Gin Blossoms Celebrate 25 Years of Breakout Record

The Gin Blossoms’ album, New Miserable Experience, turns 25 years old and celebrates with the release of a commemorative vinyl release. Coming on the heels of the announcement of a summer tour with Sugar Ray, Everclear, Lit and Marcy Playground, the Gin Blossoms are standing tall as one of the few respected 1990s bands still around.


Looking back at their breakthrough record, the band has mixed feelings about their recording process and the incidents that occurred within the group at the time. Problems with the label and between bandmates ensued during the recording.


Hailing from Tempe, Arizona, the band was signed by A&M Records and attempted to cut New Miserable Experience in 1991 in Los Angeles. The recording, with a price tag of $100,000, failed to capture the sound or the band. With the threat of being dropped from the label, they headed to Memphis in 1992 to try a hand at recording again at Ardent Studios.


Ardent was the location that produced a number of alt-rock classics from the likes of the Replacements and Big Star. They hired the legendary engineer John Hampton to produce. He brought his experience with fuzzy guitars and pop sensibilities.


The band, however, was in disarray. Studio executives were debating whether to drop the group but were being pressured to release something at the height of the alternative explosion. This was coupled with the fact that guitarist Doug Hopkins, the founder and chief songwriter, had stumbled into alcoholism and bipolar mental illness.


New Miserable Experience was built on the concept of bridging loud pop anthems with lyrics discussing some of the darker aspects of relationships and life in general. The tortured soul of Hopkins was readily observable, particularly with the breakout, “Hey Jealously.”


The song, like the album, did virtually nothing for about a year until the label decided to give it another push. A new video was filmed and MTV picked it up for regular rotation. It was joined by “Found Out About You” helping the Gin Blossoms ride the wave of the alternative sound into the proverbial port.


After 25 years, the band continues to have success as one of the era’s most accessible musical groups. This album allowed the Gin Blossoms to continue recording and touring with only a few brief hiatuses. Today, the recognizable radio hits can still be heard as background music in restaurants and big box stores nationwide.


Fleetwood Mac Reissue Makes Mediocrity Memorable

Fleetwood Mac is the band that just won’t go away. With all five classic members either in their 70’s or knocking on that milestone, it would be understandable if the band took a much-deserved swan dive into wherever old rock heroes go in their old age. The Mac didn’t get that memo. They’re even headlining a big set of summer shows in New York and California.


Not that they can’t still draw a packed house or even headline a bill. Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and company work a special kind of magic in their concerts. The music is as crisp and harmonious as ever. Most bands would be content with that kind of legacy, but many fans have been clamoring for new music from this iconic outfit. Fleetwood Mac has not released an album of new music since 2003’s Say You Will, an underwhelming effort that left many fans disappointed.


Instead, the band has focused on live and retrospective albums which serve up old classics. The latest effort in this regard is an expanded reissue of Tango In The Night, arguably one of the weakest albums in the band’s catalog. Originally released in 1987 as the glorious MTV 80’s era was beginning to fade, Tango perhaps should have been the group’s swan song.


The reissue includes demos that are meant to convey how songs like “Little Lies” and “Big Love” came together. While those were certainly big hits for Fleetwood Mac, the demos don’t really add that much color to the originals. Buckingham’s solo guitar work on “Big Love” has been a staple of live shows for more than a decade, so it isn’t like fans haven’t heard some of this material before.


Then there are remixes which defy logic. The dub versions of some of the album’s songs are just uncomfortably weird. One has to ask, what’s the point? Even Stevie Nicks recently admitted that an album of new material would be pointless because the sales just wouldn’t be there, yet the remixes on this album come across as a lame attempt to appeal to younger audiences.


Unfortunately, this reissue only calls to mind the mediocrity of the original. There is, however, a glimmer of hope for the faithful. Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie have a new album slated for release sometime in 2017 which features every member of the band except Nicks.


Bob Dylan Brings Back the Triple Album

Bob Dylan releases his latest work focusing on American music with the three-disc collection properly titled Triplicate. The album picks up where his previous outings, Shadows in the Night and Fallen Angels, leave off. This time, however, he brings an even heavier tone to the music and takes his place as one of the few artists who attempt the coveted triple album release.


A rare approach to pop music, the three CD set is a way to package music considered by many to simply be a bloated, self-obsessed exploration of whatever the artist is preoccupied with at the time. While sometimes this may be true, many musicians have a valid reason to release this format.


At certain points in their lives, musicians find themselves with a plethora of material, often too much to simply fit on a single disc. While the double-disc caters to this instance, a triple-disc can be even more oftentimes using the third disc as an experimental disc focusing on instrumentals and what otherwise would be bonus material.


There are many triple-disc compilations used primarily as a way of showcases multiple acts from a label, a la the Motown releases of the 1970s. Other three-disc albums include concerts and retrospectives. These are not the same as a single group or artist producing a single, concrete period piece.


The idea of the triple-disc as a piece of pop art has its roots in the 1970s release of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. This album, his first following the breakup of the Beatles, came about due to the sheer volume of material Harrison had written in the latter days of the band. Since McCartney and Lennon were the primary songwriters of the quartet, Harrison had a multitude of songs unrecorded and unreleased. While the first two records worked as a cohesive construct, the third disc was primarily a collection of surplus tracks and jam sessions.


Over the course of the next few decades, many artists released triple-disc albums for many of the same reasons. Most notably were a number of progressive rock bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. However, the form was not exclusive and bands like Public Image Ltd. and the Clash added their footnote to history.


With Dylan’s release of Triplicate, he joins the ranks of notable artists like the Grateful Dead and Prince in an era where digital one-off songs are the king and the album has become an advertisement for the singles. One thing can be said, however, Triplicate will more-than-likely not be the most successful three-record set, but it also won’t be the last.