Album Of The Week – January 30, 2023

Leading off this week with the album that brought about the 1990’s before 1990 even hit. The album brought everything but the kitchen sink, though that was probably in there somewhere too.

Faith No More – The Real Thing

Released June 20, 1989 via Slash/Reprise Records

My Favorite Tracks – Epic, Falling To Pieces, Surprise! You’re Dead!

Faith No More had started as early as 1979, with a lot of shifting line-ups that at one point included Courtney Love. The core of the band was settled with drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould, guitarist Jim Martin and keyboard player Roddy Bottum. Vocalist Chuck Mosley joined for the band’s first few albums but was fired in 1988.

Faith No More recorded the music for The Real Thing without a vocalist through ’88. They quickly focused their singer search on Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton, who joined Faith No More then wrote lyrics for all of The Real Thing over the course of a few weeks.

The album moved slowly out of the gate but would go on to success as the decade shifted and music tastes moved on from hair metal to alternative rock. The Real Thing lingered on MTV for a few years and Faith No More became a signpost for the major shift in music trends that shook the world in 1991.

Normally when I do an AOTW I leave off “bonus tracks” or things of that nature, but in the case of The Real Thing I will include two songs that were not available on vinyl but were on CD and cassette copies. I had the tape growing up so it’s the version I’m familiar with, so the two non-vinyl cuts are included here.

From Out Of Nowhere

The album opener also served as the lead single. It is an uptempo affair with the bass and keyboard lines providing the main drive behind the song and Jim Martin’s guitar a bit more in the background. The song’s lyrical fare is pretty simple and is about meeting someone who takes your breath away on first sight but then the person is gone. The song quickly follows suit at a hair over three minutes, not lingering around long enough to know what hit you.


In the Faith No More lexicon, Epic is surely the band’s most-known song. This is a true kitchen sink song that could be listed under ten different genres and not be wrong. Funk-metal and alt-metal are probably the two main descriptors, though the song is also an early example of rap-metal.

The song’s meaning is very obscure, though Patton offered that he wrote it about sexual frustration. Most remember the very simple “it’s it – what is it?” repeated at the end of the track.

Epic was the band’s first major hit and remains today as their best-performing US single. The iconic video saw heavy MTV play and drew a lot of attention, this is one of the prime cuts of pre-grunge 1990 rock.

The fish in the video also became famous – the band were assailed by animal rights activists for allowing the fish to flop around out of water. Reports are that the fish did survive. The band also started a joke that the fish belonged to singer Bjork and either she gave the band the fish or they stole it from her, a gag that Bjork went along with. This of course led to widespread belief that the story was true.

Falling To Pieces

The funk metal train continues on with another album single. Mike Patton expresses falling apart at the seams as the band slams through with more alt-groove and atmospheric keyboards. The single itself wasn’t a hit but again, the video was often found on MTV.

Surprise! You’re Dead!

A super heavy track that’s pretty simply about revenge killing someone. The song had a video filmed for it but was never released as a single.

Jim Martin actually began this song in the 1970’s while he was in a Bay Area band with future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. While Burton has no connection to the song, he and Martin were great friends and Martin often paid tribute to Burton with shirts and in interviews.

Zombie Eaters

A very interesting premise that sees lyrics told from the point of view of a newborn baby who relies on its parents for everything. The baby winds up being the dominant figure in the relationship, as the parent becomes a zombie in caring for the infant. The music is also really well done here, starting with a very moody intro before going into a heavy groove for the rest of the track.

The Real Thing

The title track serves as a bit of an “all you can eat buffet” of what Faith No More is about on this record. It covers both groove and atmospheric ground and shifts between movements and passages. It’s perhaps an underrated highlight of the record.

Underwater Love

The upbeat music belies the lyrics actually being about murdering your loved one via drowning. A pretty trippy tune as the soundtrack to domestic discord.

The Morning After

The funk is in full effect here on this song that’s either about waking up after a one-night stand or becoming a vampire, no one is sure which. It’s a pretty rocking and peppy take on something that’s generally looked at through a gloomy lens.

Woodpecker From Mars

An instrumental that sounds like it’s based on some old piece of music but I can’t place it so I’m not sure. It’s a pretty nice tune that holds attention better than these kind of pieces in other places.

War Pigs

Here we have a cover of the famous Black Sabbath song. The band often performed this live, with Patton famously forgetting words and making up gibberish to fill the gaps. In the studio he got everything down right.

Edge Of The World

The other sort-of bonus track is a slow, jazzy/lounge piece. In it Mike Patton plays the part of an older man who makes advances on younger women. The song has been described in some circles as being about criminal acts but no actual evidence bears that out, this more of an old man of means preying upon young twenty-somethings. Sure it’s creepy but it’s legal creepy.

The Real Thing released to little fanfare but its audience built as Epic hit radio and MTV. The album would eventually hit platinum in the US and reach number 11 on the Billboard charts, while also getting platinum in Australia and peaking at 2 on its album chart. It also got a gold certification in the UK and is believed to have sold upwards of 4 million copies worldwide.

Faith No More would have vast influence over the music of the coming decade. They were a primary favorite of up-and-coming acts, members of Korn have practically written a book about how much they were into FNM while coming up. Faith No More’s ability to craft songs outside the confines of rock structure at the time led them to being a torch-bearer for many musicians who would make their own mark.

As an aside it’s worth noting that not everyone was entirely into Faith No More – specifically Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. Kiedis was unhappy about Mike Patton’s appearance in the Epic video, believing Patton to have copycatted Kiedis. While Kiedis kept his criticisms along those lines, it’s apparent that Faith No More and RHCP would be compared as their music was along similar lines. Patton did not engage Kiedis in the feud, at least as a member of Faith No More, but did express displeasure with him later due to RHCP interfering with a Mr. Bungle album release. The other members of both bands were not involved in the feud and reportedly got along well.

In the end the music is what matters, and Faith No More brought an album that would help transition music from its 1980’s rock phase into the more experimental period of the 1990’s. While Epic was the band’s most successful song, it’s arguable if The Real Thing is their biggest album, as the follow up Angel Dust did similar numbers and is hailed as a masterpiece in its own right. Obviously another story for another time.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 19

Once again it’s time to add to the list of S-Tier songs. For the list as of now and the basic guidelines about it all, head here.

Today’s entry is quick and to the point. It’s about two minutes long, it’s about being unable to “perform” while drunk, and that’s really about it.

Elastica – Stutter

As I said, this one is pretty cut and dry. It’s a simple punk tune, though delivered with smooth women’s vocals as opposed to some shouty drunk guy. The song is expertly constructed in its simplicity and walks a fine line between hard and catchy while getting both sides right. No need to reserves space to evaluate a guitar solo here, this song is out just a quick as it came in.

The lyrical content, while simple in two verses and the chorus, doesn’t quite “come and go.” The song is about a well-known phenomenon where a fella can’t quite get to business after having too much to drink. I suppose “erectile dysfunction” is the proper medical term here. Vocalist Justine Frischmann, also the songwriter, handles the problem in stride, she seems willing to encourage her down and out lover rather than be too upset about it. Though it’s clear she’d also prefer to get to some action.

Stutter was released as a single before Elastica had recorded a full-length. The single was packaged as a limited run of 1,500 records and they flew off store shelves. A series of British media articles shined more attention on the band, and the meteoric rise to fame was on. Two more singles would light up UK charts in 1994, then their debut album released to smash success in early 1995.

The powers that be delayed the release of Stutter in the US until late 1994, a move that likely paid off as the full-length was close to release at that point. Stutter did nominally well on the Billboard charts at position 67, though it did hang out on the charts for 9 weeks. It also broke the top 10 of the alternative rock chart. Subsequent singles would climb higher on both UK and US charts.

The music video was a simple yet effective shot that was in heavy rotation on MTV and other video channels in 1995. Stutter served a number of outlets at the time – “post-grunge” was coming in and Elastica were exactly in the right place at the right time for that. And Britpop was a movement with legs around this time. While Elastica’s sound might not “vibe” with what most consider Britpop, they were undeniably a successful act on the scene at the time. And they were one of the more successful Britpop outfits in the US, second in sales only to the mass success of Oasis. Also, Elastica even outdid Oasis in their shared home country of England – Elastica’s debut album outsold Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, handing Elastica the crown of “highest-selling debut album” in the UK until the Arctic Monkeys came around over a decade later.

There is one other bit of trivia surrounding Stutter that also, uh, sort of involves the Britpop phenomenon. It is widely speculated that the song’s lyrics might be about another of the luminaries of the Britpop movement. Justine Frischmann was an early member of Suede and was in a relationship with that band’s frontman Brett Anderson. Frischmann wound up leaving Anderson for Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur (and later Gorillaz). Frischmann and Albarn were together for a handful of years and were linked at the time Stutter was conceived.

So the question is often asked – is Stutter about either Anderson or Albarn? No answer has been provided and I doubt one ever will. It’s the fodder of endless speculation on ye olde Internet, but it’s also pretty slimy in a way. It’s not like I’d ever ask Justine that question were I in the same room as her. Kind of personal stuff there.

And also – it’s entirely possible the song has nothing to do with either Anderson or Albarn. It might have just been an idea that Frischmann ran with. I thought about not even including this part of the post, but honestly the post was kind of short for my tastes and it’s not like Frischmann is gonna read this and be like “you’re gross.”

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Stutter is a short and to-the-point affair that communicates its message in a clever and coy way despite the aural assault of the music. Justine Frischmann lends some subtle qualities to her vocal delivery that makes the song work in a more playful manner, even though she’d prefer her lover to get to business. The song was a moment in time that fit the time perfectly, as 1995 was a period of transition out of the darker air of the early 90’s. Elastica were in a great place to offer up a ligher-hearted and funny take on an issue not really getting airplay in the grunge years, and the result was very well-received.

Bronson Arroyo – Covering The Bases

I’m gonna close out 2022 with a curveball from 2005. A few weeks back I was doing a write-up on a song when I discovered the existence of this curiosity. After looking into it a bit I decided to take the plunge and get a copy so I could see what’s up with it.

This album of cover tunes comes from Bronson Arroyo, a former Major League baseball pitcher who had a long career from 2000 through to 2017. He was a part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Championship team, which rankles me because I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Arroyo was the guy trying to tag Alex Rodriguez in game 6 of the ALCS when A-Rod slapped the ball out of his hand, that was a pretty infamous baseball play.

Arroyo spent the bulk of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, which also rankles me because I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. At any rate, Arroyo had a pretty nice career – he lasted a long time as a pitcher and was durable for the bulk of his stay in Cincinnati, only having issues through the 2010’s when he hopped around on a few teams before his retirement in 2017.

What I wasn’t really aware of was that Arroyo was also a musician and had cut a covers album in 2005, when Arroyo was still a member of the Red Sox. This isn’t some rinky-dink project either – dude had to have spent some serious coin on this album. There was an entire production team and some world-class session musicians were brought in to play, including Michael Landau, Kenny Aronoff and Leland Sklar. Also appearing on a few tracks is Mike Inez, of Alice In Chains and Ozzy fame. Arroyo sticks to singing on this album but does play guitar.

Covering The Bases offers up 12 songs, all of which are pretty well known in some regard. Most all of them besides the final track are alt-rock standards of the 1990’s, letting us know where Arroyo’s tastes evolve from. I’ll go ahead and run through everything here to see what we’ve got, it’ll be a long post but whatever. I’m not familiar with a handful of the originals but others I know pretty well.


Originally a big hit for the Goo Goo Dolls in 1998, Arroyo’s album leads off with what sounds like a very faithful rendition of the OG tune. I’m not radically familiar with the original nor am I a fan of the band but I’d say Arroyo and company nailed this one.

Down In A Hole

The Alice In Chains classic is how I came across this album. I was gearing up my post about it when I noticed that Bronson Arroyo was listed as having done a cover version. This is pretty well done, the music hits the song and stays accurate to the original. Arroyo and his backing singers keep stuff at a lower register, which is understandable as few people are going to touch Layne Stayley and Jerry Cantrell’s voices. It is curious that Mike Inez played other songs on this record but not on the one from the band he is in, but there’s no real info to go on about that.

Also of note – the title is misprinted as “Down In The Hole” on the back cover and inner booklet.

The Freshmen

This was originally done by The Verve Pipe. I recall the song but I’ve never sat and listened to the band so I’m not overly familiar with it. It’s not something I really want to jam out to but I’ll say that it fits the album Arroyo has put together pretty well.


No real introduction needed, this is the massive Foo Fighters hit. It’s an accurate version of the song, it’s all performed true to the original. There is a brief spoken word bit from Stephen King on here, which is odd but a nice touch.


This is a Pearl Jam song, I’m sure I say to people who know that damn good and well. I’m not at all a fan of PJ so I’ll bow out of this one, other than to say this cover sounds like I guess it’s supposed to.

Pardon Me

One song from the year 2000 here, this was the big hit that launched Incubus into superstardom. It’s done well here but I was never a fan of Incubus and I actively dislike this song so I’m moving on.

Something’s Always Wrong

This tune comes from Toad The Wet Sprocket. This is a band I’m honestly not familiar with at all. This song was a hit in its day but I don’t remember it in the least. I do recognize their big hit All I Want but it took a minute and that’s the only one I recall. Anyway, this version Arroyo does is good and again sticks with the original in execution.

A bit of fun baseball trivia here – playing guitar is Theo Epstein, who was general manager of the Boston Red Sox when Arroyo was there. Not many albums can boast Theo as a cameo player.


The massive Stone Temple Pilots hit gets a rendition here. No more “I don’t know or like this” for me – this is an amazing song. Arroyo handles the vocals well here, not an easy feat considering the prowess of the late Scott Weiland.


Up next is the initial hit from alt-rockers Fuel. I did kind of listen to these guys a bit way back when though it’s been a very long time since I’ve heard their stuff. It’s a nice change of pace here to have something more uptempo and it’s again a well-done version of the song, pretty well in line with the original.

Hunger Strike

Now this Temple Of The Dog cover could have been scary, as while Bronson can sing pretty well, his range isn’t going to get into Chris Cornell territory or anywhere near it. But there is nothing to fear as the group surely knew their limitations and brought session musician Amy Keys in to handle the higher range parts. This one is a bit divergent from the original, as Bronson handles the bulk of vocals, as if Eddie Vedder had done the lion’s share of the original. Overall it works well for all involved.

Best I’ve Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)

This was a song from Vertical Horizon, who I’m not familiar with and I really want to be. Bronson gets up into a bit of a higher range here and the song fits the other selections to keep a pretty unified feel going, but I can do without the song itself.

Dirty Water

The album ends with a different tune – this goes back to 1965 and The Standells. The song is a Boston sports anthem which makes it a logical conclusion here. Bronson is not alone for this swansong – fellow Red Sox Johnny Damon and Kevin Youkilis are along to shoot the breeze about random stuff through the song. It’s a fun way to end the record and a nice tribute to Boston from Arroyo fresh off the World Series win.

While this is a bit of a curiosity project, I’d say overall it turned out pretty well for Arroyo. He got people who knew what they were doing to execute faithful versions of the songs, and it’s clear that Bronson has talent as a musician. While there were no real chances taken on the album and everything was played as it sounds, this isn’t at all a bad effort. I think Bronson and company did a good job of selecting songs that flow well together and give this the feel of an album, as opposed to just being a collection of cover songs as so many of those wind up being. There was clearly a high level of thought and care put into this.

It is a bit “ironic” perhaps that Arroyo shows Boston so much love on the final song and in the liner notes – in less than a year after releasing this album, the very guy who played guitar on Plush would trade Bronson to the Reds. I’m sure that’s not a big deal all things considered, as Arroyo got a ring in Boston and obviously enjoyed his time there, but it’s a bit of a funny thing to point out.

This is, to date, the only album Arroyo has released. He has played out live plenty of times, including hosting a concert of Pearl Jam covers after his final MLB game in 2017. But, after all this time, he hasn’t chosen to cut another album. Obviously that’s his business, but it does seem odd that he hasn’t done something else since he threw down on this one so early in his career.

As I close, here’s a note – this isn’t available on streaming that I know of and the YT videos I posted are bootleg links so they might go away. The only real way to have this is to get a physical copy, which set me back $4.25, and $4 of that was shipping. I will say I’ve spent far more on far worse, Bronson did a pretty good job on his album.

Why did Tower Records go out of business again?

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 17

It’s yet another installation of the S-Tier Songs series. The list of entries so far and the basic tenants of the exercise can be found on this page.

Today’s offering is one of the finest moments of the grunge movement. Even with being “grunge,” it is a suiting power ballad that evokes sadness and despair in a way not a lot of artists can touch.

Alice In Chains – Down In A Hole

Our song today hails from the album Dirt, the 1992 masterpiece of the Seattle-led grunge period. The album sold millions and was ever-present on radio and video airwaves. It qualifies as “classic rock” today and is still in rotation far and wide.

Down In A Hole was the fifth and final single from the album. It was released as a single almost a full year after the album arrived. The single sold over a million copies and charted in several countries. On Spotify it is the third-most streamed song from Dirt, behind only the mega-hits Rooster and Would?

The song begins very softly, almost in a way that departs the hard-edged album it is from. But it remains within the Alice In Chains lexicon, with suitably melancholy guitar work from Jerry Cantrell and the sheer power of the vocals of Layne Stayley, with harmonies provided by Cantrell. The singing has always been a highlight of AIC and both Stayley and Cantrell shine especially bright on this song.

The lyrical content of a song called Down In A Hole is, of course, pretty downtrodden. Though not from the doom genre per se, this could easily be considered a doom song thematically. It sounds like someone in the grip of utter despair and hopelessness. Every line is awash in depression and soul-crushing anguish. Lines like “See my heart, I decorate it like a grave” and “You don’t understand who they thought I was supposed to be, look at me now I’m a man who won’t let himself be” are jewels in this crown of misery.

Jerry Cantrell, the song’s sole writer, shed some light on the song’s origins in the liner notes to the band’s 1999 box set Music Bank. He states that the song was written about his girlfriend at the time and the realities of a long-term relationship and how they clash with being in a band. While there are plenty of songs about that and about life on the road in general, I don’t know how he got Down In A Hole out of that. But hey, I’m glad he did.

Down In A Hole has been a staple of the Alice In Chains setlist, with one major caveat to that – they did not often perform the song when Layne Stayley was alive. It was not a regular part of the setlist on the band’s tours in the early 90’s, and the group did not tour much after that due to Stayley’s health issues. A vast majority of Down In The Hole performances are from the band’s modern incarnation with William Duvall at the vocal helm.

One notable exception was the 1996 MTV Unplugged performance. This did feature Layne and the song worked very well in the unplugged setting. Alice In Chains were always a proficient acoustic act anyway, so having this version of the song is a massive plus.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Down In A Hole is both beautiful and soul-crushing. It communicates absolute sadness but in a very majestic way. It showcases the main strengths of Alice In Chains, those being the voice of Layne Stayley and the musicianship and songwriting of Jerry Cantrell. It is an amazing work that got huge airplay despite being such a depressing affair.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 16

Time for another S-Tier song, and the second part of a mini-series started awhile ago. For a list of previous S-Tier songs and an explanation for how it all works, head here.

So I last left off with A Perfect Circle and their hit single Judith. The song was an attack on the deep faith Maynard James Keenan’s mother felt despite an injury that left her debilitated for nearly 30 years. It wasn’t the first time Keenan had used his mother’s malady as lyrical inspiration – the Tool song Jimmy from 1996’s Aenima was about his experiences being 11 years old after his mother’s injury.

And it wouldn’t be the last time Tool would visit with Judith for song inspiration. Judith died in 2003, and in 2006 Tool would release the 10,000 Days album. While the album title pays homage to Saturn’s 29 year long cycle of moons in orbit, two songs on the album serve as eulogy to Judith Marie.

Tool – 10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)

10,000 Days the song is preceded by Wings For Marie, a more intro-like song that sets the stage for the epic rollout to come. And while Wings For Marie is its own track, it’s very difficult to assess it in isolation, as it is clearly a companion to 10,000 Days.

The song 10,000 Days itself begins with a rolling, quiet intro that is clearly building to something and also features the sound of storms in it. The payoff will come, but this 11 minute long song isn’t in a hurry to get to its point.

As the bass and the storm rolls along, Maynard begins singing about the end of his mother’s mortal journey. He takes a shot at the hypocrites who surrounded her after her health issues, but then deliberately writes them off and focuses the rest of the song on Judith.

The lyrics accompany Judith as she ascends to Heaven. Rather than be a humble servant, Maynard says Judith should arrive at the gates proudly and demand her wings. She is truly “the light and the way they only read about” and is the main event at the pearly gates.

The song ends with a quiet reflection from Maynard offering further suggestion for what Judith should say as she enters the afterlife. Everything is a bit of a roller coaster in the 11-minute long surge of music and movements, but the quiet ending sums everything up perfectly.

The rest of the band is up to some real atmosphere generation on 10,000 Days. This isn’t a long song that just goes from point A to point B with a few riffs and fills – no, there are plenty of movements and changes to keep everything fresh and also flowing along with the varying intensity of the lyrics. Tool never was much of a straightforward band anyway, and they up the ante on this song with arrangements and progressions that stand apart from a lot of popular fare of the time.

10,000 Days was not released as a single. It was played live during the album’s tour cycle, but met with some resistance from a portion of fans. The popular cuts from the record were the singles like Jambi and The Pot, and in some instances people at concerts were screaming for those while the band was playing 10,000 Days.

The fan backlash, however strong it may have really been, coupled with the extremely personal nature of the song, led Maynard James Keenan to feel a bit burned by doing the song. He said this about it in a May 2022 interview with Loudwire:

“I think probably the stupidest thing I could have done on 10,000 Days was put myself out there as much as I did with the tracks ‘Wings for Marie (Part 1)’ and ‘10,000 Days (Wings Part 2),’ Keenan said in an interview to promote the album. “I’ll never make that mistake again. It just took too much out of me – too much emotionally, mentally, physically – all those manifestations. Those songs were exploited and misconstrued, people were flippant and dismissive. I won’t be doing that anymore. And technically, ‘Wings’ is very difficult to pull off. If any one of us is off, it falls apart and makes that thing tragic, and that’s not a good song for me to have fall apart. It’s just too personal.”

It is a shame that the song was shrugged off by some, but I know me and many others found it to be a masterwork. The majestic instrumentation along with the powerful lyrics that could only come from such a harrowing place were the perfect song combination. Tool no longer performs the song, though in part that might be due to a whole other album full of 10-minute long songs that eat up a fair chunk of a set list.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

10,000 Days is a triumphant movement, wrapping the emotionally-charged death of Maynard’s mother Judith into a masterful piece of music. It’s a movement that goes beyond our regular notions of music enjoyment and enters a kind of space reserved for the more transcendent of songs. It is a long build up for a payoff only paid if you have any amount of patience within you.

This is the type of song to be enjoyed over a course of time, and to be appreciated for the scope of what is being communicated. A “fan” looking for immediate payoff won’t be welcome here. This is for the more discerning ear, preconceived notions about Tool be damned.

Album Of The Week – July 11, 2022

This week I’m time traveling back to 1998. I was just kind of listening to whatever at the time, I was far more pre-occupied with “grown up” business than I was music. But of the handful of things to catch my ear, this alt-rock gem really grabbed my attention. It also grabbed the attention of a lot of music fans at the time, being the first major success of a newer record label and offering an outsized hit the band is still known for to this day.

Fastball – All The Pain Money Can Buy

Released March 10,1998 via Hollywood Records

My Favorite Tracks – Which Way To The Top?, Fire Escape, Charlie The Methadone Man

Fastball had signed to Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney that had yet to score any real success. The band had released one album that didn’t make any waves and they regrouped for this sophomore effort.

Fastball took a different approach to their second album – the band featured two principal musicians in Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo. Each wrote a song and did the lead vocals for their effort. While Zuniga would get one more song on the record over Scalzo, it would be Scalzo who composed the massive hit.

The album’s run time is fairly concise at 42 minutes but there are 13 songs on the original release. I’m going to switch up my typical format today and discuss a handful of highlight tracks in detail, then run through the rest briefly. This post would be massive otherwise.

The Way

The album opens with what became the smash hit single. The song charted at or toward the top of several US and Canadian charts and was ever-present in early 1998. The Way was released a few months ahead of the album and it propelled the album to platinum status in a few months. Fastball members were working regular shift jobs when The Way began taking over alt-rock radio.

The song depicts a pair who leave their lives behind and head out on a journey. The destination is unspecified and even unknown. It is a great song that hits the vibe of just leaving and setting out for adventures unknown. Without any understanding of the song’s inspiration, The Way works fantastically on its own.

But the song does have a story behind it and it’s a pretty dark one. This article discusses the news story that inspired Tony Scalzo to compose the track. An elderly couple in Texas set out for a festival at a town very near their own, yet wound up missing. Their car and remains were discovered in Arkansas a few weeks later. The couple’s disappearance was a big news item in Texas while they were missing and Scalzo wrote most of The Way before the couple were found. The song would immortalize the couple even in spite of their sad fate.

Fire Escape

The second track was also the album’s second single and placed within the US Top 40. The song is a bright, poppy alt-rock number about being into someone. It’s accompanied by a pretty funny video. It, like many songs on the record, have a polished sound without delving into jangly riffs or other simple tricks. It is simply recorded and executed and kept clean.

Which Way To The Top?

On to the fourth track that features a special guest on vocals. 90’s alt-icon Poe contributes her voice to the track. The song asks the ages-old question of how to climb out of one’s rut and get to the top. It’s a pretty ironic song for Fastball, since their way to the top was literally The Way. This song does a great job of conveying the melancholy vibe of being at the bottom while also sounding hopeful for more in the future.

Slow Drag

A bit of a dark turn here, the song itself slots right in to the rest of the album musically but the lyrics get really dark. The song’s narrator is in a dark, quiet place and wants someone dead. No elaboration is given on who or why. It’s a bit of a vague murder ballad and is a curious and unsettling tune.

Charlie The Methadone Man

A weird and interesting tune that has a look at just what the title says – a fella named Charlie that’s into methadone. The song doesn’t really either lionize or pass judgment on Charlie and his habit, rather it simply observes his movements. No clue if this was based on someone real or if Miles Zuniga just cranked it out off the top of his head but the song is a great one from the album.

Out Of My Head

The album’s third single and another hit that got into the top 20 on the US chart. It’s a sadder tune that looks at one’s own bad behavior in a relationship. It’s a far more introspective and honestly practical song about such things than what is normally churned out in that regard.

The song would get a second life decades later when Machine Gun Kelly used this song’s chorus for his song Bad Things. Camila Cabello guested on the track. Tony Scalzo reacted positively to the song’s use by MGK.

Damaged Goods

The last song I’ll look at in full is a quick number that looks over a past long-distance relationship. There isn’t a ton going on lyrically, just a few verses that offer a bit of background then a one-line chorus simply stating “I know I should just leave you alone.” While still fitting the album’s overall pop-alt vibe the driving chorus does provide a heavy moment.

Six other songs slot in at points on the record. Better Than It Was and Sooner Or Later are more upbeat tunes on the first half of the record. Warm Fuzzy Feeling is a fun song about “making it,” something the band wrote a lot about and also accomplished here. Good Ol’ Days is a horn-driven nostalgia trip. The album closes with two somewhat vague and darker-themed numbers in Nowhere Road and Sweetwater Texas.

All The Pain Money Can Buy was a huge success for Fastball. The album hit platinum in both the US and Canada and The Way was a huge hit single. It was also the first major success for Hollywood Records, which would later go on become a hit factory based on the various Disney TV personalities who recorded songs.

The album was a masterstroke from a band who thought they were going to be dropped by their label and who faced an uncertain future in the music business. While never replicating the success of this album, Fastball are still at it today now with eight albums under their belts. While the group came and went from the mainstream consciousness, they left a massive impression during their time there.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 9

It’s time for a new entry in the S-Tier songs series. For an explanation of what that’s about as well as a list of the other songs, head here.

Today’s song is very well-known, in many cases it’s the band’s only known song in America. Many people know the song without knowing who the group is at all. It’s only two minutes long, it’s the second song off the album and my only blogging regret is not making it the second entry in this series.

Blur – Song 2

Blur entered 1997 in a curious position. They’d been crowned kings of Britpop in 1994 after their triumphant Parklife record and tour. In 1995 they seemed poised to build momentum with The Great Escape and their initial single Country House, but then the British press went mad for Oasis and left Blur in the dust, even going so far as to change reviews of the album. Oasis went on to become the biggest band in the world for awhile as Blur sat at home wondering what happened.

By 1997 Blur were ready to get back at it, and this time they were leaving behind the Britpop elements they had previously worked so hard to be known for. The group convened around more lo-fi and grunge sensibilities and released their self-titled album to a new world that was about to move on from the Britpop scene.

While Blur would become internationally celebrated for the self-titled album as a whole, it was Song 2 that would take on a life of its own and become the band’s most recognizable hit. And, of course, as the story goes with many of these hit songs, the whole thing was a joke and an accident.

The above video outlines the origin story of Song 2 as told by Blur guitarist Graham Coxon. The song began as an acoustic piece on Damon Albarn’s guitar, featuring whistling in place of the song’s now-immortal “woo hoo” bit. Coxon suggested adding a bunch of noise to the tune and actually playing it for the record company as a gag. Albarn obliged and the band turned in the fully-formed, distorted as all hell Song 2 to the record company. Instead of being met with a sour reaction, the label execs loved the tune and Blur were off the to the post-Britpop races.

Song 2 was a well-received hit in Blur’s native UK and it also did something the band had been previously unable to do – it broke in the rest of the world. Song 2 charted on the higher end in many countries and became a staple of college and modern rock radio in the United States. Britpop as a whole hadn’t fared massively well on American shores, save for Elastica and Oasis. But now Blur arrived with a grunged-up tune just in time for the post-grunge era to truly take over rock radio. The song has been a part of sporting events, video games and other media ever since its release 25 years ago.

Background and reception are all well and good, but what really is Song 2 on about? Well, it’s a two minute song full of lyrical nonsense. The most noteworthy lyric is “woo hoo,” it’s the signature part of the song and the one many folks know the tune by. A fair few people couldn’t tell you who Blur is or the name of the song but they know “the woo-hoo song” by heart. And nobody, including the people who wrote it, can tell you what any of it means.

And that’s the beauty of music – not everything has to have a pinned-down, easy to digest meaning. Song 2 is a total lark through the English language and its only memorable words aren’t even really words. The whole thing from lyrics to instruments is just noise being made and it all works splendidly together. That’s not to say no thought went into it – as Graham Coxon outlines in the interview video, he was looking for specific sounds. And he got far more than he bargained for, with the song often cited as his greatest work.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Song 2 is a monument to absurdity and noise and it tackles its premise extremely well. The song was a huge hit for a band reeling in an identity crisis after the events of 1995. Their response was to shrug off the sounds of their given genre and explore new areas, which led to a new legacy for the group that would far outshine the Britpop movement. It’s a simple song with no comprehensible theme and it’s just a bunch of noise, but it captured the attention of people all across the world.

A Story And A Song – April Fool

I had a real post I was going to do today but I finally grasped what day today was gonna be so I put off the other post and will have a bit of fun today instead. It’s also one where the story and the song bear no connection to one another, save for the song’s title.

Today’s song is a deep cut from the 1992 album Grave Dancer’s Union from Soul Asylum. It’s a great track from one of my favorite albums of the alt-rock era. It’s a heavy, trippy and fun song that maybe should have seen release as a single, but that’s hard to say since they hit well off their singles from the album. But it’s absolutely one of my favorites from the record.

For the story we’ll stick to the day’s theme. I have a good friend we’ll call Metal Shawn (we’ll call him that because that’s actually his name, he probably won’t mind). I am often found at least one weekend night over at his house, drinking beer and listening to metal. It’s been a tradition going for 20 years now.

Shawn is one of those people who are in love with April Fool’s Day. He can recount pranks going back for decades. He’d spend entire work days messing with people and, if the day fell on a weekend, it was game over for his friends and family.

Shawn got me a few times with April Fool’s pranks. April Fool’s was on a Friday or Saturday just as it is today. I headed over to his place for our usual round of beer and metal. When I got there, the door was locked and the place silent. On a normal “metal night,” the front door is open and it’s anything but silent.

I have a key to Shawn’s house in order to keep an eye on pets and things when he’s not around so I let myself in. I found a note on the counter with him saying that some of his family came to town for the weekend so he wouldn’t be around. I was a bit miffed since he could have easily used a phone to tell me this. As I turned around and contemplated what to do, his stereo kicked on and began blaring some form of extreme metal. Shawn was in the other room, the whole thing was a ruse.

Shawn got a lot of people that particular April Fool’s, I recall him being on quite a tear. But more recently he used the power of the Internet to pull one over on everyone.

Shawn is not a fan of Glenn Danzig. The polarizing singer is a frequent target of Shawn’s jabs when talking trash. I, like many others, are fans of Danzig so his roasts always lead to amusing back and forth.

One April Fool’s a year or two ago, Shawn posted on Facebook that he was now a fan of Danzig. He was taking suggestions for what to listen to. People took the bait left and right, suggesting their favorite songs and albums. Shawn did a great job specifically spelling out stuff he’d just heard and gave a chance too, and had everyone hook, line and sinker.

At one point through his day, Shawn even thought about texting me to warn me off of exposing his ruse until the day was over. But he didn’t and I, like many others, took the bait too. I commented something or another on his post and he was astounded that he got me too. A bit later he made his “gotcha!” post and had himself a good laugh at everyone’s expense.

I’ll admit that the Danzig fakepost got me and even ruffled my feathers a bit. The “not being home” gag was a funny, quick one that was no big deal. But I should have known better than to fall for his bullshit about posting nice about Danzig. I’m normally not one to fall for shit like that but still he bagged me as one of his prank victims.

So with that are a few pranks from my good friend and local jokester Metal Shawn. As for me, I’ve never been much into pranks on April Fool’s. I can appreciate a good practical joke but I have too much of a mastermind complex and get to planning way too elaborate of shit than what is suitable for the occasion. I was going to pull one on someone today but I decided against it. And of course when I started this post I was going to choose another song to post before remembering this one. I’m sure everyone knows what song I’m talking about.

Album Of The Week – March 21, 2022

For this week’s pick I’m revisiting someone who has become my favorite artist in recent memory. She has released a wide selection of music across several projects over the past 15 years and has not been shy to explore new styles and soundscapes. Today I will be looking at her third solo album, which kicked off a sound that ran through a few records and has provided some of her most harrowing and memorable work.

Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death

Released September 30, 2016 via Sargent House Records

My Favorite Tracks – Real Big Sky, Protection, Marked For Death

The record features minor-key, atmospheric passages along with at times harsh, cutting distortion that breaks through and highlights the darkness of the album’s themes. Unconventional guitars and tunings create a sound not found in many other places, if anywhere. The combination of atmosphere, noise and dark subject matter create a unique and awe-inspiring listening experience.

Marked For Death

The opener and title track establishes a tale of two lovers bound in a fatalistic way. It is not a Cinderella story, or if it is it’s one where everyone turns to ash at midnight. The song is mostly quiet and rolling, with the guitar ringing out during the chorus. It’s a song that works well both plugged in and stripped down, as the performance at the end of this post illustrates.


The noise gets turned up on the second song as Emma explores a tryst that is, well, extremely heavy. It is hard to tell on the surface if the lyrics indicate a truly transcendent love experience or if it shades at something much darker. A betting person would likely go with the latter when considering Emma’s work as a whole. The guitars go absolutely off in a noisy chorus of their own, and even in the quieter verses Emma lends a great deal of power to her vocal delivery.


A more gentle tune that showcases the atmospheric side of Emma’s recording. The song recounts difficult dealings with someone wrapped in the symbology of the mythical Medusa. It’s one of several songs that employ a rolling and marching feel that Emma has put to great use on several albums.

Hand Of God

This song keeps things mostly quiet and is a very haunting account of someone who has fallen from grace. While Emma has often used the contrast between harsh and gentle music, here it is a contrast between a nice, mild song and very, very harrowing lyrical matter.


Another very gentle song that also tackles matter similar to Hand Of God. This song doesn’t “feel” as desperate as the prior one, though. There is an acceptance of the loss of Heaven here and the constraints of mortality. A bit of noise builds up in a beautiful ending that apparently sees Heaven burning.

So, Come

A song that offers some allusions to traumatic events and implores the saints to come, if indeed they are supposed to. So, Come begins quietly then builds into some powerful distorted passages while Emma still seems to maintain an almost upbeat plea to these saints. “Suffer so that we may live” is invoked, but it’s not clear who is supposed to do the suffering or the living.

Furious Angel

This gorgeous song lays an atmospheric tone that almost conceals its very heavy vocals about what seems to be the end of the relationship Emma has outlined in other songs here. With the end of said relationship, Emma is caught in the rage of a furious angel, as the all-consuming nature of the relationship is all there was. The music recalls some of Emma’s shoegaze/dreampop past and uses these layered elements wonderfully.

Real Big Sky

The album’s closer strips away the layers and sonic elements to present only Emma’s voice and a distorted guitar. Other songs on the album provide sonic hiding spots from the haunting themes but Real Big Sky offers no such respite.

The song offers up a subject person who is apparently at the end of their life. The verses outline the person’s plight while the chorus hears the person sing what could be their final words. The somber, stripped-down presentation only amplifies the deep sadness found here. But there is also hope in transcendence to also be found in the ultimate journey away from mortality. The song offers a prelude of sorts to Emma’s more minimalist work on her 2021 effort Engine Of Hell, which also provides no place to escape from the inevitability of the subjects at hand.

Marked For Death is an album both beautiful and scary – it provides a variety of well-executed musical passages with which to digest the very dark themes on offer. Emma relayed in this 2016 feature with The Independent that she recorded the album after a dark period in her life and still grappled with the themes even after the album’s completion.

The album marked a period of transition in Emma’s personal life and also in her recording career. Marked For Death offered up some of the same “sonic warfare” that would be on display for her next album, 2018’s On Dark Horses. I have previously covered that album and hold it in the highest of esteem. But this album stands alongside that as a master work of music that plunges to the depths of existence and pulls out something otherworldly. While she is crafting music from a place of pain and trauma, Emma has provided a series of songs that offer an amazing listening experience.

Album Of The Week – March 14, 2022

1999 was an interesting time. The turn of the decade, century and millennium was one of great transition. One facet of culture at this time was the “edgebro” – stuff like nu-metal, WWF, Spike TV and The Man Show were running hot around this time. We were welcomed to Jackass, Eminem was beginning his shock-rap run that would smash boundaries, and we read about it all in Maxim magazine.

Music was perhaps not in the most creative place as nu-metal and boy bands fought for chart supremacy. But one act would catch lightning in a bottle and find themselves with a multi-platinum record and a massive hit single. Perhaps beneficiaries of the trend toward potty humor, this group would refine it a bit, provide foul shock aplenty, and laugh all the way to the bank.

The Bloodhound Gang – Hooray For Boobies

Released October 4, 1999 in the UK via Geffen Records (February 29, 2000 US)

My Favorite Tracks – Magna Cum Nada, I Hope You Die, Hell Yeah

Hooray For Boobies sold like hotcakes in the Y2K era. The Bloodhound Gang had made some waves previously with songs like Fire Water Burn and You’re Pretty When I’m Drunk, but The Bad Touch and this album would go to a whole other level.

Arguments could be made about the level of humor on the record – in fact that is an argument that peels more layers than the world’s biggest onion. But this album is absolutely a product of its time and fits well within the culture of the “Woodstock 99” period. It won’t be my cause to frame the album’s contents through a present day lens – rather I will simply discuss the album I spun many a time in the early 2000’s in its own context.

There are a ton of tracks on the album. I won’t be getting into the several skits that appear and add more fuel to the comedic fire, I’ll stick with the abundance of proper songs. I will be discussing the “full” version of the album – there were initially several versions that omitted some tracks due to sampling rights. Subsequent reissues have presented the album in full.

I Hope You Die

The “rap-rock but not that kind of rap-rock” kicks off with a decidedly rock tune. The title says it all – these lyrics really, really wish pain and suffering on someone. The depths of creativity to paint the woeful narrative that befalls the song’s target go on far past where many people would have given up. It is shocking, explicit and hilarious. The short chorus hits the nail on the head and simply expresses what singer Jimmy Pop hopes happens to his adversary.

The Inevitable Return Of The Great White Dope

A rap-dance hybrid song that serves as a hype piece for mainman Jimmy Pop. It helps establish a bit that the band isn’t just using toilet humor to pave their way, there is a bit of actual talent in the ranks.

Three Point One Four

On this track Jimmy Pop takes on one of the English language’s greatest challenges – what rhymes with vagina? The largely unsuccessful results couple with Jimmy’s need for a new girlfriend which takes humorous and objectifying turns. A bit of falsetto at the end wraps up the fact that Carolina is about the only word that rhymes with vagina.


A bit of an intro sets up this tribute to Austrian pop act Falco. The song borrows from Falco’s huge hit Rock Me Amadeus, as well as the Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit Relax. For good measure we find the Metallica standard For Whom The Bell Tolls included as a sample as well. Video game icon Pac Man also joins the fun – at this point in 1999 the star has fallen on hard times and crack addiction. The song is a very creative mashup that works better than it should.

Yummy Down On This

A heavier riff stands out through this ode to blow jobs. Really, that’s it – this song is about blow jobs. Not much more to say.

The Ballad Of Chasey Lain

One of the album’s singles, this song sees Jimmy Pop obsess over porn star Chasey Lain. It’s a bit like Eminem’s hit Stan, except without any cultural significance or anything, well, good. The song is pretty funny and even features Chasey at the end respond to her stalker’s advances. The band reported that they were less than impressed with Chasey’s intellect upon meeting her, but such is life.

Magna Cum Nada

This ode to a lack of success if one of the album’s stronger highlights and my personal favorite. A metal riff runs through a list of creative ways in which Jimmy Pop is bad at life. It is a well-crafted ode to the loser.

The Bad Touch

The album’s first single (in most territories) and the song that catapulted The Bloodhound Gang to the forefront of 1999’s music scene. Even a person unfamiliar with the group would probably recognize the refrain “You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals/Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”

This dance number turned potty-mouthed recount of sexual relations became a smash hit through Europe, topping the charts in multiple countries. It was a more modest success in the US but would be a highlight on dive bar dance floors and also get a shoutout from Eminem in his immortal hit The Real Slim Shady.

The Bad Touch is an entertaining romp that highlights the nuts and bolts of The Bloodhound Gang – using a thesaurus to describe sex acts in every way possible and making a mint off of the results. Can’t argue with success.

This is the “explicit” version, not sure what that means exactly

Take The Long Way Home

This song is another turn through futility and the crushing weight of existence, much like Magna Cum Nada before it. While not one of the album’s standouts the song does offer its own weight and is one of the quietly enjoyable numbers found here.

Hell Yeah

Here we find Jimmy Pop telling a Sunday School story, of course in explicit and pun-filled fashion. Jimmy embraces his messiah complex here and contemplates what would happen if he were God. While heavy metal has long been the standard home for blasphemy, The Bloodhound Gang worked some into their brand of potty-pop or whatever we’re calling this.

The song makes humorous turns through the decrees Jimmy Pop-God would make then spends a moment contemplating his crucifixion. It makes for a funny tune that probably won’t get any airtime at the local church.

Right Turn Clyde

This more chill track takes on Pink Floyd’s seminal Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2. It’s another of the album’s secondary tracks but is a pretty fun listen still. This song was the reason for the delay in the US release of the album as there was some arguing with Roger Waters over rights before the latter apparently relented.

A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When The Stripper Is Crying

For all of The Bloodhound Gang’s toilet humor and cheap use of sex for laughs, nothing comes close to the shock and awe of this one. The title alone screams “What did you just say?” and the song itself offers no reprieve.

The song is set as a country story-song that narrates rather than sings its contents. The story is, well, as fucked up as the title suggests. The song would probably be considered the high point for taking offense, but it is so absurd that it can only be dismissed as a farce.

Along Comes Mary

The album’s proper closing song is a cover version of a 1966 pop hit by The Association. The Bloodhound Gang turned the song into a punk number that was featured in the soundtrack to Dave Chapelle’s hit movie Half Baked. This was the album’s true first single released in parts of Europe long before Hooray For Boobies was released.

Hooray For Boobies was a hit for The Bloodhound Gang. It was certified platinum in several countries and spawned several singles that did well on the charts in Europe. The Bad Touch is, of course, the group’s signature track and biggest hit that stills gets referenced over 20 years later.

The album would mark the high-water point for the band. A few modest hits would come in later years as band members from the …Boobies time period left the group. A series of controversial incidents in 2013 in the Ukraine and Russia involving flag desecration would seemingly spell the end for the band.

But for all the churn and turn of 1999 and the coming millennium, The Bloodhound Gang perfectly captured the low-brow humor of the era and the shifting music landscape to score a major hit. An album such as Hooray For Boobies might not make it in today’s war-like cultural climate but it hit all the right notes in its time and place. The album still holds up well in today’s marketplace – limited vinyl reissues are gone before they appear and many people still recall the dumb and hilarious record fondly.