Saturday, August 27, 2005

Soulside: Less Deep Inside Keeps

Dischord/Sammich LP, 1987

Early recorded Soulside (released in 87 but recorded a year earlier) suggests a band that was a bit boxed into the Dischord/Positive Punk paint-by-numbers thing. It's no wonder that the band (minus their singer) eventually packed up their axes and moved to NYC to form the indie band Girls Against Boys (along with friend and co-producer of this record Eli Janney) and the fried and damaged New Wet Kojak. But a live Soulside set "back in the day" was always riveting to watch if not always musically interesting. They eventually got it together in their studio work. I'll toast anyone that says Hot Bodi Gram is essential for the well-rounded record collection.

This album seems unfinished, under-rehearsed and with the exceptions of a few songs, the band doesn't even seem into it. And as Joe Carducci says, every good band starts with the drummer and Alex Fleisig's barely competent drumming here (he gets better) is ham-handed and clumsy. And I'll save my gripes about Don Z's recording skills during this period as I've already vented elsewhere.

But even that can't mar "I Find The Other Side" because it's just a damn good song. Showcasing the band's signature building, moving chord structures and singer Bobby Sullivan's dexterous live custom of finding the right place to ride out the groove. This was a staple in their sets and a high point of at least one of the shows I saw. "Dreams" also soars above the rest of the cuts with an uncommon acoustic rhythm guitar track serving as the foundation. It allows Scott McCloud, who normally has to carry the songs on this record, to relax a bit and turn in a some bonny guitar hooks and riffs. Again Bobby's singing is superb.

Also of note here is a failed attempt to cover Wire's "Ex-Lion Tamer" -- props for the well-meaning attempt and classy selection, though. And I like "Fresh Air" which noisily closes the record on an upbeat note and a promise of more good, albeit more downbeat stuff to come. In the end, though, Less Deep Inside Keeps might have taken its own title's advice and just released this as a two-song single.

The band line-up is in this picture (click to see - credit Marce Sterner). There's no mention of bassist Johnny Temple playing on this record. The cover photo (above) is by the great Cynthia Connolly - Chris Bald contributes a drawing of the band on the flipside of the album cover.

  • "I Find The Other Side" - Soulside (160 kbps)
  • "Dreams" - Soulside (160 kbps)
  • Fine print: Songs up for limited time and are recorded straight from vinyl (with clicks and clacks intact). Readers who enjoy are encouraged to buy the records. I don't endorse file sharing except for research. This is a not-for-profit, for love of music website. I don't take advertising, tip jars or do pay-for-links. I don't solicit promos either (although if you want to send me something that's cool). Bands retain full copyright, of course, and upon request from band or label will immediately take down songs, etc. with no recriminations or gripes.

  • Something I Learned Today provides an alternative take on this recording in a November 2004 review of their three albums: "Sounds positively sunny in comparison to their later releases. Still holds up pretty good." So don't take my word for it because...
  • This record is still apparently in print and can be bought off the Dischord Records Soulside Webpage - try here if that doesn't work.
  • Southern Records maintains a site on Soulside that has links to the band member's follow-on projects
  • Besides Chris Bald's drawing the back of the record and some liner notes, there's this quote "Becoming Less To Be Nothing" which might explain the odd title of the record as being rooted in Zen? Just a guess.
  • Scott McCloud talked about Soulside and the problem with being a Dischord/DC band during the Fugazi era in Only Angels Have Wings:

    When Soulside was really first starting out…we started actually before Fugazi… there are definitely similarities between Soulside & Girls vs Boys musically, rhythmically. It’s very different lyrically, I am a very different singer than Bobby Sullivan was (Scott was only on guitar in Soulside) – not as melodic for example. At a certain point…doing a band in DC, at a certain point it’s a bit…we sort of…we were a little bit….at a certain point….I don’t want to say it the wrong way because I totally respect Fugazi, they’ve been an inspiration to me but in a certain point doing a band in DC is irritating because everywhere you go, people keep comparing you to Fugazi. Everything’s like Fugazi or not. After Soulside came out and when we moved out to New-York, in our mind we wanted to change our sound a little bit and get away from the Fugazi thing.


Eric said...

hmmmm.... I respect your finely tuned ear, but it ain't that bad an album. It's pretty typical of the posi-core stuff in vogue at the time. I guess when I say it "still holds up" that means I can listen to it without getting disgusted. Still, I would wholeheartedly direct people to the other two albums (trigger and hot bodi gram) over this one any day.

shesbitter said...

love the new photo!

Jim H said...

Hey Rae - assume you are referring to this and not this... it reads like things are working out in NYC, congrats.

Eric, I respect your opinion as well - that's why I posted a link to it - people should get both sides.

I just think this band was not ready to make a record (although I was probably more into it when it was first released) and so the resulting cuts are hit or miss - mostly miss. With the exception of the two maybe three songs cited, this is more of historical interest for fans of their follow-on work.

Mr. Babylon said...

If this is worse than "Trigger" it must be pretty bad.

XXX said...

This album is great. Sounds like early Dag Nasty to me.
Could anyone scan the lyricsheet for me - I need the lyrics for this one.
Contact me at:

garrett said...

wow.. so much debate over a record made by kids..put out by kids. lets not loose focus of what its all about. i was friends with these guys and went on the road with them for a short stent..while riding in the van hanging out some 18 years ago never did i think punk would ever be so formal..

Jim H said...

Oh but Garrett, this isn't some lemonade stand - this is fucking rock and roll (ok, maybe that analogy isn't so good).

"Kids" as you say (and I'm sure you probably chafed at that appellation at one point, no?) can make good music or bad music (or good art or bad art) and we can have opinions on it. Some of the best drawings I have seen came from a high school kid in Norfolk. Are we supposed to patronize them because of their age? Should we be like the girls in "Freaks and Geeks" and tell the guys their band rocks when it clearly doesn't?

And it's not they had to make a record. I did say I liked some of the cuts but someone (Jeff? Ian? Don Z.?) should've told them to keep on working on these tunes needed some more work.

Anonymous said...

Hey, just came across this entry. You noted that Johnny Temple isn't mentioned as playing bass on this one. He didn't. Chris Thomson (Ignition, Circus Lupus) was the original bass player. He quit after this album because the rest of the guys kept putting the band on hold for college.

Max said...

I had a copy of this recording on tape in high school since 88 or 89 and spent the better part of the early 90s scouring for my own copy of the album to no avail. I only recently discovered that they released this on CD a few years ago.

I have to say that I've always really loved this album for some reason... then again, I liked GvsB up to Cruise Yourself.

I suppose my tastes evolved along with the artists I started out with... I was able to transition from early Jawbreaker into Jets To Brazil without so much as a stumble step. I always liked Trigger more than Hot Bodi-Gram though.

This album is a good example of a band's first album from that era. Most new bands today with major label money can't produce something half as good or innovative (even though it's mostly reflective of other bands, I still hear a spark of uniqueness and originality).

I have to agree with garrett - it was made by kids and I can't understand some of the elitist punk-rock snobbery that goes on these days. Soul Side was and is one of my favorite bands and Trigger was one of the best albums to come out of that era IMO (which is worth just as much as any of yours).

It's one thing to be an archaeologist and analyze the wreckage of a music era with hindsight glasses and it's entirely another thing to have lived and grown up through that same era.

Laura said...

I have been trying to find Bobby Sullivan for years. We used to shoot pool and cut class together in Boston. Any one know how to find him?

Anonymous said...

Anyone familiar with the actor Dax Shepard? Going down his right arm is a graphic I always remember being used by Soulside. That was pretty wild to see. (Could the star of the first season of Punk'd actually be a fan of the great Soulside?)