These are my reviews of Blind Melon’s original albums. Eventually I will get to the reunion record.
1992: Blind Melon (8/10)
The interlocking guitars of the Stones, the jamming and roots influences of the Allmans and the Dead, and a little tiny bit of funk, brought into the alternative era.
Yes, this music is heavily indebted to classic rock, but it is not a record that could have been recorded before the ’90s. It’s the ’90s aesthetic that keeps it from being derivative.
One of my favourite albums of the era (and I like it a lot more than some of the records above it on this list), even if it’s
- not particularly original and
- nowhere near as good as the sequel.
1995: Soup (10/10)
Blind Melon emerged fully formed on their debut: a unique combination of alternative rock attitude and classic rock influences with sometimes Stonesy sometimes Allmanesque interlocking guitars. Only two songs didn’t fit the mode of that debut, and one was their big hit.
Their second album is a conscious “Difficult Second Album,” beginning with an alienating Shannon Hoon + New Orleans brass band intro and never really letting up. The guitar hooks are more angular, the influences are more broad: post punk, art rock, other classic rock bands, jazz, folk and other influences mingle. And the lyrics are, on the whole, much, much darker, often alternating between focusing on Hoon’s addiction problems and his fascination with serial killers.
Nearly every song here is a classic: strong arrangements bridge the divide between classic art rock and alternative art rock and this is Hoon’s peak as a lyricist (though he occasionally falters). The arrangements are so inventive compared to the fairly one-note (albeit excellent) debut this almost sounds like another band.
And everyone is in peak form: Thorn and Stevens seem constantly at war in the complimentary way managed by a band like the Voidoids. (And when Thorn isn’t playing guitar, it’s to add new sonic levels to the band’s sound.) Graham and Smith are completely on (and super well recorded). And Hoon strains more than he should, reflecting his state of mind at the time. In addition, there are extraordinarily tasteful contributions, not just from the aforementioned Kermit Ruffins and his band, but the cello parts (and Smith’s own flute). Basically, what I’m trying to say is: everything works.
To me, this is how you do art rock in the ’90s. It’s right at the top of my list of best ’90s alternative rock albums ever, along with The Bends, OK Computer, Vs. and maybe a few others.
1996: Nico (6/10)
A pretty good rarities collection that shows off the talent and makes you wish things went a different way.
2008: For My Friends (???)
I have yet to listen to this. By 2008 my Blind Melon obsession had tempered enough that I forgot to buy it.