Stranded In Stereo: My Formative Years: "Head Trip In Every Key" by Superdrag, 1998

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My Formative Years: "Head Trip In Every Key" by Superdrag, 1998

The reunion tour is on. I've been listening to this one too much lately to not revisit it for "Y'all."

1998 was when my formative years were winding down; though I had discovered ...The Dandy Warhols Come Down right on time, it wasn't until March (maybe February) of 98 that I had picked up I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One which would go on to change me forever.

That April, I got my grubby hands on Head Trip In Every Key, Superdrag's follow-up to 1996's power pop explosion known as Regretfully Yours. I was enticed by the packaging alone: the 60s/70s motif of the chick listening to music with those old school stereo headphones; even the paper the booklet was printed on fit the time. And the cooper font as well, which was the standard Superdrag logo for the rest of their career.

The band wasn’t looking to make another “Sucked Out," instead taking major label monies to meticulously craft one of my all-time favorite albums, and the unanimous fan favorite among ‘Drag heads. “I’m Expanding My Mind” opens up the album in an attempt to detach themselves from their previous works, inviting listeners in by using an orchestral orgy of instruments that sound like the horizon to usher in the new era.

"Mind," though, was not the only attempt at branching out in to previously unknown territory. Though the other dozen songs have a glossier production to make their power pop glow (see "Hellbent," "Shuck & Jive,") most importantly John Davis and the boys crafted a masterpiece right down to its Trippy title. Like the opener, "The Art Of Dying" ends the album with a mass of strings, pitted against heavy guitars and lead singer Davis going far out on his sitar. The band also captures power pop glory while tangoing with brass flourishes on "Mr. Underground." But perhaps, though, the best bridging of the of the catchy guitar pop of Yours and the branching out brought forth by Trip can be found in "Bankrupt Vibration." Starting out with acoustic guitars and some more sitar and handclaps, the driving chorus eventually breaks halfway to a locomotive ending that keeps on chugging along, picking up the pace at break neck speed only until it is derailed at the end of the line.

The band would go on and, like most great bands of their time on Elektra, be dropped from the label and release more acclaimed albums. 2000's In The Valley Of Dying Stars found the band channeling the glossy pop of Trip while 2002's Last Call For Vitriol (coincidentially enough, their swan song,) brings forth a more lo-fi approach while showcasing drunken country songs for their sweethearts, thanks to the inclusion of guitarist Mic Harrison.

Since the band broke up in 2003, John Davis ventured on a solo career, releasing a self titled album, but apparently missed where he got his beginnings. The original line up featuring Davis, drummer Don Coffey Jr., bassist Tom Pappas, and guitarist Brandon Fisher will hit the stage together for the first time in almost a decade this fall.

Download: "Bankrupt Vibration" [mp3] // "The Art Of Dying" [mp3] // "Head Trip In Every Key*" [mp3] /// [Buy Here]
*unreleased demo from the Head Trip sessions

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