Wednesday, November 6, 2013

a musical introduction to Shudder to Think

HEAD MEDICINE is beyond stoked to present "Hold Back the Road That Goes... The Story of Shudder to Think," a large, multi-part retrospective on this great and largely overlooked art rock band.  Shudder to Think forged a beautifully unique career through the late 80's/90's that sounds like no one else, ever.  Here is a ridiculously brief primer to get up to speed on one of the most courageously original rock bands of all time.

in the beginning, Shudder to Think, made up of singer Craig Wedren, guitarist Chris Matthews, drummer Mike Russell, and bassist Stuart Hill, were a powerful force in the Washington DC post-hardcore scene alongside Fugazi and Jawbox .  Their first album, Curses, Spells, Voodoo, Mooses, was released on Sammich Records in 1989 and helped create an influential forceful-yet-melodic punk rock sound.  The band would never sound this straightforward ever again.

The band quickly moved over to to venerable Dischord Records, where they released three fantastic albums.  Their sound progressively became weirder and more fractured and abstracted, culminating in the underappreciated classic Get Your Goat in 1992.  

from Get Your Goat:

Chris Matthews and Mike Russell left the band in '92 and was replaced with guitarist Nathan Larson and Adam Wade, formerly the drummer of Jawbox.  This new version of Shudder to Think emerged with a powerful and flamboyantly cocky attitude. The music was far stranger and more abstracted than anything previously attempted, resulting in the masterpiece Pony Express Record. (see the full HEAD MEDICINE review HERE).  this album is not for the weak of heart and is one of the most rewarding musical puzzles ever created.

Shudder to Think straightened out many of their more angular sounds for their final formal album, 50,000 BC.  This was done for a variety of reasons, most notably the dissatisfaction within the band of continuing such challenging work and the recovery of Craig Wedren after a battle with Hodgekin's Disease.  all signs were pointing towards creating a more straightforward-yet-patently-weird album with a more positive ambiance.  There are many unashamedly pop moments that are just fantastic, sometimes sounding as if Journey were still around and making some sort of cutting edge music. 

The band quit making albums as Shudder to Think and continued on creating soundtracks to films.  they worked on the glam rock flick Velvet Goldmine as well as First Love, Last Rights, which featured a stunning collaboration with Jeff Buckley. 

 The beautiful soundtrack to High Art was a radical departure for Shudder to Think, featuring laid back intrumental chill out beats and was at times fragile and glassine.  "She Might Be Waking Up" featured the first appearance of guitarist Nathan Larson on lead vocals.  it was sadly the band's final release.

Even though this was the end of Shudder to Think, most of you have unknowingly heard the work of Craig Wedren and Nathan Larson in the years since as they both have carved out very successful careers scoring for film and television.  Wedren scored School of Rock, Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, Reno 911!, and Hung among many others, and Larson's extensive credits include film scores for Boy's Don't Cry, Choke, The Woodsman, and Todd Solondz's Palindromes.

check out the HEAD MEDICINE exclusive "Hold Back the Road That Goes... The Story of Shudder to Think," a comprehensive oral history of the band.   Part One details the story behind their recent reunion for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Black Cat club in Washington DC and what this all means for the future of Shudder to Think.  follow HEAD MEDICINE on Fakebook for updates on any future installements. 

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