Helmet's debut album on Amphetamine Reptile Records was a savage and self-assured record, and they backed it up by touring heavily and blowing people away. Then, Nirvana blew up huge and the major labels started looking for heavy rock acts to sign to satisfy a market suddenly hungry for them. Every single one of them landed on Helmet, and a ferocious bidding war erupted. Interscope were the winners, signing Helmet to a million dollar deal and sending them into the studio. As a teaser, they released a CD single with three of the songs from the upcoming album (including this one) along with one live track, and I got to see what Helmet would sound like with serious dollars behind them. The answer? Helmet!
While they left behind some of the noise, the machine-like attack and precision were still there, and that percussive sound was always more important to the songs than the grit. The resulting album didn't set the world on fire or anything, I think that they were never really emotional enough to really connect with grunge fans, but Helmet's first three albums are all a lot of fun. This single is gloriously unnecessary, though.
Andrew Bird, "Dark Matter"
I've mentioned them before, but it's been a bit - Andrew Bird released a series of three albums called Fingerlings (this is from Fingerlings 3), which contain various experiments, demos, live recordings, and alternate takes of songs. They're intended to be views into Bird's creative process, and if you love his early 2000s output (which I very much do), they're great companions. This, for instance, is an early version of one of the great songs from Armchair Apocrypha, where he's clearly still working things out, but many of the elements are present. The fact that this is all just a solo performance, of Bird accompanying himself, makes it all the more impressive. The "do you wonder where the self resides? / Is it in your head or between your sides / and who will be the one who will decide / it's true location" is one of my favorite lyrical sequences.
They Might Be Giants, "Erase"
Glean is an album that was put together by selecting from a year of weekly Dial-a-Song songs, picking the most promising, and going into the studio with them. It's a decent album, but it sort of feels a little disjointed to me, so it's not one of my favorites.
fIREHOSE, "Sophisticated Bitch"
The early 90s rock boom even swept up underground rock/folk band fIREHOSE, which made absolutely no sense at all. I hope they got paid, though! I guess some label A&R squinted and saw a little bit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in them with Watt's forward bass? Anyway, they released an album (their worst full-length, the upgrade in production did them no favors), and then followed it up with an EP recorded live. The EP included five covers, including this rendition of a Public Enemy tune. Nobody is going to mistake Ed Crawford for Chuck D or anything, but there's admirable energy here, and the EP is a good time.
Eminem, "Role Model"
I'm not going to discuss the song, you've all made your minds up on Eminem. No, I'm just going to bitch about how a bunch of my albums got swapped for the "clean" versions of them by Amazon during an automatic process. Thanks, Amazon!