Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

The Loveless “A Tale Of Gin And Salvation” (1995)

When I used to run my website back in the 90s, I used to get a lot of CDs to review in the mail. Daily I would open the mailbox to pull out five or six packages and I’d say roughly, that 99% of them were crap of the highest (lowest?) caliber. But, what made it all worth it was the occasional gem pulled out that would just blow you away.

My first listen to The Loveless was unlike anything I had heard in a long while. In 1995, glammy power pop wasn’t exactly in flavor, with the harder alternative rock dominating the airwaves. So, when the first strains of “If I Only Knew Then” came ripping out of my tinny laptop speakers, I immediately perked up. Before the song could even end, I had already popped out the disc, hopped in the car and took it for a ride. This album was so good that after it finished the first time, I kept driving long enough to hear it through a second time.

Besides the infectious nature of all twelve songs, what really sets this album apart from practically anything that has come down the pike before or after is the drop dead amazing songwriting of Jonathan Daniels. The wordplay of the lyrics is witty to the point of novelty, yet comes from a depth of reality of broken hearts and shattered lives. They’re the kinds of tunes that not only will you be singing for days on end, but quoting in everyday life. I mean, when this is the first line that hits you, you know you’re in for something special:

“The story of his life is a book of regrets
The might-have-beens and the days he’d rather forget
So busy jumping someone else’s train
He always missed the boat
Another missed opportunity, another song somebody else wrote”

The pinnacle of this genius can be heard in the absolute, should have been massive hit, “The Return Of The Ex-Girlfriend.” You’ll be laughing along all the while feeling the pain of every lost love you ever had.

“The return of the ex-girlfriend
the pretty face rears its ugly head
drop dead gorgeous
drop dead...”

From the heartfelt strains of “I Almost Miss You” and “Can’t Stand Loving You” to the outright sarcastic glee of “Growing Up Has Let Me Down” and “Sex And Drugs And Rock & Roll Are Dead,” there is not a wasted word, note or melody line here. The band’s chemistry, a seeming New York City brotherhood, keeps everything tight, with each thump of the bass or crisp snap of the snare driving home points of hope and despair.

For being an independent release, the band’s image and noire’ packaging rivals those from major labels and is just one more piece of a perplexing puzzle of commercial failure.

Though there were some demos floating around of a second album, nothing ever really materialized but considering the band was formed from the ashes of the Electric Angels (which in turn was formed from the ashes of Candy), their self-titled disc is also highly recommended. Bassist and lyrical leader Jonathan Daniel is now manager to acts like Train, Butch Walker and Panic! At The Disco. Guitarist John Ceparano now plays in a swing band while drummer John Schubert is a history teacher. As for vocalist Shane, despite the occasional MySpace release, still MIA last I heard.