Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SHUDDER TO THINK (A brief history/Record guide)

From L to R: Chris Matthews, Stuart Hill, Craig Wedren, Mike Russell

When Seth called me and told me, several months ago, that one of my all time favorite art rock bands of all time, Shudder To Think, was getting back together to play Virgin Mobile Fest, I almost fainted. You see, I never got to see STT live, although I was listening to them for several years. There is no way to explain what this band did for me, during the years I listened to punk and hardcore religiously. With every record came big changes in the sound and direction. They continued to get weirder, and weirder, and better and better. They were mysteriously, and dramaticly sung, overwhelmingly creative and most of all, absolutely beautiful. Never before has a band sounded like this, and never again will anybody come close to competing with these alt-rock legends. Since that phone call I received, the band has released select dates for upcoming concerts, putting all rumors to rest...a decade after their untimely demise...they are back in 2008!

but lets step back...

While residing in the southern MD area, Shudder To Think, first released their debut 7" "It Was Arson" in 1988 on Sammich Records, as well as their excellent debut album "Curses, Spells, Voodoo, Mooses" in 1989. The band consisted then, of Craig Wedren (Vocals, guitars), Stuart Hill (bass) Chris Matthews (Guitar) and Mike Russell (drums).

 After a short time of playing, they quickly gathered a modest following. This led to the band signing to the legendary Dischord Records (Fugazi, Jawbox,Minor Threat,Etc.) where they released the records Ten Spot (1990), Funeral At The Movies (1991), and Get Your Goat (1992).
By this point, the band was blowing away audiences with their mix of hardcore punk, glam and avant-garde. They were playing everywhere. They were considered "the next big thing". Sadly, Chris and Mike left the band. Soon after, they were replaced by Nathan Larson (guitar) and Adam Wade (who had just quit Jawbox, to drum for STT)!!  
In 1992, with the run away success of Nirvana, the music industry was signing all sorts of weird cool bands, so...

In 1993, Epic Records signs Shudder To Think.

From L to R: Nathan Larson, Adam Wade, Craig Wedren, Stuart Hill

In 1993, STT began work on what would become one of alternative music's most cherished albums of all time...

"Pony Express Album"

Moving away from the quick quirky pop hooks of the Dischord records albums, the band found themselves turning out very prog-rock type songs. The songs on PER would be slower, heavier, weirder, and much more layered than anything the band did up to this point. At the time,the record did not due "major label expectations" as far as sales, but the band was seen opening for everybody, including Foo Fighters,Smashing Pumpkins, Built To Spill, Pearl Jam, to name a few. Also with this record, the band was found on Mtv, and appeared on 120 Minutes. It was around this time that Craig Wedren started to feel ill. In 1996, Craig Wedren was fighting cancer. Thankfully, he won the battle, but by this time, Adam Wade had left the band.
 In 1997, the band released their last studio album entitled 50,000 B.C.

50,000 B.C. went down in history as THEE most overlooked album ever! It was a tough transition for the band, knowing that they had to break off from PER's sound. Sadly, the record seemed to loose fans of both the old catchy stuff, and the weird newer stuff, because this was a completely different sound for the band. Very cleaned up and very straight laced. Probably the most lush sounding "melody fest" anyone will ever hear. Shortly before breaking up, the band recorded some soundtracks for some indie films, like 1998's "High Art" and 1999's "First Love Last Rights".

Shudder To Think, in a press photo for 50,000 B.C.

But, as I said in the beginning...
Shudder To Think is touring this year.
(Minus Stuart Hill...dammit)


Tour Dates:

8/10, Baltimore, MD (Virgin Mobile Fest)
9/5, Chicago, IL (Park West) 
9/6, Toronto, ONT (V Fest) 
10/3, Philadelphia, PA (Theater of the Living Arts) 
10/4, New York, NY (Webster Hall) 
10/11, Boston, MA (Paradise) 
10/25, New Orleans, LA (Voodoo Music Festival) 
11/1, Los Angeles, CA (El Rey) 
11/2, San Francisco, CA (The Fillmore)

and finally...a guide to the music of Shudder To Think.

(Note: this overview only includes studio albums, click the album titles,for more info.)

(1989 - Sammich)

Easily one of the best records from the band. This record did not exist on cd, until a few years ago. The album is remastered, and sounds amazing. Additionally, those responsible for the re-release got smart and added a remastered version of the debut 7" "It Was Arson"!
 The songs are pretty straight forward punk energy. Craig sounds a little bit like Ozzy, during Black Sabbath, with a hint of Robin Zander.
The songs are really odd, and really fun to sing along to. 

A Vampire's Proposal
Abysmal Yellow Popcorn Wall
Take The Child
I Grow Cold

(1990 - Dischord)

This record finds the band experimenting and breaking off from the straight playing of the first album. This record is on LP, but it is hard to find. I recently found it in perfect shape on ebay for real cheap though, so who knows. You can find this record and Funeral At The Movies on one cd,and this is my favorite of those 2. They both need to be remastered. Catchy songs, noisy guitar. Craig wailing like a banshee.

Heaven Here
Jade Dust Eyes
About Three Dreams
Corner Of My Eye

(1991 - Dischord)

This record is very short, but it is still AMAZING. This is definitely showcasing what would eventually become one of my favorites from them, "Get Your Goat". The album starts out really catchy. Really fun. An amazing cover of Jimi Hendrix "Crosstown Traffic" and the debut of the classic well known song "Red House" that would be re-recorded and become a single on the last album. The album ends with a very strange noisy poem reading type song. Very cool. 

Lies About The Sky
Day Ditty

(1992 - Dischord)

In my humble opinion, this, and the next album, are the pinnacle of what Shudder To Think were. This record perfectly blends the punk energy of the earlier albums, with more progressive elements. Strange acoustic guitar parts. Really diverse playing. Craig's vocals are unbelievable!!!!! This is a perfect album, and there is nothing wrong with it. Somtimes it reminds me of old REM, or The Smiths, but it is so much better than those 2 examples, yes i said it!!!!
One of the best albums of all time, and to boot? Dischord remastered it and it sounds amazing!!!!

The entire record!!!!

(1994 - Epic)
Where the hell do I even begin? It is 2008. This record is officially 14 years old, and I still get chills, and tears.
 The members were young teenagers when they did this album, and I must ask myself, how the hell does somebody write this and perform this, so well, that young? This is the peak of Shudder To Think. This record shows that they are timeless. This record will NEVER fail anybody, and will always impress. Prog rock guitar. An additional element of blues, and metal. Adam Wade's drumming is really beefed up and hits your gut. Craig goes from sexy to creepy,and it is all so overwhelming and fun. Nathan just a bad ass here. Stuart's bass work is amazing too. The bass line on Hit Liquer....unreal. This is a perfect album as well. Listen to it over and over until it sinks in, and then, it will never let you go.

The entire album

(1997 - Epic)

When I bought this album back in 97, I was confused. All I knew was that STT was a hardcore band, that recently blew everybody away with this slower heavier album. I took a look at the cover, with Craig's debut of baldness. They were a 3 piece. They started dressing in really loud outfits. This took some adjusting. The production of the album is really clean, and produced. The songs are really catchy again, but this time in a more commercial way, and not such a weird punk way. With this record the band seems to have flipped the bird to everyone it seems. Kinda like "Fuck you all, we will rock and you will take notice" perhaps some of the lashing over PER made them feel they had to make a record with this much "I don't care what they say" attitude. Personally, after adjusting to the album, I fell in love with it. I always accepted this as STT, but I knew it might not have given them the strength they needed then. 
But who the hell cares? The record rocks. The songs are so unbelievably catchy, and for the first time in any of their albums, they prove they can be compared side by side,with their influences. They were not just a weird band now. They were a serious rock band, with one hell of a lead singer. If there is any album that I would suggest people giving more time, even over PER, it would be this one. Funny thing is, now, people tend to lean toward this record, even against the classic STT, when I show it all off. Weird. I guess its true...
Shudder To Think was smarter and more ahead of all of us.

Call Of The Playground
Red House
Beauty Strike
The Saddest Day Of My Life
All Eyes Are Different
You're Gonna Look Fine, Love

(1999 Epic)

Even though this record is not a "album" per say, it is still really amazing. With this album, STT wrote songs that were supposed to remind you of old music you have heard before. There is almost a familiarity about it. There are tons of awesome special guests here, like the late Jeff Buckley, Billy Corgan, Robin Zander, and Liz Phair. I
heard Buckley, in an interview say that "STT makes more beautiful music than I do" or something to that effect. I would have to agree!

I Want Someone Badly (W/ Jeff Buckley)
Diamonds, Sparks & All
When I Was Born, I Was Bored (W/ Billy Corgan)
Appalachian Lullaby (W/ Nina Persson)
Automatic Soup (W/ Robin Zander)
Lonesome Dove
The Wedding Is Over (W/ Lena Karlsson)
Just Really Wanna See You (W/ Mimi Parker & Alan Sparhawk)


throwingroses said...

This is a good breakdown. I must say I am excitement in a frame of shaking teeth when I think I may get a chance to FINALLY see Shudder To Think.

Stephen Mark Sarro said...

i had the chance to see them back in the day, when they toured with pavement. I skipped the show because I had a band that had a show that same night. It was one of my old high school bands, just before TOTM. We played for about 15 people at some dive. I have been dwelling on missing STT over that, ever since