Saturday, October 10, 2015
SOUP PAST 20
Aptly named, as many ingredients are stirred into this amazing set of songs. Shannon Hoon floats his distinctive, keening vocals above soulful and tight playing. Refusing to be crammed into the grunge category, the five musicians created their own soundscapes and dared to experiment. They embraced the process of making music as opposed to following marketing strategies, resulting in the phony MTV autocracy losing interest in the band because they didn't do "No Rain Part II".
Critics were confounded because they couldn't easily slap a label on it, many giving poor marks overall.
Picking trendiness over creativity will buy you a music collection that you'll never listen to more than once
"Soup" is a daring album that reaches into many places, employing instrumentation and styles that are not typical of the generic sludge that was beginning to clog the airwaves in the mid 90s. Following their own instincts, the members of Blind Melon were armed with excellent tunes and prodigious skills as instrumentalists. Styles madly slingshot in different directions, though the strength of the ensemble playing makes it all work.
Opening with a horn arrangement worthy of Allen Toussaint, "Galaxie" explodes into a hard rock groove and sets the pace for the surprises to come. Andy Wallace's production is spotless.
Dark clouds hovered over some of the material, with subject matter that took in suicide ("St. Andrew's Fall") , the bizarre predilections of convicted killer, Ed Gein ("Skinned") and musical structures that were brilliant but seemed to convey a certain sadness ('Toes Across the Floor")
Highlights abound as each track throws a curveball at the listener, daring you to follow passages that are executed perfectly at lightning speed ("Lemomade") or shifting gears to curl up with a mandolin and acoustic guitars. The mood varies, though a sense of humor is at work here as well. Artistic ambition doesn't always translate into commercial success. Public reaction to the disc was marked by indifference, which is a crime because of its excellence.
Pressure was applied to stimulate sales by embarking on a tour in the fall of 1995, though Shannon Hoon was in the middle of a drug rehab program that wasn't going to plan. Reluctant to release him, his handlers did so on the provision that he would be accompanied on the road by a counsellor. Sadly, this did not work out and left to his own devices, nightly overindulgence became the rule. On October 21st, Hoon crashed into a sleep from which he could not be roused.
With that, the great promise glimpsed with this album was not to be fulfilled. What always surprised me was how quickly people quietly distanced themselves from the group. Twice as imaginative as anything released during this era, "Soup" has transcended the time period that produced it. One of my favorites.