Funny how things work out sometimes. Consider the case of New Radiant Storm King. This Massachusetts-based band came of age in the heady indie-rock days of the early 1990s, earning comparisons to—and even covers by—Guided By Voices, Archers of Loaf, and any number of bands of similar ilk. They signed to independent label Grass Records, and the quality of their songwriting went up a notch, resulting in two amazing records, 1994’s August Revival and 1996’s Hurricane Necklace.
Then things changed. Grass Records had always had major label ties, but corporate buyouts turned the label into a quasi-major with a new name, Wind Up. Getting dropped wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the new label’s signature band was Creed. Little bands got royally screwed (witness The Wrens and Brainiac, whose releases for the label were and and are held up by corporate greed), New Radiant Storm King included. Sadly, it’s historically been the case that when a band gets screwed in such a manner, said band breaks up. Not so our heroes. What did they do? They went and made two amazing albums, both of which have been expanded and reissued by Darla Records.
1998’s Singular No Article, is so titled as a slam at their former label, who apparently cared so little for them that they didn’t bother getting the name right. The duo of Peyton Pinkerton and Matt Hunter—the band’s two consistent members—sallied forth with some of their best material to date. Ironically, the songs on Singular No Article are slicker than anything that came before, bettering their previous two nearly-perfect albums. If these were leftovers from Hurricane Necklace, you’d never know it. From the gently nuanced “Barium Springs” and “Miranda,” to the clean, easy-on-the-ears “The Correct Liar” and “Carry My Chin,” Singular No Article wastes no time in impressing the listener.
The irony of Wind-Up’s rejection is really amplified by 2002’s Winter’s Kill. If Singular No Article was a triple play in the face of an unpleasant era, then Winter’s Kill was a grand slam. From start to finish, it’s a tight album with a winning combination of production, arrangement, and songwriting. It’s also worth noting that in terms of popular music, the times had finally caught up to New Radiant Storm King. It’s really not hard to imagine songs like “Golden Parachute” and “Montague Terrace” playing alongside Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Social Scene, Jimmy Eat World, or The Postal Service, or making the soundtrack of The OC. It’s that good. Twelve years later, it stills sounds fresh and exciting, especially the incredibly catchy, “why wasn’t this a single”
That these two wonderful albums have never received their proper due is tragic, yet serves to show that good music and good art need not be regulated to the times in which it was made–or that because something didn’t get the recognition it deserved back then, it was not quality work. Both albums are superior records that well deserve your attention. You won’t be disappointed.