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Golden Smog – On Golden Smog EP

Crackpot Records, 1992

Clearly, the cover art grabbed me not only in design but band name representation.  I actually own a Golden Smog record already (“Down By the Old Mainstream”) so it was easy to just scoop this one up as well for a listen.  I was more shocked that I even had the opportunity, for how often does one find a Golden Smog EP from 1992 at the Salvation Army.  Digging around some more, it was apparent that someone (or someplace) had given up nearly their entire nineties indie band collection for my perusal.  Oh, it was a fun time looking through indeed, but I had to take a couple of guesses.  The word “indie” meant something else back then in those nineties.  As in, unknown.  Golden Smog, however, did not entirely fit that label.

In 1992, Golden Smog included members from the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and even the Replacements.  Apparently they wanted to get away from their usual rock acts and spin a few low key covers for this EP, which could read as a good or bad thing.  It always is a curiosity about how side projects will sound involving members of one’s favorite bands, but usually side projects also mean a change in tone.  It wouldn’t be likely to expect the same sound of Soul Asylum’s “Want Somebody to Shove” or the Replacements’ tunes from “Let It Be” or “Tim”, especially the latter since Paul Westerburg isn’t involved in this project (Chris Mars is).  However, for five songs I imagine this was a nice release for these guys so it’s worth a listen to hear what they’ve got.

What they’ve got, apparently, is some real low key music.  The first song, “Son”, is a Michaelangelo cover that sounds like a … well, a nineties bar band.  Not impressive, but still gets you to order another Narragansett from the bar because you want to stick around for the next song.  “Easy to Be Hard” is a tune from the musical “Hair”.  “Hair”!  I suppose this is exactly the kind of cover song that Gary Louris (who sings) and the rest of the band thought had to be a Golden Smog cover and only a Golden Smog cover.  Could you imagine the Replacements covering this?  Or Soul Asylum?  It’s like that guilty karaoke fix where you hide yourself in a room and sing your brains out to songs no one knows you secretly enjoy.  Louris pulls it off pretty well, though I wonder if he sang it naked.

Dave Pirner shows up on the Bad Company tune “Shooting Star” that is on classic rock radio on steady rotation.  Yet another nineties bar band reference here, but I imagine that comparison just doesn’t matter to Golden Smog.  Who cares?  Crackpot Records from Minnesota were letting these guys throw some songs down and, I imagine, the group had a good time.  Same goes for “Backstreet Girl” (Rolling Stones) and “Cowboy Song” (Thin Lizzy), which are respectable towards the originals.  Turns out that “Cowboy Song” was sung by a roadie, who sings like he knows this is some kind of opportunity to sing a Thin Lizzy song with an actual band behind him.

Golden Smog still exist in various forms and can be heard on MySpace, Last.fm,and at Lost Highway Records (their current label).

I like this EP fine enough, but it mainly serves as an introduction to a band of friends who have continued their cover dabbling up to recent years.  It’s not the strongest set of covers, but none of them seem like a waste of time to listen to.  This is probably not a disc to spend too much money on just to hear five songs, but if you’re a fan of one of the band’s covered there might be a tune or two to download or rip just to have handy.  As mentioned before, Golden Smog still exists with members of the Jayhawks and Soul Asylum, and they last released a covers album in 2007.  Actually, that record “Blood On the Slacks” contains David Bowie and Dinosaur Jr covers.  Sheesh, guess I better keep an eye out for it in the bins…

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