Fuel “Sunburn”


(31 March 1998, 550, Epic)

A recent swimming trip with my daughter left me thinking about this album. I have the title all over my back! But it’s a good album to be thinking of. This is one that has survived numerous trips to the used record store to be sold. They never made an offer, but I liked it too much to send it to the Goodwill. So it’s remained in my collection.

It’s not the greatest album I own, but it’s far from the worst. It’s easy to lump Fuel in with all the other post-Grunge groups of the late nineties who only saw 15 minutes of fame, but Fuel has stuck with me through the years. Probably because my Mom loves them so much. But it could be that there’s some great songwriting here too.

“Shimmer” and “Sunburn” are both great tunes and obvious for singles. Both are the kind of semi-ballads that I can imagine listening to while dealing with a breakup.

What makes the album unique are the strange sounds that come in places like the into of “Bittersweet.” I have no idea what chord that is. The rest of the song is a great stereotypical hard rocker, but then it breaks to a really weird atmospheric guitar sound. There’s a great sense of balance there.

I’ve always loved “Jesus or a Gun.” It’ like American Psycho; there’s a message hidden in there. I have no idea what that message is, but I know it’s there.

Looking back on the singles it’s weird that these guys didn’t hit it big for another two years, but even the other tracks have some great stuff. I suppose a lot of it may come off as derivative though. A lot of other bands were doing stuff like this at the time. “It’s Come to This” makes me think of the Smashing Pumpkins for the experimental, atmospheric guitar tones. “Song For You” reminds me of Candlebox with the single-note intro. Not that Fuel was trying to ape these groups, it’s just a hazard of sharing a genre.

There are some other great hard rockers in there too. Opener “Untitled” is a great attention getter. “Ozone” is another that makes my ears perk up.

While some groups seemed to just jump aboard the grunge bandwagon as a way to fame, Sunburn scorches with authenticity. It’s not so much grungy as it is a solidly written album that just happened to be released when that was the sound you got.

You’d obviously be forgiven in 2018 for writing these guys off and not paying any attention, but you’d be missing out.

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Marcy Playground – Self Titled


marcy_playground_-_marcy_playground_album_cover-1(25 February 1997, Capitol)

I was driving in the car with my girlfriend the other day when the Seven Mary Three song “Cumbersome” came on the radio. She told me she was really into Seven Mary Three when she was younger and listened to their album all the time. That blew my mind. It never even crossed my mind that Seven Mary Three would have an album and fans. To me they were just something that was always there. Like a DirecTV satellite dish that you mow around because you don’t want to take the time to pull it out of the ground. That’s how I thought of Seven Mary Three.

It wasn’t until today that I realized other people must think of Marcy Playground in the same way.

“Sex and Candy” is just as prevalent than “Cumbersome.” I hear it on the radio. I hear it at the gym. I hear it at Walmart. It’s all over the place; just like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Possum Kingdom.” But I actually own the album.

It’s not a bad album. It’s Folksy, Post-Grunge AOR. There are songs that I really enjoy and a few that I can’t tell from one another. Opener “Poppy’s” is held down by quirky guitar riff. Songs like “Gone Crazy,” “One More Suicide” and “Vampires of New York” are simple folk tunes made interesting by the wry vocals.

It’s something I enjoy, but when I listen to it and find it difficult to write more than 300 words about it I understand why they were a one-hit wonder.

Day of the New – S/T (Green)


Days of the New green(31 August 1999, Outpost)

One of the greatest things about music is its ability to take you places. Hearing a song can make you feel like you’re back in junior high school without a care in the world. A lot of songs bring scenes in movies to mind (think of Forrest Gump). Sometimes it can take you to a whole other world. Days of the New’s second album has the power to transport me from wherever I happen to be back to Hyrule.

My mom met the man who would become her second husband while I was in high school. He was living in a small apartment above a bar with a mattress, a chihuahua/shih tzu mix and a huge stereo from Rent-a-Center. It didn’t take long until he moved in with us; and brought the dog and the stereo. It’s easy to date when he moved in because he only had four CDs: Ozzy’s No Rest For The Wicked, Yngwie Malmsteem’s Facing the Animal, Godsmack’s debut and DotN’s second album.

“Enemy” was a big hit at the time and he loved it. He would play that album over and over while drinking at the kitchen table with his buddies. Being in high school I wasn’t old enough to drink and probably spent at least a little bit of time studying. But when I wasn’t studying I was sitting in front of the television with my little brother because around the same time he moved in with that huge stereo we got a Super Nintendo and A Link To The Past. I have no idea how many times we played through that game together, but I can remember having a lot of fun with him. I think that may have been the best bonding we ever did.

And the great thing is that whenever I hear Days of the New’s second album I can think back on those days.

the_legend_of_zelda_a_link_to_the_past_snes_game_coverIt probably helps that the album starts off with the sound of horse hooves. How else can I get from the water level to the desert level quickly? I’m a huge fan of all the segues that blend the tracks together. I honestly can’t name most of the songs on this album, and probably couldn’t tell you where most of them begin or end because it works as such a great cohesive whole.

The secret weapon is Nicole Sherzinger who would later achieve mega stardom as the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. It feels really weird to write that because the musical styles of the two groups couldn’t be more distant. But Sherzinger does have a beautiful voice and uses it to great effect with Days of the New.

Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Travis Meeks got a lot of grief for pulling one of those megalomaniacal stunts of firing his whole band, but in his defense did you ever listen to Tantric? That was not a band I enjoyed. Sure, they were competent musicians and their stuff was okay, but there was no fire behind it. It always sounded like safe, middle-of-the-road rock to me. I just imagine them bringing the songs to him and him saying “No. You’re all fired.”

The acoustic guitars are still front and center but there’s plenty of other instrumentation to shake things up. The acoustic guitar thing was a good gimmick that definitely got them attention with their debut, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t have kept peoples interest if they’d just repeated that formula.

I’m not sure what all the instruments were used on this album , but I’m guessing there’s an ocarina in there somewhere. It really takes me back then.