Tag Archives: Shudder to Think

BDWPS Podcast: Episode #61 (Class Reunion Edition)

In the latest episode of the BDWPS podcast, we revisit some of my favorite songs from 20 years ago (my senior year in high school). It’s an episode filled with memories and some great music from the past, including tracks from Fugazi, Archers of Loaf, Semisonic, Sunny Day Real Estate, Shudder To Think, The Descendents, Satchel, and Blur.

Check it out HERE, or better yet, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or GooglePlay (search: BDWPS).

Tracklist:

Fugazi “Target”

Archers of Loaf “Underachievers (Fight Song)”

Semisonic “Down in Flames”

Sunny Day Real Estate “8”

Shudder to Think “Resident Wine”

The Descendents “When I Get Old”

Satchel “For So Long”

Blur “M.O.R.”

Bob Dylan “Another Pawn in Their Game”

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I Used To Love The Boys…

Last weekend I was hanging out with a friend when we randomly we began talking about the song “Playground” by the early 90s rap/R&B band Another Bad Creation (I believe the conversation started when the word “playground” was said in passing, and of course this led to one of us blurting out the chorus “At the playground, ya know?”). While my friend simply knew the child group’s one hit, I began listing off the songs that began resurfacing in my memory: “Iesha”, “Jealous Girl”, and “My World”.

There are so many things wrong with this video…

He looked at me like I was insane for knowing the band’s music so well, so I tried explaining my 8th grade love of ABC.  I reasoned that Boys II Men were a gateway drug that led me to their less talented label-mates Bel Biv Devoe and, of course,  ABC.  But as I made this excuse, my mind led me into the recesses of memory that I’ve tried to ignore since those early prepubescent days.  Another Bad Creation were only the tip of the iceberg of embarrassment when it comes to child R&B boy bands.

I liked The Boys.

No! Not in a gay or pedophilic way (you sick-o); I liked the The Boys – a child quartet based out of California that were the protégés of R&B singer Babyface. If confused, you’re probably not alone in your lack of Boys knowledge, yet the band, thanks to the songwriting assistance of Babyface, scored a #1 R&B hit with the song “Dial My Heart”.  Despite their popularity in more urban environs, The Boys went completely unnoticed in my small Iowa hometown where all of my friends were listening to Poison, House of Pain, and Guns N’ Roses.

I love the creepy old security guard who watches little boys dance:

As for middle school music taste, I hated the hair metal of the time and my rap exploration stopped at MC Hammer, so my natural choice was the R&B stylings of artists like Bobby Brown and Shai.  But The Boys? I’m not sure where or how my discovery of The Boys happened, but even at the young age of 13, it was a musical admiration that I wasn’t proud of.   On bus trips when my friends would share their Motely Crue and Vanilla Ice tapes, I’d slink low in my seat and sneak my “Message from the Boys” tape into my Walkman.  I knew this was the type of musical fare for young black girls, yet I found something commendable in their music; what it was, I can’t quite pinpoint.

They’re not even good dancers:

I would like to blame it on a 13-year-old’s childish innocence and the discovery that goes on during puberty; but I can’t.  A year later, a year wiser, I ended up buying The Boys self-titled sequel.  My love was not limited to one foolish year; I couldn’t get enough of these kids and their off-pitch vocals.  To make matters worse, I enjoyed the second album even more than their first.  My journey into the abyss of dissonance only deepened.

My favorite song on their second album had to be “I Had A Dream”.  I found this comment on discrimination to be riveting, carrying a message like no other song had done before (in my young eyes, it put Marvin Gaye to shame).  Re-listening to it this weekend (I decided to torture my friend with my walk down memory lane), I discovered what I once found to be a poignant song was actually a borderline insult to Martin Luther King Jr.  The mix of the “My Prerogative” rip-off background music and MLK’s voice being scratched incessantly, results in what resembles a parody song.

I also like that this video I found was using this song to promote Obama in 08’:

The band went on to release another album, “The Saga Continues…”, but I can proudly say that I finally freed myself from their clutches thanks to the help of Jimi Hendrix and the growing grunge scene (I’ve since found out that The Boys and their families moved to Africa and formed the band Suns of Light which is still together today).  All of my R&B tapes found a new home in the back of my closet as I realized that my prejudice against guitar driven music was misguided (my hatred for hair metal blinded me far too long).

But the question still remains: why did I like The Boys in the first place?  I’d like to believe it was a result of me being a member a middle school male quartet that performed at county fairs and talent competitions.  Then again, I never shared the music of The Boys to the other members of the group nor did we sing any of their horrific songs.

Pondering this question with my friend the other night, he suggested that maybe I wanted to be a black kid.  This hypothesis is based on a recent omission that I may have enjoyed the “Rumpshaker” video a bit too much as a teenager.  I also had a cult following of the NBA (and still do), but, again, I disagree with this theory.  I never bought hip-hop clothes and never cut silly designs in my hair.

Over the past few days I’ve thought more about the origins of my allegiance to The Boys, and I think I’ve sort of figured it out.  Musically, I’ll never understand what I found enjoyment in, but I do think my love of the obscure grew out of my secret delight in their music. My unshared adoration was mine and mine alone (at least in my Midwestern stomping grounds). I didn’t hear it on the radio, and my friends weren’t all clamoring to hear the latest from The Boys. I felt ownership with them (not in the slavery sense you weirdo); they were my band, and I kind of liked that feeling of discovering something others around me ignored.  This pattern would continue as I headed into high school and found a solace in real bands like Fugazi, Jawbox, and Shudder To Think.  And really, you can’t deny that The Boys were one Ian MacKaye away from being a damn good group.

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Shuder to Think “Live from Home”

Shudder to Think
“Live From Home”
Your Choice Records

Rating: 8.5

A few weeks back while watching an episode of “Hung”, I noticed the credits said, “Music by Craig Wedren”.  I turned to my girlfriend, giddy with excitement and announced, “He’s from Shudder to Think!” Having not heard any new Shudder material for over a decade, I turned up the TV to hear the music. Quickly my joy turned to disappointment.  The twinkling synth music didn’t sound anything like the Shudder to Think I idolized as a teenager.  Where was Craig’s falsetto voice and angular guitar riffs?  

 A week later, while scanning the list of latest releases, the adolescent fan boy in me returned, seeing that Shudder to Think had just released a live album. Despite not being a fan of live albums, I found myself visiting Insound and purchasing the albums on the spot. Four days later I was inserting the new Shudder album into my CD player, and this listen wouldn’t disappoint like my “Hung” experience (Speaking of “Hung” and disappointment, after a promising first half of a season, how badly did that show fall flat?).

 The album starts with “Red House”, the perfect opener due to how the song spanned their career, first released on “Funeral at the Movies” and then a newer version was featured on their last album “50,000 B.C.”  From there the band burns through songs off all of their albums; kind of like a best of album minus the pretension.  I expected the band to sound old, that they may have lost their edge, but they’ve never sounded better. Their older tunes are revived with a refreshing zeal, and on the songs from “Pony Express Record” they sound like they recorded the classic album the day prior.  Craig’s voice hasn’t lost its nasal, sassy edge, nor has their guitars lost their nasty growl.

 As much as I was enjoying the album, hearing that they still have “it” in them made me even more annoyed with their soundtrack endeavors.  Like Wedren, guitarist Nathan Larson also went the way of writing music for movies, none of which resembles the Shudder sound of old. I never understood why this art punk outfit put their guitars down to write soundtracks and theme songs for such projects as “Reno 911”, “The Woodsmen”, and “School of Rock”.  A Wedren soundtrack is a lot like Michael Jordan playing baseball; sure, he can pull it off, but it just doesn’t compare when not utilizing his best assets. Unfortunately, their dabble in the cinema makes their album title “Funeral at the Movies” sadly ironic.

 The album does have its issue.  For one, the recording quality sounds a bit tinny, with every “S” sound stabbing into your ear drum.  You’d think they would have taken a moment to possibly smooth over the audio before sending it out to the presses. There is also a little bit too much small talk between songs, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but hearing Wedren talk about how the audience should go vote for Obama seems a little dated.

 Near the end of the show, Wedren expresses his surprise that so many people are still interested in his band saying, “This is, like, huge for us to see all of you. HUGE.”  The show ends with a soothing send off, playing “Day Ditty” which features the lyrics:

 Can you help me sleep?
or go home
and maybe meet me another day
another day…another day…another day…..

 Hopefully, the fan interest was “huge” enough for them that we are able to see Shudder to Think another day, this time with an album of new material. 

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