Should’ve Been A Classic: #1

Blind Melon: Soup (1995)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy resulting from the premature death of Blind Melon vocalist and noted public urination enthusiast Shannon Hoon is not the fact that his daughter, Nico Blue Hoon, will grow up without a father.  After all, while her lack of father is indeed a most unfortunate circumstance, it really only affects Hoon’s immediate family.  On the other hand, we are all poorer for the fact that Blind Melon will sadly go down in musical history as a one hit wonder.

The one hit in question — 1993’s “No Rain” — is fine type of the genus: a good song ruined by overplay (see also “Wonderwall” and “Scar Tissue”), but it also blots out the true crown jewel in Blind Melon’s cruelly truncated oeuvre: 1995’s Soup.

Fig. 1: Blind Melon's lost classic.

Whereas their eponymous debut was solid affair in which the group brought the hairy jam band ethos of the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin into the grunge era, it was the follow-up that showed us exactly what this band could do, just before fate (embodied in a heroin overdose) prevented them from doing it.

Nonetheless, Soup remains as a testament to the could’ve-been-greatness of the Melon and stands as one of the great underrated records of all time. Lead single “Galaxie” was an infectious slice of pop-rock, and “Toes Across The Floor” packs more into its three minutes than most bands can do in a career (and it had an awesome video!).  The macabre humour of the banjo-fuelled Ed Gein bio, “Skinned” ,was balanced out with the sombre bossa nova of “Car Seat” in which a somewhat over-earnest meditation on Susan Smith’s drowning of her two children is appended with what sounds like a scratchy cylinder recording of a religious poem. And then, after the twin mini-epics of “St. Andrew’s Fall” and “Mouthful Of Cavities”, the record closes with the delirious bar-fight cum wake of “Lemonade” where Mr. Hoon, sounding like the bastard love child of Axl Rose and Janis Joplin, opines that “If I should speak up and say, ‘Hello, Mr. Uppercut! Oh, how nice to have avoided you.'”

Yet, despite being chock to the gills with awesomeness, Soup was greeted with thundering indifference upon its release.  Goddamnit, the thing even had a song title word search on the back of its menu-themed cover.  It probably didn’t help that the band’s best song, the title track which references Kurt Cobain’s suidice, was hidden away in the pregap and wouldn’t see a proper release until the odds-n-sods compilation Nico.

With their double guitar attack (neither Rogers Stevens nor Christopher Thorn can lay claim to being the group’s lead guitarist), Hoon’s advancing writing, and increasing ventures into unusual rhythms and structures, it’s not impossible to imagine that Blind Melon could have matured into something approximating an American Radiohead.  Instead, that particular mantle ended up being draped on the shoulders of a Chicago-based country-rock group going by the name Wilco.

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~ by Isaac Bickerstaff on May 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “Should’ve Been A Classic: #1”

  1. I must respectfully disagree. When a rock star dies at the cusp of what may-or-may-not have been immense popularity, there is an automatic tendency to assume that they WOULD have been massive stars were it not for their untimely demise. And as such, there is a general elevation that takes place in terms of their oeuvre, which may or may not be justified. In the case of Soup, I think that had Blind Melon not disappeared, had Shannon Hoon not died, none of us would know of the album at all now, and we would have forgotten Blind Melon altogether, relegating them to the vague edges of our memories along with Deep Blue Something and Hole. Just because he died does not make his music any more relevant. Even dead icons can still have made shit. Soup was shit. See Hutchence, Michael for further research on this subject.

  2. I agree with pretty much all of what you say (except for the Soup is shit part). You’re right that the best way for a rock star to achieve ultimate fame is play the great gig in the sky significantly ahead of schedule: hence, St. John Lennon’s canonization vs. Paul McCartney’s para-laughing-stock-ishness (also, Paul is a dick, so that doesn’t help him). I think my point, and obviously this is coming from a fan’s perspective, is that this posthumous canonization did not happen for Blind Melon. I think they have been relegated to the vague edges of our memories (perhaps not as much Deep Blue Something Or Other, but certainly more than the execrable Hole).
    Incidentally, they did attempt somewhat of Hoonless comeback last year with a new singer. Pretty shitty stuff (and that’s being kind), which is odd because I always felt the strength of the group was in their guitars and not necessarily in Hoon’s vocals.

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