Thursday, April 13, 2017
RECORD OF THE DAY: SOUL ASYLUM - AND THE HORSE THEY RODE IN ON
God forbid I should be so damn predictable with this ROTD guff. It's time to throw you all for a curveball and come clean with an LP I have really loved for over a quarter of a century, and it happens to be from the highly unfashionable outfit known as SOUL ASYLUM. And that's OK, because this blog is not about fashion. Let me give you some background here...
In late 1990, my older brother travelled around the US for about two and a half months, seeing lots of bands and hanging out with them (from Bastro to Jack Brewer to Clawhammer to a very young Kyuss - known as Sons Of Kyuss then) and, ultimately, bringing back a shit-ton of records from his journey when he came back in February of 1991. At that ripe age, having a couple of crates worth of records to sift through was like you'd won the lottery, and in between records-of-the-day by the likes of The Derelicts, The Fluid, Poison Idea, GG Allin and a whole buncha also-rans on labels like Sympathy and AmRep, there was a copy of Soul Asylum's 1990 LP on the A & M label, And The Horse They Rode In On. To be honest, his purchases could be pretty impulsive at the time - neither of us had ever been a fan of the band, though we had been aware of them for a number of years - but I get a feeling he just threw it on the pile at the time and it found its way back to Australia.
It had received a scathingly negative review in Flipside by renowned dunderhead 'Krk', who derided the band as a bunch of boring flannel-clad sadsacks who'd all 'grown up' (as The Replacements had by then, too) and become a kind of good-time MOR alt-rock band for the masses, and while that assessment may bare some truth - it certainly did by the time they released their breakthrough LP, Grave Dancers Union - repeated spins of the record couldn't assuade me of its undeniable appeal. This is one fucking great rock & roll record, I had to admit, and believe me, I was one uptight motherfucker back then, dismissive of just about everything which didn't fit into my wilfully obtuse, undergroundist worldview of music. I am a more relaxed human being these days, and I still hold this album in very high esteem.
The music of Soul Asylum made prior to and after this sole LP from 1990 means nothing to me, but this one album really is something special, and oddly it's one of those recordings in their discography which few have ever heard of, as it doesn't fit into their earlier, punkier indie period nor their populist arena-rock era once they made it big. It was their last record for the A & M label before they were dropped, was considered a commercial (if not critical) failure and basically sunk without a trace. It's a wonder Columbia signed 'em up for their subsequent recordings. It's also been out of print for decades and for some reason isn't even available on streaming services, even though all their recordings surrounding it are. With all of this duly noted, I will now draw the longest bow you will read this week and hail it as a 'lost classic'.
Take away all your prejudices of Soul Asylum, whatever they may be - Winona Ryder, Bill Clinton, 'Runaway Train', Dave Pirner's pretty-boy looks, the gormless, benign dad-rock band they became for shirt-tuckers the world over - and listen to the songs within. That will be hard, since none of this is on Youtube, either, except for this lead single track, but you'll probably scoop up a cheap copy of this on CD within nary a penny spent. Hell, being clinically insane, I happen to own this on CD and LP, but that's really something to discuss with my therapist. The best song on the disc is actually this one, though this live version isn't really the best way to hear it. I can only assume that there's some weird legal issue with the release, as the only versions on YT are not the studio versions.
Every song on this LP is worthy of an ear. It remains a good-time rock & roll recording which always puts a smile on my face. Perhaps it reminds me of my younger self, when I was full of hopes and dreams, before the weight of the world crushed my spirit - or maybe it simply remains a great collection of songs. After all, I hate some of the shit I fawned over in 1990/'91. It's a record which clicked for me, even though Soul Asylum as a band never did. There are only two types of music: good and bad. Soul Asylum's And The Horse They Rode In On LP from 1990 is better than good. You heard it here first.