The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 2: Dated Alt-Rock

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

Bastard #2 from the world famous Destiny’s Bastard Children radio show mentioned to me how great the first two Daughtry records were and I laughed. But he said he was serious, so the debut Daughtry record is my starting point.

Daughtry – Daughtry

I had never bothered with this record because I assumed it was a bad American Idol record from a dude that couldn’t beat out Elliot Yamin and Taylor Hicks (Katherine McPhee also finished ahead of him but at least she’s had a career). But maybe I should have, knowing that reality shows voted on by the public are a shitshow anyway. Apparently the band Fuel offered him the chance to be their lead singer after the show and he turned it down to form his own band and I guess it’s paid off. At least his first two records had a lot of hits and he’s still making music even if he never got to Kelly Clarkson / Carrie Underwood levels of fame. And really, his debut record isn’t the typical American Idol cheesy first disc. This is an alt-rock disc through and through, however, of course, fresh off the show, it afforded him a contract with Simon Fuller’s 19 records, a real studio and a real producer. As such, this record is as polished as it can be. It’s good and it actually has held up nicely but I will not cry if I also never hear it again.

The “Similar Artist” feature of Tidal then gave me a few options of which I bypassed the obvious A.I. connection of Clarkson, since she’s really not related all that much and chose Lifehouse instead.

“What I Want”

Lifehouse – No Name Face

What I remember about Lifehouse is that they had a huge hit with “Hanging By a Moment” and then continued to release albums where they had one hit that pretty much sounded the same as all the other ones. A weird “one hit per album wonder” maybe?

Lifehouse was a church band before this record. How you go from church band to major label is odd but I have to tell you – at Christmas I saw our local non-denominational church band and they were fantastic. In fact, my whole family left thinking they should put out an album. Now not a major label album mind you, but an album nonetheless. So I guess it’s possible. I think I had listened to the album back in the day because it was pretty big but since I no longer have any interest in Lifehouse, this didn’t do much for me this time around. It’s pretty generic, harmless pop-rock music. But the problem now is what I mentioned previously. I just can’t help but hear everything they’ve released in the past two decades in this one record. And I don’t want to hear two decades of Lifehouse ever again.

“Hanging By a Moment”

Vertical Horizon – Everything You Want

From Lifehouse, I could have went to Creed or Vertical Horizon, so I chose the latter and I’m so glad I did. I haven’t thought about Vertical Horizon since they had their hits from this album, released back in 1999. The title track actually went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, which I didn’t remember at all. But this album marked their only real hits as by the time they released Go in 2003, the climate had changed to grunge. But listening to this record again now, I’m surprised that I remember every single song on it but also that it’s still so damn good. It’s a pretty great pop-rock album almost from start to finish (“All Of You” sounds a little too much like Live and doesn’t really fit on the album) but the rest of the tunes are fantastic melodic rock records with huge hooks – which is right in my damn wheelhouse – then and now. Four out of the 11 tracks were released as singles but they could have released almost all of them and likely had hits. “You Say” could have been one of the greatest pop songs of the decade if it had been a single. It’s a brilliant mid-tempo sing along that I wish I could still hear on retro stations today.

“You Say”

Dishwalla – Pet Your Friends

Shit, the next path could have been Counting Crows or Dishwalla and I chose the path less traveled here, which I’m regretting. Boy, did Dishwalla get lucky at the right time. Major labels were snatching up alternative bands like they grew on trees. The 90s had so many pretty average bands getting on major labels, failing to have a hit on their first record and getting purged pretty quickly, that when one did hit, it was a bonus. “Counting Blue Cars” was never my favorite song but it’s decent and I understand why it was a hit but the rest of the Pet Your Friends album – the debut for Dishwalla and the only one that I knew existed – is actually pretty bad. The biggest problem with the record is that it didn’t know what it wanted to be. The hit was a mid-tempo pop song. The follow up, “Charlie Brown’s Parents” was a louder rock song with no real hook. I don’t think the record company actually knew what to do with the band in the end. They had no real radio friendly songs after “Counting Blue Cars” and it’s painfully evident in how unlistenable this album really is now.

“Charlie Brown’s Parents”

Crash Test Dummies – God Shuffled His Feet

I was 17 when this came out and I remember listening to this a lot but I don’t really remember if I liked it or not in the end. It’s an album I can assure you I have never listened to after say, 1994. But, it’s really good. As a teen, you could have told me that I produced this record and it wouldn’t have made a difference to me at all. I hadn’t yet figured out what a producer can do for a record. And then I went to Wikipedia when this came up in the trek and saw that Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads produced it. And now, that makes total sense to me. Crash Test Dummies weren’t nearly as adventurous musically as the Heads but with such abstract lyrics, you can certainly say there are similarities and I’m assuming they were a huge influence on the songwriting. Harrison seems like the perfect match here to turn quirky pop tunes into radio hits. While only “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” made a dent on US radio, there were many more tunes that likely should have been hits for the group, considering the 11 songs on the album pretty much all have the same vibe. But the Crash Test Dummies are the classic example of a first single both making and breaking the group at the same time. Although it’s not, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” seems to have been sort of a novelty hit and if you’re going to name your song this, maybe that’s to be expected. But the song hit #4 on the chart, the album went 3x Platinum and then they couldn’t follow it up properly because it was so damn silly. And it’s not like anything on the album is straightforward but nothing else seems like a novelty track to me. You could probably spend weeks trying to decode the stories that singer Brad Roberts wrote in his tunes and still not get it. Talking Heads quirkiness worked because the songs didn’t have that novelty feel. So while the career of Roberts and the Crash Test Dummies kind of stalled after this record, God Shuffled His Feet has held up incredibly well and is likely better now than it even was back then.

“Afternoons & Coffeespoons”

Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience

I liked this a lot back in 1992 as the singles, “Hey Jealousy” “Found Out About You” and “Allison Road” were catchy as hell. But over the decades I’ve heard more and more people almost mocking these guys as being terrible, so when they were offered as an option here, it seemed like a good chance to check this back out. While I wouldn’t call this terrible, it hasn’t stood the test of time at all. The album is filled with simple mid-tempo jangle pop without much in the way of substance offered throughout the disc. I hear “Hey Jealousy” every now and again on satellite radio but not many other tunes from Gin Blossoms and now I see the reason for that. New Miserable Experience was a snapshot in time and something that has no need to be revisited again.

“New Miserable Experience”

Toad the Wet Sprocket – Fear

Christ, this is the derailing album for sure. I think I liked this when it was released but shit, this is bad and often quite dull. I give Toad the Wet Sprocket a little bit of props because Fear truly doesn’t sound the same as 900 other albums of this era but the songs either haven’t stood the test of time or might not have been very good to begin with. I don’t know that I can explain why but this was a just an extremely painful listen now and will as such, mark the end of this rabbit hole.

“Walk on the Ocean”

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