Whatever happened to Menswe@r…?

Clever little fookers, weren’t they, to use the @ sign instead of a proper “a” in their name…? They ended up as almost as much of a punchline to the mid-’90s Britpop movement as Northside did with the same movement in the early ’90s, but damned if Menswe@r’s one US-released album, Nuisance, hasn’t held up for all these years.


The Wire-influenced “Daydreamer” was the first single, but soaring tracks like “The One” and “Sleeping In,” or the rocker “125 West 3rd Street,” have equal repeat-play value, as does the ballad “Being Brave.” The B-sides are of equal value, if you’re of a mind to hunt them down. (Major points for covering PiL’s “Public Image.”) They put out a second and final album in 1998 entitled “Hay Tiempo,” but it was only released in Japan and, frankly, I’ve never even seen a copy of it; if you can find it, you’re a better man than I am…and should probably zip it and E-mail it to me post-haste. Interesting footnote: the band’s guitarist, Simon White, went on to manage Bloc Party.


Whatever happened to…

…the Real People?

They emerged in 1991, in that unfortunate time frame where anyone who wasn’t Nirvana was shit out of luck…but it was even worse if you were a Britpop band. This was post-Stone Roses and Happy Mondays but pre-Oasis and pre-Blur, and, buddy, if you can name more than a handful of British bands to emerge during that window, you either wrote for the NME or worked for a record store. But the Real People were the brainchild of Tony and Chris Griffiths, who knew how to write a great hook. Their first, self-titled disc was solid – the song “The Truth” remains one of the best pop songs of the early ’90s – but the second disc, “What’s On The Inside,” took five years to hit stores…and, although it was a strong, more Beatlesque effort, it came out on an indie label (Granite Records?) and never made it beyond UK release. (I stumbled upon my copy in NYC…and, for Shep Medskerbone’s amusement, I should note that I bought it the same day I picked up the Lightning Seeds’ “Dizzy Heights.”) After that, the band vanished into thin air. They don’t even have a website anymore, and searches for the individual band members doesn’t turn up much. The most recent information I can find comes from this interview, but it’s from 2001, suggests that the band were working on a new disc, but…it never emerged, apparently. There’s also a site that has photos from 2004, but the band’s own website seems nonexistent; it’s a message board that requires approval to access…but I requested approval 2 weeks ago and haven’t heard a word.

Come on, guys, wherefore art thou…?


Lost Bands: Tribe

Three days after I moved to Boston in the fall of 1991, Lynne Shaughnessy, the girl that would one day become my sister-in-law, took me to Avalon, a rock club on Lansdowne Street behind Fenway Park’s Green Monster, to see a local band called Tribe. I’d never put much stock into local bands, though that had more to do with where I grew up (central Ohio) than anything else. But these guys, they were unlike any “local” band I had ever seen. A quintet with the standard Bon Jovi/Duran Duran setup of gtr/bass/keys/vox/drums, their songs were hard edged and insanely catchy, boasting lyrics that were far deeper and darker than their hook filled melodies would suggest. They weren’t flashy musicians, but they were solid, with guitarist Eric Brosius’s laid back guitar playing complementing the boisterous rhythm section of Greg LoPiccolo and drummer David Penzo perfectly.

And then there was Janet.

Lead singer Janet LaValley was simply mesmerizing to watch onstage. She didn’t just move around, she prowled the stage like a big cat. Dressed mainly in black, to match her jet black hair, she had a voice like Siouxsie Sioux’s but with better pitch, exotic but also extremely powerful. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about her was that she wasn’t even the prettiest girl in the band (that honor belonged to keyboardist Terri Barous). Still, just try and take your eyes off of her when she had a mic in her hands. She was a truly blessed front woman.

Read more about my quest to find Tribe here.


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