Soul Asylum were a great severely underrated band that started in the 80's but finally peaked in the 90's! The band finally succeeded in the midst of the grunge movement but their sound was so much more than just falling into a Grunge also ran list. They were very adventurous and Dave Pirner sang rock but with enough soul to be Grunge's Marvin Gaye (which coincidentally he covered on an album). Seriously though, at best Soul Asylum could make it into my top five bands who were around in their peak years! When I heard the first single off of:
Grave Dancers Union
I was hooked. The single for those who aren't familiar was:
Somebody to Shove
The band takes what are somewhat flat and uninspiring lyrics and gives them life! It blasts into a cool guitar riff with a drum beat as Pirner gives a stellar whispering dose of vocal tension and articulates each line like a true story teller. Dave embodies the songs he sings with his movements and his wavering trembling voice wrapping around every word. The band is equally passionate as they nearly collide when they are harmonizing together. The whole song is energy and that is a great way to be introduced to a band that had found it's sound!
Then the next single was what is my favorite "Grave Dancers Union" song!
This starts on a less explosive note and the band smartly let's Daves vocals take center stage as this is a storytellers song! On the other hand the chorus is a lot more effective on this one as everything up to that point is a more subdued sound that is more Americana than heavy rock. The whole song builds with each chorus being belted out more effectively as it goes to the point where Dave's voice trembles with the force and emotion of it! The guitars change constantly but seamlessly. They are never boring and they move the listener along. The laid back solo with the sirens into the heavy guitars is an example of a guitar solo I think works! It true to the song and not excessive. The song plain moves me!
Then the staple of the album:
Was this song overrated? Maybe, but it made sense that it caught on and hey, the band deserved the break whether it was this single that catapulted them or not! The song is brilliant in that it gets buried in your head. It's a great, simple melody which is as ingenious to create as any epic could be. The song was also covering a topic that hadn't been addressed musically in the mainstream 'til then (that I know of anyway) and the lyrics were done well! The band showed that they could show just as much emotion restrained as they could with buildups and intense delivery.
Grave Dancers Union to me even with these great songs left something to be desired as a whole album IMO which is why I was so glad to here the followup. I like all of it but the band was just finally finding their sound and creative peak IMO. Their creative peak was reached with:
Let Your Dim Light Shine
I love this album track for track and think it's an unheralded classic for it's time! If I was going to do album reviews for underrated albums this would be in my top five. Here are what I think are the standouts!
The two best singles off it IMO were:
Just Like Anyone
I could have done with or without Misery as a lead off single. It wasn't bad but I hated the lyrics which are hit or miss with this group. If Grunge had an emo song it would be that one. Just Like Anyone had that intense buildup that I loved with Somebody to Shove and had a better chorus than that one. It may be the best song with an outhouse in it ever! It only gets better as it's such a sweet piece of Grunge candy from the middle on!
This song is by far the best ballad song from Soul Asylum even including Runaway Train! This is the Jimmy Buffet escapist anthem of Grunge! I'm not playing the single version because it adds an annoying reverb to the track. This shows how versatile the group is though. It's a very countryish vibe but as opposed to farms, tractors and pigshit you picture yourself walking on sandy beach with a cool sea breeze hitting your face. The harmonies on here are perfect. It's one of the best chill songs ever!
Two album songs that really stand out as favorites are:
String Of Pearls
That song is my favorite Soul Asylum song period! The lyrics make no sense but I love singing around to it because it sounds like it should make sense the way it tells a story and is put together. That is song magic by putting anything together just because of how you tell it. That's the magic Nirvana had. A vocalist who could sing the phone book with the conviction to make you feel it. The background music also tells the story with it's journey with it's R & B grooves, drum beats and ebbs and flows! A brilliant song IMO!
I suggest listening to the studio album first but the live version is great as well as you get to see the instruments included and how great they can be live:
String of Pearls (Live)
This is a great song and also has that cool R&B feel they've adapted mixed with hard rock and a tinge of Jazz/Reggae! I love the contrast in this song! The song has everything even a howl like Werewolves of London!
So here's my thread to give my due to a band that doesn't get brought up nearly enough when it comes to '90s nostalgia! If anyone has any other material that they thought was great from these guys feel free to share! Thoughts, opinions, etc. Peace!
never heard anything by this band so where shold I start please