35 Albums in 35 Years: 1998

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.

 

trippingdaisy1998: Tripping Daisy’s Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb

“The magic’s in my heart, believe me.”

It’s okay. I’ll admit it. I can’t help but be drawn to doom and gloom. Downer albums just seem to grab my attention more easily than others do. Ballads. Dirges. A bleeding, black heart on a sleeve for the whole wide world to see. It can be beautiful, and it can be right, but sometimes you’ve got to pull yourself out of the darkness. Sometimes you’ve got to leave the dungeon. You’ve got to feel the sunshine around you. Sometimes it’s all about love.

Tripping Daisy’s all too short run of albums during the 90’s was like a shot of dopamine straight into the brain of a decade of American music that was so often defined by the murk of hard drug addiction, suicide confessionals, and the kind of contagious apathy that teenagers spread around like herpes. The band’s blend of psych, sunshine pop, and alt-rock was akin to opening the blinds and letting the light in the room. It was okay to joke. It was okay to smile. It was okay to be weird. The magic was real, and we all shined.

I first discovered Tripping Daisy during their brief brush with mainstream success on the singles “I Got a Girl” and “Piranhas” from the band’s 1995 sophomore effort I Am an Elastic Firecracker. The music was catchy, irreverent, absurd, and fun. From there, I worked my way backward to Bill, the group’s incredible debut. There was just something about the guitar tones and easy melodies the band dealt in that made it hard not to smile. Even on songs that lyrically or thematically might have leaned toward a more dour or somber mood, positivity and light always managed to shine through anyway. This was party music, sounds and songs with an undeniable zest for life. It was also pick-me-up music. I loved it. And something about the band being from Texas just made it all that much more accessible to me. Of course they were from Texas. Where else were they going to be from?

For some reason, the band dropped off my radar when I went to college. I didn’t even know that they had released a third album until a good friend, and fellow Daisy-devotee played it for me during a weekend road trip.

Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb. I didn’t know what to think of it at first. The album was so different, yet so familiar at the same time. I didn’t think I liked it. So I passed. And I moved on to other things, other songs, other bands. Man, was I stupid.

Thinking about it, I’m not really sure what brought me back to the album. Guitarist Wes Berggren died tragically in October of 1999 from a drug overdose. That death brought a little attention back to the band, followed by their official disbanding a couple of months after, and then the release of their final self-titled album featuring Berggren’s father on guitar on some of the unfinished tracks. Maybe that was it, but more likely it was after I saw a live performance by the surviving members of Tripping Daisy’s new group The Polyphonic Spree in early 2001. Take all the happiness and elan from the work of Daisy, multiply it by 100, and then add an orchestra and choir and you get The Spree. Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb is the bridge between the two bands and their collective sounds. Listening to it from that perspective, the album becomes the sum of all things, the band at its best and most complete. The apex. It’s hard to hear a song like “Sonic Bloom” and not picture The Polyphonic Spree (especially since they covered it later on).

But it’s still so much more than that. Songs like “Field Day Jitters” or “Human Contact” recall some of the band’s previous work. “Waited a Light Year” is a shoegazey, cosmic freak out. “Geeareohdoubleyou” sounds like a hyperactive song for kids. The album is all over the place, but still tied in cohesively as a unit, being that it is the most Tripping Daisy-sounding thing that the band ever produced. It’s a defining moment. And it’s a record that I go back to over and over again. You should too.

“Sucking a Slurpee for ultimate power.”

Listen and smile.

- Favorite song: “Sonic Bloom”
– Runner up: “About the Movies”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Pulp’s This Is Hardcore; Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs; UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction; Mansun’s Six; Eels’ Electro Shock Blues; The Beta Band’s The Three EP’s; Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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