28 February 2007

say, whatever happened to...

I had this idea for a post after watching the Grammys a few weeks ago and seeing Dixie Chicks receive their award for Song of the Year. The award is a songwriting honor, and it was nice to see a long-lost face go up on stage. Dan Wilson, of the post-grunge band Semisonic, co-wrote the song with the Chicks. The sight of him made me wonder what had become of him and his contemporaries. Semisonic emerged in 1998 with the hit Closing Time, and disappeared soon after. A song Wilson wrote was included in the soundtrack to American Pie in 1999 – a duet with Bic Runga which you can listen to right here – and that was the last I heard of him. So now he appears to be back, not just as a songwriter, but also as a solo artist. MTV.com reports that Wilson will release the album Free Life this summer. Anyway, Dan looks like a good guy, and sounds like it too, and I wish him luck. In the meantime, here are a couple of his contemporaries who have gone up in smoke:

pathfinder : gay dad
click here or on the image below to listen

Also known as Cliff Jones, Gay Dad released Leisure Noise in 1999, which was decent enough to make it somewhere at the bottom of a few year-end-best-albums lists. But with a name like that, and a sound that was neither original nor innovative, Gay Dad was never taken seriously. Their sophomore album, Transmission, was a considerable flop, although some thought it to be better than the first. The band has split up since, and I have no idea what Jones is up to now. I have the full Leisure Noise in my iPod; I think the songs are pleasant enough to keep. Pathfinder is my favorite, because it manages to be emotionally playful – a rousing intro, a wounded refrain, a carefree chorus, and a torrid bridge – without being messy. The post-Siamese Dream Smashing Pumpkins is a bit like that, and Pathfinder actually reminds me of the pacing of Perfect and 1979 – not to mention that Jones occasionally sounds like Billy Corgan. Best line: You know that crying won't help you now, if it ever did at all. Best part: The vocals in the bridge, 2m 08s into the song.

someday we'll know : new radicals
click here or on the image below to listen

Now here's a band whose loss is regrettable. The New Radicals burst into the scene in 1999 with their album Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, and their debut single, You Get What You Give, was a smash hit. I loved its video of chaos in a mall. The song was a standout, and the album brought a freshly loose pop sound that was clearly veering away from the angst that had defined rock for the most part of the decade. Sadly, the New Radicals disbanded before the release of the second single, which is this song. Band leader Gregg Alexander went on to become almost a Grammy winner. Like Dan Wilson, he worked behind the scenes, and wrote and produced The Game of Love, the 2002 duet between Santana and Michelle Branch, which won the following year for best pop collaboration with vocals. In Someday We'll Know, Alexander gives a jocular twist to the familiar sigh over a star-crossed relationship – both in lyrics and in tone. The song is full of wit – Did the captain of the Titanic cry? Someday we'll know – and he delivers it with unsentimental sincerity. Best line: Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart? Best part: When he sings "Why aren't you here with me?", 2m 47s into the song.


  1. Anonymous6.3.07

    Is "Alternative Tales" still active?
    Love your blog :)

  2. echocandy7.3.07

    here's a song: UNDER YOU, Better Than Ezra
    here's an object: a Milan Kundera book
    Looking forward to an alternative tale.
    Your blog makes me green.