“A Soup Dragons/Record Store Pep Talk”

* “Eternal love is never enough
Dream on”
– The Soup Dragons

Now, the quandary hits me right away. Because lemme tell ya, especially in the Midwest, there ain’t a damn SOUL who thinks themselves disqualified for giving a Soup Dragons record store pep talk. So please allow me to impart: this eruption of untoward enthusiasm is being borne out of mire, or specifically, a trip to a record store two years ago when I purchased a Duran Duran album (their best album, mind you), and Aerosmith – Pump.
I am still feeling the sociological stingings of this abominable shopping spree… it was like one of those days where everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. For instance, the awesome R.E.M. shirt they had in there was the exact one my sister had just got for Christmas. But take my most recent exploit in my new home of Terre Haute, Indiana at Headstone Friends CD’s and tapes — I literally didn’t miss. Even this Madonna – Ray of Light thing is pretty sweet, and Wilson Pickett even accomplished the almost impossible feat of getting me (an extreme paranoiac) to smoke weed again.
Other selections: Blues Traveler – IV (if I wasn’t stoned during “The Mountains Win again” I at least FELT it), and some J Church. [1]
But getting to Soup Dragons — I fully realize why never in my life have I witnessed this album (Hotwired, and yes containing the hit single from ’92 “Divine Thing”) in the used bin. The lead singer even sings in that bad, slow early ‘90s croon (like Scott Weiland on “Sin” or Chris Cornell on a bad Soundgarden song), and the album is not so much overproduced as somebody dropped it in 10 million pounds of magazine goop, at least by DIY standards… and yet, none of this even ruins it. Made lo-fi, Hotwired suffers identity crisis; with the big amphibious drums which hark to Ok Computer, and the harmonica solo on “Running Wild” which harks to Cream, the band fully pay their dues with some great lyrics (“Your vanity will always be your greatest thing”), (“You always want to be / In heaven with me”), etc. Small clubs would be too personal for this band… every audience member would think, with stinking pridefulness, that the songs were about them. Let ‘em open up for Aerosmith, or hell, give ‘em the Aragon Ballroom (circa ’92).
The Soup Dragons came about, in a way, BEFORE alternative rock. They didn’t NEED alternative rock. [2] This is universally likeable (as well as overproduced, at the non-hands of T Bone Burnett) stuff not unlike the Don Henley album of about this time, not unlike The Black Crowes. [3] Credit the band for developing The Stooges as a gracious influence, able to craft memorable grooves by creating sonic space for simple riffs to roam, soundscapes in which textures pit against askance others and thereby feast on their own weirdness.
I don’t hear a structure or phrasing unorthodoxy on this whole album. Essentially it’s Collective Soul made slightly less Christian (and therefore ironically less misanthropic)… but don’t let all the gregariousness fool you, at its core Hotwired is a blues album, esp. if Califone – Roots and Crowns is a blues album. It’s still something to sink into, and it won’t walk out when the conversation gets dry.
[1] It’s The Precession of Simulacra/The Map Preceeds (sic) the Territory… the drummer extremely crushes, and the lead singer is like one of those guys who growing up must have had friends going, “Whatever you do in life, DO NOT TRY TO SING IN A PUNK BAND! DO NOT TRY TO SING IN A PUNK BAND!” Not that I probably even have to tell you, but that is exactly what makes him great.
[2] Granted, for proof of how stupid it is that there’s a classification known as alternative, one need only consult Kurt Cobain’s cheeky reasoning for why Nirvana didn’t qualify, which was that they weren’t vegetarians.
[3] If, as I think it should be, alternative rock be defined as rock that’s universally enjoyable but doesn’t at all belong on radio, like maybe Automatic for the People and Ok Computer.

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