April 26, 2010
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses Great Splits in History. For earlier installments, go here.
As things started to crumble in the executive echelons of corporate rock, the (smart) little guys started to think of other ways to get new folks into their music. With your continued interest, I’d like to spend the next few weeks talking about innovative ways in which rock musicians have thrived in the decidedly lower-stakes climate of the last twenty years.
First, the split release. Kind of like rock star “team ups,” e.g. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure,” etc., though not nearly as crassly commercial (and usually just plain better, as I can think of few other “team ups” in history that have stood the test of time), split releases typically combine bands from two different regional scenes, who share a similar sound or aesthetic. Also, typically, the release is available in a limited quantity, which (ideally) causes great fervor around the record, driving it quickly out of print, and into legend. Here are four splits that sound great and worked really, really well.
The Rudiments/Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines | Skank for Brains (Self-Released)
If you’re into ska, there’s no better place and time to have come of age than Detroit in the mid-90′s. According to some, the national ska scene grew from a dozen or so groups at the dawn of the 90′s to about five hundred by the time the scene hit critical mass in ’97 or ’98. Though most early-90′s ska bands featured the horn sections typical of the 2nd Wave or 2-Tone ska of the early 80′s, by the middle of the decade, just as many bands were doing ska without the horns, dubbing the new microgenre “Punk Ska.”
Whether these bands were eschewing the horn element out of fiscal necessity (I think most ska bands fell apart because it’s so hard to keep eight or more musicians on the road and fed) or an interest in standing out from the crowd (think of how the Minutemen approached punk, if they were rude boys), I never heard anyone on the scene griping that Punk Ska wasn’t legit.
Skank for Brains celebrated Punk Ska with a short album’s worth of songs each by Toledo’s Rudiments and Detroit’s Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines. The Rudiments were a three piece group that barely seemed to be able to keep it together: this release alone features multiple lineup changes, and the front half of the disc never quite excites.