Any ’90s radio listener would have had a hard time dodging the Gin Blossoms’ mega-hits “Hey Jealousy” or “Till I Hear It From You.” After the Blossoms split, one of the new groups to come out of it was the Gas Giants, featuring two Blossoms member and a former collaborator of lead singer Robin Wilson.
The Gas Giants were short-lived, and a few years later the Gin Blossoms would regroup. However, their one and only CD, From Beyond the Back Burner, puts a heavier spin on an otherwise familiar sound.
Right from the opening track, the rock emphasis is apparent. Gone (for the most part) is the jangly acoustic aesthetic of the Blossoms; the excellent craftsmanship and hook writing remain.
“Quitter,” the disc’s cynical single, features Wilson’s memorable voice over a plethora of rhythm and lead guitar tracks, a somewhat smothered bass line, and Phillip Rhodes’ full drum work. Lines like “I’m not scared, I’m only nervous/when chocolate shakes, and power surges” are odd enough, but combined with references to Stephen Hawking, the song doesn’t have quite the lyrical strength to make it the next “Hey Jealousy.”
“Stinkin’ Up The Charts” is a much better, if even more cynical track on music; “rock and roll and soul/stinking up the charts/running over all these songs/that’ve got too many parts.” Dan Henzerlig’s slippery, memorable bass in the chorus is truly a highlight not only to the song, but to the entire CD.
Henzerlig takes the lead vocals on “Useless,” and his more gruff voice contrasts well with Wilson’s high, perhaps too-familiar tone.
“You’re Absolutely,” the disc’s superb finale, is a sparse, Spanish-flavored acoustic tune featuring both Wilson and Henzerlig on vocals, and some very light percussion (almost entirely handclapping) against the CD’s most evocative and chilling lyrics — “they’ve got me speaking all their songs/singing all their words/I can’t help it if it’s only getting worse.”
The album art is great as well; in what looks like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb blast, a wagon toted by the art’s “main character” is loaded with guitars, computers, shotguns, power tools and bicycles. Web sites around in 2000 even featured lists of the objects found in the red Radio Flyer.
While not all Gin Blossoms fans will adore this disc, it is solid power-pop with a healthy dose of cynicism.