first comes what she’s wearing.

suck-my-heart-ad

Ad for the "Suck My Heart" 7"

The first review of any record we put out was always in the Aquarian Weekly.  “Suck My Heart” was no different – I posted the review in an earlier entry, but didn’t mention that it irritated me slightly to have our record included in the “Makin’ Waves” section of the paper.  This is not to say I had a problem with Bob Makin – as I stated previously, I had no problem with him at all, and was genuinely appreciative of how good he was to us. However, his column was the “local music” column, and we were striving to be something more than that. Bar/None, Megaforce, and Shanachie Records were all New Jersey-based labels that had their records reviewed in the main section of the pub; I wanted our reviews there as well.  I made a point to send our next release – whatever it might be – to someone other than Bob Makin.

 Oculus was a decent zine published by some guys in Hoboken.  Oculus was the first larger publication to review the 7″ – I don’t recall who wrote the review, and unfortunately I didn’t include the reviewer’s name in the press clippping I saved – but it was another one of those reviews that made a comparative reference.  Thankfully, it wasn’t the same-old, Natalie Merchant comparison.  The review, I believe, came out before we got involved with the re-release, but it was a nice early glimpse at the response the record would get.

This single contains to tracks from the North Jersey band’s EP, Magnet for Stains, to exhibit their contrasting sounds and whet your appetite for more.  “Suck My Heart” is hard driving and densely packed with melodies and great vocal play thanks to some excellent overdubs.  “Trying to Catch a UFO” mellows into a staring-at-the-stars-and-thinking mood; Renee LoBue slides and bends her notes in a fashion very similar to none other than Edie Brickell.

I was starting to get the feeling that record reviewers didn’t know what to do with Renee, and I made a comment to her once about it, likening it to the lyrics of her song “What She’s Wearing.”  Even in the review above, the writer could comment on the hard-driving music, the overdubs, the contrasting styles in which the band could play – but when it came to the vocals, all he could do was trot out Edie Brickell.

Another review, from Your Flesh:

What can I say?  Hippie youth who play alternative music that’s bound to be a hit with the tie-dyes who go for this stuff.  There’s a lady singer here who, no matter how you stack it, reminds me of Grace Slick (like most of these gal vocalists nowadays) while the rest of the group chime on in typical nuevo-peacenik fashion.  If you want the panache and pathos that the record tries to relay, just gaze at the “symbolic” cover photo for four hours and feel sanctified.

A bad review, no doubt.  But the Grace Slick comparison was, in my opinion, truly reaching.  

The lyrics to “What She’s Wearing,” in part, say:

“I always notice one thing- 

Whenever they review a he, foremost is his playing.”

Later in the song, the chorus repeats itself but the lyrics change slightly:

“I always notice one thing-

Whenever they review a she, first comes what she’s wearing.”

It was, I was discovering, true.  Even with just one record – the compilation – to use as a comparison, very few of the reviewers stated that Ralph Footstone sounded similar to Michael Stipe, or Gary Rosary often sounded like Morrissey.  But the Melting Hopefuls reviews all seemed to mention Natalie Merchant, or Edie Brickell, or some other alt-rock flavor of the month.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I didn’t find it particularly irritating or insulting, but I did think that it must suck to be a strugging female musician, trying to make a name for yourself, only to have journalists be completely incapable of letting you have your own voice or style.  Reviews would comment on Ray’s excellent production or Max’s great guitar playing, but when it came time to discuss Renee’s singing, all they could say was that her voice gave them goosebumps and she sounded like the chick in Caterwaul.

It was funny to me when The Music Paper published a review of the show when Renee popped the heckler in the crowd:

The other night at Boo-Boo’s in Hoboken, LoBue was on stage when this ‘suit’ started heckling her.  Seems this chimp had attended a previous show, ragged on her all night – and then asked for a date!  Now he’s back and flinging the worst insult you could toss at LoBue: ‘Hey, Natalie Merchant!'”

Ooh, that did it.  As the Hopefuls played on, LoBue stepped to the edge of the stage and stared him down like the dog he was, repeatedly returning to the mic to sing ‘Don’t touch/It’s sharp/I’m afraid.’  Perfect.  This went on for a while, until she stepped off the stage – the band was still playing – exchanged a few words with suit-face and then socked the bum!  He stormed out red-faced to hearty applause from the appreciative audience.

Shaken, LoBue struggled through two more songs before stopping to apologize.  ‘It was either be bothered by him or hit him,’ she said shyly, ‘so I hit him.’

At this stage, late spring/early summer of 1993, the Melting Hopefuls had put on a full-court press to try and find a record deal.  They were regularly sending out demos, playing shows to packed houses throughout New Jersey and Manhattan, and getting more than their fair share of local press.  As reviews of the re-released “Suck My Heart” 7″ started to come in, Ray was very pleased to have gotten a little more promotional mileage out of the single.  

From our standpoint, we were pleased to have kept the momentum rolling for the label while simultaneously chipping in to help the band.  We were full-on supporters of the Melting Hopefuls by then, and were happy to do whatever we could to help them.  We also realized that it was beneficial to Dromedary to have them associated with our label.  It was a symbiotic relationship – the band had a strong following and a great sound that was helping to define what kind of label we would be.  At the same time, having your band associated with a label elevates you slightly beyond the status of a struggling band with a demo tape; there’s someone working on your music, and it’s actually got the potential to be in stores.

We were receiving decent press, and the 7″ was now getting some radio play around the country.  What was encouraging to me was that the single was getting airplay even though most of the major college stations would not add it into their regular rotation.  

Despite the fact that Ray had sent the 7″ to a pretty large list of radio stations before we re-released it, we were still getting mileage out of it.  As such, Dutch East, Twin City Imports, and Forefront were all willing to place small orders.  And while we didn’t receive any orders from the other distributors I mailed copies to, I noticed a definite change in tone when I spoke with distributors like Caroline, Revolver, and ADA – my first round of phone calls, I felt like I was just another guy with a record.  With the second release, though, Dromedary somehow seemed to be a little more legitimate in their eyes.

Or maybe I was just catching them on a good day, I don’t know.

~ by Al on February 4, 2009.

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