Cat catalog is out of print, at least as physical objects that can be procured from your favorite local, independently owned record store in a manner that compensate both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist. The official Scruffy the Cat website does tout the availability of a hefty compilation in digital form, so presumably the band gets a reasonable chunk of any money changing accounts for purchase of those files. So the sharing of the cut above should be seen as encouragement to go and get more of their music. Or maybe buy a t-shirt. I believe I am operating under the legal principle of fair use here, but I will still gladly and promptly remove this song from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so be any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)