About the artist
Kenyon Hopkin, Rovi
|The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Game of Thrones (Music from the HBO® Series) Season 3|| |
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|Sequestered in Memphis||Sequestered In Memphis|| |
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|The Ambassador||Teeth Dreams|| |
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|The Weekenders||Heaven Is Whenever|| |
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|Atlantic City||War Child - Heroes, Vol. 1|| |
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|Hurricane J||Heaven Is Whenever|| |
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|The Only Thing||Teeth Dreams|| |
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Released in 2008, Stay Positive is the most sophisticated and erudite THS have ever sounded, and that's a mixed blessing. Where every song on previous sets felt unfinished and open-ended, these tracks are sheen-polished and almost slick. They reveal growth and studio expertise but also a kind of laziness. These 12 songs are full of near-cinematic rock dynamism and expertly rendered sonic effects. The Led Zep insider jokes are abundant in both lyrics and music, and the E Street Band's Darkness on the Edge of Town epic rock is channeled to alternately stunning and irritating degrees. The random reckless energy of the earlier album trilogy has been replaced -- mostly -- by tucked corners and smoothed edges. For instance, the harpsichord on "One for the Cutters" is dreadful; it dulls the impact of Finn's searing words that reference characters from his previous songs. One wonders if this is attempted irony, blunted personal pain, or both. Production aside, Finn's words and melodies have grown in depth without losing their immediacy. On album opener "Constructive Summer," the huge guitars of Stiff Little Fingers circa Nobody's Heroes meet the young wistful Van Morrison of "Brown Eyed Girl." But there's a twist: the protagonist is an American adult male trapped in adolescence, living in nowheresville; he seeks something worth remembering from all the blackouts and wasted life -- the romance of myth is displaced by false promises dictated by fear and self-deceit. He raises a toast to "...Saint Joe Strummer/I think he might have been the only decent teacher/Getting older makes it harder to remember/We are our only saviors/We're gonna build something this summer." The chorus offers a confusing, jokey chanted chorus (à la the Adolescents) that adds dimensionally to the loss here. "Navy Sheets" references four tracks on Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy: "Dy'er Maker," "The Ocean,""The Crunge," and the song itself from Physical Graffiti. But the piano in the wonderful "Sequestered in Memphis" -- channeling the E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan -- is very effective; it introduces the tune before a B-3 and a tenor saxophone move against the guitars to create an unholy union between story-song and mid-level punk anthem. But Finn and company save two of the best tunes for last in "Joke About Jamaica" and "Slapped Actress." Their drama, raw and incessant energy, "and" musical sophistication all come together in two songs that are less studied and calculated. There is an uneasy balance between "finished" big-time rock and the wily, playful freedom of "arena rock in my basement"; humor is maintained amid the darkness and Finn's self-referential mythology unwinds itself into even greater insight. Irony abounds, finally, in that even if it's the Hold Steady's least enjoyable recording, Stay Positive will break this band on the charts nationally. [Rough Trade's 2008 edition included bonus tracks.]
Chisel's eventual breakup in 1997 came after their critically acclaimed sophomore full-length, Set You Free. The band's reputation seemed to flourish after their breakup, however, and even though the retro trends in indie rock would eventually gain enough popularity to inspire the likes of mod underground sweethearts like the Mooney Suzuki and the Delta 72, the influence of Chisel goes largely unnoticed. Leo went on to a variety of musical endeavors, including two years of on-again, off-again touring as a guitarist with the Spinanes, and a short-lived project called the Sin Eaters that he founded with his brother, Danny Leo, on drums and former Van Pelt bassist Sean Greene. The Sin Eaters' progressive, politically charged, punk-fused rock and local all-star lineup took the New York underground by storm between 1997 and 1998, until Danny Leo left the band to work on his own material and eventually founded the Holy Childhood.
When the Sin Eaters disbanded without a recorded legacy in 1998, Ted Leo was left without a band and began his career as a solo artist. He remained active by wearing the hat of producer for the Secret Stars' debut record, Geneologies, and touring alone on the East Coast and through the Midwest. He eventually recorded a self-titled full-length on his homestead, Gern Blandsten Records, in 1999 with a new band, the Pharmacists, that included various friends and affiliates of the Secret Stars, including Jodi Buonanno. This record marked a notable change in Leo's sound, which, mostly due to his performance practices, was more and more rooted in songwriting legends like Billy Bragg and Alex Chilton. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists released a split with the One AM Radio later that year as a collaborative effort of both Gern Blansten and Garbage Czar.
In the spring of 2000, Leo's sophomore effort, Treble in Trouble, was released on New Jersey-based Ace Fu Records, displaying a more aggressive and romantic bent to Leo's writing. In the early summer of 2001, Leo released a polished studio effort, The Tyranny of Distance, on Lookout Records. A strong contender for record of the year, it was followed by the equally strong Hearts of Oak in 2003. Shake the Sheets. which appeared in 2004, would prove to be his last for then-troubled Lookout, as Leo signed with Chicago-based indie Touch and Go in February 2006. A tour followed in March, on which he was supported by the Duke Spirit and Les Aus. He continued touring throughout 2006, festivals such as Coachella and headlining dates alike, as new material was worked on as well. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists eventually returned in March 2007 with full-length number five, Living with the Living. In 2009 Leo signed with Matador, and the following year he released his first record with them, The Brutalist Bricks.
Wilco's sophomore effort, 1996's two-disc set Being There, marked a radical transformation in the group's sound; while remaining steeped in the style that earned Tweedy his reputation, the songs took unexpected detours into psychedelia, power pop, and soul, complete with orchestral touches and R&B horn flourishes. Shortly after the release of Being There, which most critics judged to be among the year's best releases, Johnston left the group to play with his sister, singer Michelle Shocked, and was replaced by guitarist Bob Egan of the band Freakwater. At the same time, while remaining full-time members of Wilco, Stirratt, Bennett, and Coomer also began performing together in the pop side project Courtesy Move. In 1998, Wilco collaborated with singer/songwriter Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue, a collection of performances based on unreleased material originally written by Woody Guthrie.
Their stunningly lush third album, Summerteeth, followed in 1999 and met with critical acclaim but only average sales, initiating tensions with their label, Warner Bros. Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2, which featured more selections from the band's collaborations with Bragg on Woody Guthrie's unfinished songs, was issued in 2000. Following this release, longtime drummer Ken Coomer decided to amicably leave the band and was replaced by the Chicago-based Glenn Kotche. Wilco then focused on recording their fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which ultimately led to the departure of guitarist Jay Bennett and further tensions with their label. Unwilling to change the album to make it more "commercially viable," Wilco bought the finished studio tapes from Warner/Reprise for a reported $50,000 and left the label altogether.
Leaked tracks from the album surfaced on the Internet in late 2001, and the stripped-down lineup of Tweedy, Kotche, Stirratt, and multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach embarked on a small tour to support -- or drum up support for -- the unreleased record. Nonesuch Records picked up the album and officially released it in early 2002 to widespread critical acclaim. Meanwhile, an independent film documenting the drama surrounding the album ("I Am Trying to Break Your Heart") followed in the fall of 2002. During the down time after the album was recorded, Tweedy composed and recorded the film score to the Ethan Hawke film "Chelsea Walls", which ended up being released around the same time as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Wilco toured extensively following the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and in 2003 began work on their next album, A Ghost Is Born. While sessions went smoothly compared to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, after the album was finished Leroy Bach left the band in a split that was described as mutual and amicable; guitarist Nels Cline, keyboardist Mike Jorgensen, and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone joined Wilco for their subsequent tour. Shortly before the album's release, Tweedy surprised many fans by announcing he had entered a drug rehabilitation facility to treat a dependency on painkillers, prescribed to treat a long history of migraine headaches aggravated by panic disorder. Tweedy discussed his health problems in depth, along with the often tangled history of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo, in "Wilco: Learning How to Die", a biography of the group written by rock journalist Greg Kot, published to coincide with A Ghost Is Born's release in the spring of 2004.
The following year, the group released Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, a 23-track collection recorded in the Windy City's Vic Theater, an album that was later deemed one of the Top 20 best live albums by Q Magazine. In 2007 Wilco's sixth studio album, Sky Blue Sky, hit shelves. Less experimental than its predecessors, Sky Blue Sky peaked at number five on the U.S. album charts and made a strong showing internationally. Wilco's seventh album, the breezy and laid-back Wilco (The Album), was released on June 30, 2009, one month after the death of former bandmember Jay Bennett, who passed away in his home in Urbana, Illinois after accidentally overdosing on the prescription painkiller fentanyl. At the end of touring that album, the band took a break for much of 2010 (their longest break since formation) and resurfaced in 2011 with their own label, dBpm Records, and the release of The Whole Love.
Fuckin A, the Thermals' sophomore effort appeared in mid-2004. In the midst of recording their third full-length, however, founding drummer Jordan Hudson left the group. Foster and Harris resumed recording and played all the instruments themselves, with the resulting The Body, The Blood, The Machine being released in 2006. Drummer Caitlin Love joined the Thermals just in time for a European tour that spring. Lorin Coleman, of the Portland indie rock act Virga, was added on drums in late summer, and auxiliary guitarist Joel Burrows briefly joined as well. The quartet dissolved in 2008, however, once again leaving Foster and Harris as the band's only members. Following their departure from Sub Pop's roster, the Thermals signed with Kill Rockstars and released Now We Can See in April 2009, followed by Personal Life in 2010. In 2012 the band's cover of the Malvina Reynolds song "Little Boxes" was used in the opening of an episode of the Showtime series "Weeds". In January of 2013, the group found themselves switching labels once again, this time to Omaha, Nebraska-based Saddle Creek, who released their sixth album Desperate Ground later that year.
In 1985, college friends Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood (whose father, David Hood, was a Muscle Shoals session player who played bass on the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There") formed a punk-inspired band named Adam's House Cat. The group split up six years later, and Cooley and Hood launched several follow-up projects before moving to different cities. They eventually returned to Athens, GA, where they formed Drive-By Truckers in 1996. Gangstabilly announced the band's official debut in 1998, and the follow-up album Pizza Deliverance saw Cooley emerging as a strong songwriter in his own right. (The contrast between Cooley and Hood's songs, as well as those compositions written by bandmembers Rob Malone, Shonna Tucker, and Jason Isbell, would soon prove to be one of the Truckers' biggest strengths.) In 2000, the band documented its strength as a live act with Alabama Ass Whuppin', a concert recording taken from a show in Athens.
The vision for Drive-By Truckers' heralded rock opera took shape as Hood began to address his own Southern roots. Recorded during a September heat wave in Birmingham, Alabama -- and boasting the band's three-guitar attack (à la Skynyrd) -- the album veered from nervy, powerful rock & roll to a bruised, jagged tone that recalled Neil Young & Crazy Horse. It was also an underground success, receiving a four-star rating from "Rolling Stone" and catching the ear of roots rock label Lost Highway, which reissued the album in 2002. Unfortunately for the label, many people who would otherwise have purchased the album already owned a copy; unfortunately for the Truckers, they were released from their contract just as their first album for Lost Highway was finished. After several months of between-label limbo, the band was picked up by New West Records, a Texas-based label that released Decoration Day in mid-2003. The album featured several songs by newcomer Jason Isbell, a young singer/guitarist who had replaced Rob Malone two years prior.
Tour dates and further lineup changes followed the album's release, with bassist Earl Hicks departing and studio musician Shonna Tucker (who was also Isbell's wife) climbing aboard to join Hood, Cooley, Isbell, and drummer Brad Morgan. The new lineup made its debut on 2004's The Dirty South, a concept album that spun Southern tales of small towns, violent sheriffs, and legendary record producers. A concert DVD, Live at the 40 Watt: August 27 & 28, 2004, arrived in 2005, followed one year later by Isbell's final album with the group, A Blessing and a Curse. In light of Isbell's decision to quit the band in favor of a solo career, pedal steel guitarist John Neff officially joined in 2007, having contributed to several Drive-By Truckers albums in the past. Brighter Than Creation's Dark introduced the revised lineup in 2008; additionally, it showcased Shonna Tucker's abilities as a songwriter, marking the first time that any of her contributions had appeared on record. Drive-By Truckers returned to the road that summer to support the record's release.
Although the band remained on tour well into 2009, the Truckers also found time to release their second concert album, Live from Austin TX, as well as a collection of unreleased material entitled The Fine Print: A Collection of Oddities and Rarities. Patterson Hood rounded out the year by recording his second solo record, Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs), and gathering his bandmates back together after its release for another round of recording sessions. Two albums resulted from those sessions, 2010's The Big To-Do and 2011's Go-Go Boots, both of which were released by ATO Records. Meanwhile, New West Records combed through the band's first decade of material to help compile Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009, which marked the band's final release for the New West label in August 2011.
Producer Brian Beattie caught the band's SXSW showcase and agreed to helm Okkervil River's debut album, Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See. Warren relocated to California during the recording sessions and was replaced by drummer Mark Pedini; meanwhile, the band inked a record contract with Jagjaguwar, which released the completed Don't Fall in Love in January 2002. A second release, Down the River of Golden Dreams, followed one year later. Pedini had left the band by early 2003, however, thus leaving his former bandmates without a drummer as they prepared to return to SXSW. Travis Nelson climbed aboard as a temporary replacement and soon joined the permanent lineup, as did lap steel guitarist Howard Draper.
Already renowned in Texas, Okkervil River rose to national prominence with the release of 2005's Black Sheep Boy, followed several months later by the Black Sheep Boy Appendix EP. Both albums featured a wide crop of musicians, and the band's lineup continued to change as Scott Brackett joined on keyboards and Pat Pestorius replaced Zach Thomas on bass. Okkervil River's profile was likewise expanding, as Virgin Records reissued both Black Sheep Boy discs in Europe. Despite the international buzz, several bandmates found themselves torn between Okkervil River and Shearwater, a group originally founded in 2001 as a side project for Meiburg and Sheff. As the side project evolved into a full-fledged band, Meiburg quit Okkervil River to devote his full attention to Shearwater. Brian Cassidy was then hired, and the new lineup unveiled itself with 2007's Stage Names.
Stage Names climbed to number 62 on the Billboard charts, Okkervil River's highest peak to date. Three months after its release, pianist Justin Sherburn joined the band. Lineup changes continued into 2008, as Cassidy left and was replaced by the Wrens' Charlie Bissell, who toured throughout the summer before giving up his spot to guitarist Lauren Gurgiolo. With their newest lineup intact, Okkervil River returned that fall with the band's fifth album, The Stand Ins. TV performances and various tour dates followed, as did the opportunity to serve as Roky Erickson's backing band on True Love Cast Out All Evil. Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff produced the critically acclaimed album, a role he reprised on his own band's 2011 release, I Am Very Far.
Uncle Tupelo was led by singers/songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, lifelong friends born in the same Belleville hospital in 1967. During high school, the pair formed a punk cover band called the Primitives along with drummer Mike Heidorn and Farrar's older brother Wade. After Wade enlisted in the Army, the Primitives broke up, but in 1987, the remaining trio reunited, changed their name to Uncle Tupelo, and began incorporating elements of country into their music as well as writing original material. Touring constantly throughout the Midwest, the bandmembers eventually quit school as their music became more and more successful, and in 1989 they signed a contract with the small independent label Rockville.
Taking its name from the A.P. Carter gospel song covered therein, No Depression reflected the band's disparate influences, ranging from everyone from Hank Williams to bluesman Leadbelly through to the famed post-punk trio Hüsker Dü. The most rock-centric of Uncle Tupelo's releases, its songs were meditations on small-town, small-time life, candid snapshots of days spent working thankless jobs and nights spent in an alcoholic fog. After the release of "I Got Drunk," a brilliant single backed with a cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City," 1991's Still Feel Gone struck a finer balance between their rock and country aims. While Farrar's contributions -- sung in his reedy, Neil Young-like voice -- were often informed by a rootsy, scorched-earth mentality, Tweedy's, with their grittier vocals, delved deeper into the trio's punk origins, as typified by the song "D. Boon," a tribute to the late frontman of the legendary Minutemen.
A year later, Uncle Tupelo released March 16-20, 1992, an acoustic record which saw the group plunging fully into country and folk. Recorded live in the studio with producer Peter Buck (of the band R.E.M.), the album drew heavily on painstakingly authentic covers of standards like "Moonshiner" and "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" along with a fitting rendition of the Louvin Brothers' "The Great Atomic Power" and Farrar's and Tweedy's originals, which maintained the record's spare, haunting ambience. Shortly after its release, Heidorn left the group to devote time to his family and was replaced by drummer Ken Coomer, formerly of the group Clockhammer. Multi-instrumentalists Max Johnston and John Stirratt also signed on as part-time members.
In 1992, Uncle Tupelo signed to major label Sire/Reprise and in 1993 issued the LP Anodyne. Widely regarded as the group's definitive statement, it was a true country-rock hybrid which accented the power of both musical forms; the album even featured a cover of the song "Give Back the Key to My Heart" sung with its writer, roots rock pioneer Doug Sahm. After a tour in support of the album, however, the long-standing relationship between Farrar and Tweedy dissolved in bitter acrimony, and Uncle Tupelo disbanded; shortly thereafter, Tweedy recruited Coomer, Johnston, and Stirratt to form the band Wilco, while Farrar reunited with Heidorn in Son Volt.
Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond first partnered up in 1989, when Miller enlisted the latter's help in producing his debut solo album, Mythologies. Although six years younger than Hammond, Miller proved to be a dedicated musician as he canvassed the Dallas club circuit, playing an blend of folk and British-styled pop to local audiences. He also displayed a knack for storytelling, having previously earned a creative writing scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College. One year after Mythologies' release, Miller and Hammond teamed up once again, this time as part of the short-lived Sleepy Heroes.
Although the Sleepy Heroes disbanded after issuing one album, the band's mix of pop and Texas-styled twang helped lay the foundation for Old 97's. Continuing to build upon that sound, Miller and Hammond linked up with lead guitarist Ken Bethea and recorded a demo tape at the Cedar Creek studio in Austin. Drummer Philip Peeples climbed on board shortly thereafter, and Hammond's childhood obsession with trains inspired the band's new name, which paid homage to the country ballad "Wreck of the Old 97." With their lineup intact, Old 97's released the debut album Hitchhike to Rhome in 1994. It garnered positive reviews and began to build the group's alt-country fan base, which they consolidated on the album's follow-up, Wreck Your Life. Issued in 1995 by the newly formed Bloodshot Records -- a label that would also launch the alt-country careers of Neko Case and Ryan Adams -- Wreck Your Life presented Old 97's as a sharp, eclectic country-rock outfit with a pinup-worthy frontman. Such positive attention led to a major-label deal with Elektra Records, who hoped to translate the band's underground buzz into mainstream success.
Old 97's made their Elektra debut in 1997 with Too Far to Care, a muscular album that balanced the band's Texas traditionalism and pop leanings. Many publications placed the band among the leaders of the alt-country movement, and Old 97's toured extensively in support, joining the Lollapalooza tour that summer and playing alongside Whiskeytown for a series of shows sponsored by No Depression magazine. Arriving two years later, 1999's Fight Songs offered another polished, pop-friendly set of songs, allowing the band to sell out 1,500-seat venues during its return to the road.
By this time, Miller had moved to Los Angeles and shed the thick, '50s-style glasses that had become a major part of his image. He and Hammond also began performing in an informal side project dubbed the Ranchero Brothers, although a proposed album never materialized. Instead, the musicians returned their focus to Old 97's, releasing another pop-influenced record with 2001's Satellite Rides. Miller took a temporary leave after its release to work on a solo power pop record, The Instigator, which was released in late 2002. A period of relative inactivity followed, as the bandmembers found themselves in different cities, with several of them starting families.
The hiatus ended in 2004 with the release of Drag It Up, whose subsequent tour featured prominently on the double-disc live album Alive & Wired. Afterward, Miller returned to his solo career with 2006's The Believer, which found the frontman experimenting with strings and orchestral arrangements. Old 97's returned to the studio once again in 2008, though, this time holing up in their native Dallas to help channel the energy of their earlier records. The move worked, and the resulting album, Blame It on Gravity, delivered some of the band's strongest songs in years. While touring the country in support, Murry Hammond launched his own solo career, packaging a wealth of old-timey gospel ballads and locomotive imagery onto the album I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm on My Way. Miller also found time to release a solo album, 2009's self-titled Rhett Miller, which appeared one year before the ninth Old 97's record, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1. Originally intended as a double-album, The Grand Theatre was followed in mid-2011 by a companion record, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 2.
At 15, Adams started writing songs, and a year later he formed a band called the Patty Duke Syndrome; Adams once described PDS as "an arty noise punk band," with Hüsker Dü frequently cited as a key influence and reference point. The Patty Duke Syndrome developed a following in Jacksonville, and when Adams was 19 the band relocated to the larger town of Raleigh, North Carolina in hopes of expanding its following. However, Adams became eager to do something more melodic that would give him a platform for his country and pop influences. In 1994, Adams left the Patty Duke Syndrome and formed Whiskeytown with guitarist Phil Wandscher and violinist Caitlin Cary. With bassist Steve Grothman and drummer Eric "Skillet" Gilmore completing the lineup, Whiskeytown (the name came from regional slang for getting drunk) released their first album, Faithless Street, on the local Mood Food label.
The album won reams of critical praise in the music press, and more than one writer suggested that Whiskeytown could do for the alt-country or No Depression scene what Nirvana had done for grunge. But by the time Whiskeytown had signed to a major label -- the Geffen-distributed imprint Outpost Records -- the band had undergone the first in a series of major personal shakeups, and in the summer of 1997, when Whiskeytown's Outpost debut, Stranger's Almanac, was ready for release, Adams and Wandscher were the only official members of the group left. Cary soon returned, but Wandscher left shortly afterward, and Whiskeytown had a revolving-door lineup for much of the next two years, with the band's live shows become increasingly erratic, as solid performances were often followed by noisy, audience-baiting disasters. Consequently, as strong as Stranger's Almanac was, Whiskeytown never fulfilled the commercial expectations created for them by others. In 1999, the band -- which was down to Adams, Cary, and a handful of session musicians -- recorded its third and final album, Pneumonia, but when Geffen was absorbed in a merger between PolyGram and Universal, Outpost was phased out, and the album was shelved; shortly afterward, Whiskeytown quietly called it quits.
Following Whiskeytown's collapse, Adams wasted no time launching a career apart from the band, and after a few solo acoustic tours, Adams went into a Nashville studio with songwriters Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and cut his first album under his own name, Heartbreaker, which was released by pioneering "insurgent country" label Bloodshot Records in 2000. The album received critical raves, respectable sales, and a high-profile endorsement from Elton John, and Adams was signed by Universal's new Americana imprint, Lost Highway Records. Lost Highway gave Whiskeytown's Pneumonia a belated release in early 2001, and later that same year the label released his second solo set, Gold, which displayed less of a country influence in favor of classic pop and rock styles of the 1970s. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the album's opening track, "New York, New York," was embraced by radio as an anthem of resilience (though it actually concerned a busted romance), and Adams once again found himself touted as "the next big thing."
Always a prolific songwriter, in a bit more than a year following Gold's release, Adams had written and recorded enough material for four albums. He opted to whittle the 60 tunes down to a 13-song collection called Demolition, which was released in 2002 as he went into the studio to record his official follow-up to Gold. A year later, Adams' concept album Rock n Roll was released alongside the double-EP collection Love Is Hell. Tours around the globe kept Adams busy into the next year as he maintained momentum writing songs and keeping his ever-changing presence in the music press. In May 2005, Adams released his first of three albums for Lost Highway, the melancholic double-disc Cold Roses. Jacksonville City Nights, a more classic-sounding honky tonk effort, followed in September, and 29 appeared in late December. Always prolific, in the interim period before his next album was released Adams posted a large selection of tracks -- including several hip-hop tunes -- on his website, but fans were greeted with more straightforward material on 2007's Easy Tiger and 2008's Cardinology with the Cardinals.
Adams decided to disband the Cardinals in 2009, precipitating an unusual period of quiet from the prolific singer/songwriter. He slowly returned to active duty in 2010, releasing the heavy metal Orion on vinyl-only in the summer and then issuing III/IV -- a double album recorded with the Cardinals during the Easy Tiger sessions -- in November. For his 13th solo album, 2011's Ashes and Fire, the singer/songwriter recruited Norah Jones and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' keyboard player Benmont Tench, as well as legendary producer Glyn Johns, who helmed the Who classic Who's Next.
In 1994, the Wrens released their debut album, Silver, which mixed the dream pop of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse with the quirky indie rock for which they would become better known. The album received generally good reviews, and the Wrens got even better ones for their second album, 1996's Secaucus. Meanwhile, Grass/Dutch East India was bought by Alan Melzter, who wanted to take the label in a more hit-oriented direction. Melzter wanted the Wrens to sign a million-dollar contract and tailor their music to make it more radio-friendly. The group balked, and they were dropped from the label. Interestingly, Grass eventually became Wind-Up Records, home to the multi-million-selling Creed.
The band soldiered on, keeping their day jobs and recording and releasing their music when they could; in 1997 they issued the Abbott 1135 EP for Ten 23, the label of the A&R contact that had signed them to Grass in the first place. While several labels courted the Wrens, none of them fit the band. For a moment the Wrens were going to be part of Drive Thru's roster and even appeared on a 1999 sampler for the label, but the plans fell through. As the millennium turned, the group continued to record consistently -- a situation that was facilitated by having all the bandmembers except MacDonnell, who moved out in 1996, live in the same house and use the dining room as their studio. By 2002, the Wrens had readied their third album, Meadowlands, and had found a home for it: Absolutely Kosher, which was run by the band's longtime friend Cory Brown. The album was finally released the next summer to nearly universal critical acclaim.
Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, a sloppy hardcore collection, was released in 1981 but failed to make much of an impact on the national scene. It was followed the next year by the Stink EP, which followed the same pattern as the debut. It was the band's second album, 1983's Hootenanny, that first garnered the band attention and helped build their fan base. On Hootenanny, the group started playing around with other genres, adding elements of pop, straightforward rock & roll, country, and folk, although sometimes the eclecticism was ironic.
Hootenanny set the stage for Let It Be, the band's critical and artistic breakthrough. Released in 1984, Let It Be showed that the band had successfully expanded their musical reach and that Westerberg had grown considerably as a songwriter; he was now capable of pop like "I Will Dare," full-throttle rock & roll, and introspective ballads like "Answering Machine." Critics and fellow musicians were quick to praise the band, and they developed a large underground following. The buzz was large enough to convince Sire to sign the band in 1985.
The Replacements' first major-label album, Tim, was scheduled to be produced by Westerberg's idol, Alex Chilton, but the sessions fell through; the album was produced by former Ramone Tommy Erdelyi. Upon its release in 1985, Tim garnered rave reviews that equalled those for Let It Be. Though the band was poised for a popular breakthrough, they were unsure about making the leap into the mainstream. As a result, they never let themselves live up to their full potential. The Replacements landed a spot on Saturday Night Live, but they were roaring drunk throughout their performances and Westerberg said "f*ck" on the air. Their concerts had became notorious for such drunken, sloppy behavior. Frequently, the band was barely able to stand up, let alone play, and when they did play, they often didn't finish their songs. The Replacements also refused to make accessible videos -- the video for "Bastards of Young" featured nothing but a stereo system, playing the song -- thereby cutting themselves off from the mass exposure MTV could have granted them.
After the tour for Tim, Bob Stinson was fired from the band, allegedly for his drug and alcohol addictions. The Replacements recorded their next album as a trio in Memphis, TN, with former Big Star producer Jim Dickinson. The resulting album, Pleased to Meet Me, was more streamlined than their previous recordings. Again, the reviews were uniformly excellent upon its spring 1987 release, but the band didn't earn many new fans. During the tour for Pleased to Meet Me, guitarist Slim Dunlap filled the vacant lead guitarist spot and he became a full-time member after the tour.
Two years later, the band returned in the spring of 1989 with Don't Tell a Soul, the Replacements' last bid for a mainstream audience. The bandmembers had cleaned up, admitting that their years of drug and alcohol abuse were behind them, and were now willing to play the promotional game. Don't Tell a Soul boasted a polished, radio-ready production and the group shot MTV-friendly videos, beginning with the single "I'll Be You." Initially, the approach worked -- "I'll Be You" became a number one album rock track, crossing over to number 51 on the pop charts. However, Don't Tell a Soul never really took off and failed to establish the band as a major commercial force.
Defeated from the lackluster performance of Don't Tell a Soul, Paul Westerberg planned on recording a solo album, but Sire rejected the idea. Consequently, the next Replacements album, All Shook Down, was a solo Westerberg record in all but name. Recorded with a cast of session musicians as well as the band, All Shook Down was a stripped-down, largely acoustic affair that hinted at the turmoil within the band. Chris Mars left shortly after its fall 1990 release, claiming that Westerberg had assumed control of the band; he would launch a solo career two years later. The Replacements toured in support of All Shook Down, with Steve Foley, formerly of the Minneapolis-based Things Fall Down, as their new drummer. Neither the tour nor the album were successful, and the Replacements quietly disbanded in the summer of 1991.
Tommy Stinson formed Bash & Pop the following year; in 1995, he formed a new band called Perfect. Dunlap released a solo album in 1993. Bob Stinson died February 15, 1995, from a drug overdose. Westerberg began a solo career slowly, releasing two songs on the Singles ("Dyslexic Heart," "Waiting for Somebody") soundtrack in 1992; he also scored the film. He released his debut solo album, 14 Songs, in the summer of 1993 to mixed reviews. Paul Westerberg's second solo album, Eventually, was released in the spring of 1996.
Both the album and their performance at that year's South by Southwest Music Conference were hailed by prominent artists and critics, including Rolling Stone's David Fricke and Steve Earle. Earle asked Marah to record for his label, E-Squared, and the results, Kids in Philly, was co-released by E-Squared and Artemis Records in 2000. Two years later, Marah released their third album, Float Away with the Friday Night Gods, which featured the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, on backing vocals on one track. By the time of 2004's 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, the group had moved to Yep Roc and picked up Superchunk's Jon Wurster on drums.
For the next album, the brothers Bielanko decided to record quickly and loosely, trying to capture the intensity and abandon of their live set. With the help of Kirk Henderson on bass and various keyboards, Mike Brenner on stringed instruments galore, and Wurster and Dave Peterson on drums, If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry was a rambling, loose, and brilliant record that landed on many critics' best-of-the-year lists and won the group some big-name fans like writers Nick Hornby and Stephen King. The band also released a holiday record, A Christmas Kind of Town, at the same time. For the tour that followed the album's releases, the band solidified with Serge and David leading the way with support from Adam Garbinski on guitar, Peterson on drums, and Henderson on bass and keyboards.