Break Up Your Band

A blog about cataloguing and dissecting the best music of the 1990s (mostly).

John Frusciante is a writer/performer living in NYC. His writing about music and comedy has appeared on AmplifierMagazine.com, The Onion News Network, Cracked.com, etc. He can frequently be seen at the UCB Theatre, where he is the Artistic Associate. He has the same name as--but is not the same person as--the guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Here’s STP playing “Wicked Garden” on Letterman in 1993, their first major television appearance. Meanwhile I was listening to this album every single day, breaking one cassette and then buying another copy. And then also I was planning what would become a disastrous attempt to dress up as Weiland for Halloween that involved me buying very cheap red hair spray that did not show up at all on my dark brown hair and ran down my face because it rained on that Halloween. Sex with girls was far, far away.

Never forget that Sugar Ray made a good song once.

Now for you to enjoy Pennsylvania’s favorite sons The Ocean Blue performing “Sublime” on The Conan O’Brien Late Night Comedy Programme in the year of our lord 1993. The Ocean Blue are a band that is familiar with the construction and performance of musical compositions and have frequently demonstrated these skills to the great benefit of those fortunate enough to hear them.

Polvo - “Lazy Comet”
Today’s Active Lifestyles, 1993

Chapel Hill noise rock kings Polvo are the perfect start to your morning, afternoon, and evening.

(Source: Spotify)

Sponge - “Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina)”
Wax Ecstatic, 1996

I don’t care what anybody says about the first Sponge album, Rotting Pinata, I love it. It gets a hard time from some critics and music fans—read the especially condescending review on AllMusic—but I don’t go in for any of that. It’s a punchy and powerful record of mid-90s grunge rock with some especially powerful hooks. These guys knew what they were doing on that record and they knew how to write songs.

How the band that made Rotting Pinata got from that album to this piece of garbage follow up is beyond me. Drugs, and some tragically low-quality drugs at that, is the only explanation I can come up with. And by low-quality I don’t mean the effects were weak I mean they were cut with baking soda that expired a year before it was pulled from the back of the fridge. “Wax Ecstatic” is a catchy tune but it is a far cry from anything they were doing on their first album and this is the only salvageable track from the record.

Things only got worse from here, people. Have you listened to any Sponge albums since this one? Don’t. I know I’m really putting a cramp in everyone’s day by telling you to not listen to Sponge albums, but it’s for the best. My sincere apologies go out to the hundreds of you that I’m certain were in the midst of firing up Spotify with anxious anticipation of finally digging into 2003’s For All The Drugs In The World but you will thank me in the long run. Go listen to New Miserable Experience instead, it’s twenty years old now.

Heading to Music Hall of Williamsburg for Braid. If you are going, look for the man who seems unable to control his own body movements and that will me be.

We are women and men of action!

We are women and men of action!

The Prodigy, from Summer of 1997’s Fat of the Land.

(Source: Spotify)

The vast majority of the faculty and administration (of Berklee College of Music) work hard to provide one of the best music educations you can get, and the majority of students work hard to succeed. I can’t stand these anecdotes I hear: “I worked with a Berklee graduate and it was all scales and trainin’ and no soul,” so now the WHOLE SCHOOL sucks, never mind that the “hundreds of cookie cutter demos” one of these gripers got from Berklee grads are certainly similar to hundreds of other cookie cutter demos. There are problems with the school as with any institute of higher learning, and it is expensive, but there are many, many benefits to going there: a clear, codified core curriculum, the availability of great connections within the industry via the faculty and guest artists and internship hookups, some of the best musicians in the world as your peers (present and future, meaning the people you meet and play with here can be your musical partners for life if you want), some of the greatest music faculty anywhere (Bonnie Hayes, and one of the great gurus of songwriting, Pat Pattison, among them, not even mentioning the hundreds of great faculty in other departments). Music school is not for everyone, and for some it is part of the path that leads one to other disciplines. And graduating from Berklee is no GUARANTEE that you’re going to be a great purveyor of music. Name ANY great teacher and you will find many great artists and professionals that learned from them and also many terrible ones. But I find that most of the negative comments here (it’s fun and easy to dogpile on Berklee) come from people who most likely haven’t spent any time here, or definitely not lately. It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone, but if you come here and work hard and seek out those faculty and students with whom you’re most compatible (again, like ANYPLACE, be it a music scene or institution of higher learning) it will be worth your time and money, and your artistry and potential earning power will improve.

-Mark Shilansky, Berklee Faculty

Context: Music journalist Bob Lefsitz posted a letter on his blog last week from musician Bonnie Hayes refuting his statements that young musicians only care about making money. A number of the responses to Hayes involved people tearing down Berklee graduates as lacking skills, or timing, or drive, etc. This response, from a Berklee faculty member, addresses that criticism.

I like this because I think you can replace a lot of the references to Berklee and music with “UCB” and “improv/comedy”.