released Sept 28th, 2010
from the album - Go Cry Baby
By blending contemporary power pop with elements of the post-grunge era, Gin Blossoms briefly emerged as torchbearers of the lighter side of alternative rock. Bassist Bill Leen and guitarist Doug Hopkins formed the band in 1987 in Tempe, AZ, rounding out the initial lineup with vocalist Jesse Valenzuela, guitarist Richard Taylor, and drummer Chris McCann. The following year saw several personnel shifts as the band struggled to solidify — McCann was replaced by Dan Henzerling (and, shortly thereafter, Phillip Rhodes), while Taylor was fired and replaced by guitarist Robin Wilson. Wilson and Valenzuela subsequently switched roles, and the band recorded a self-released album, Dusted, in 1989. A&M signed them the following year.
After an impressive debut EP, 1991's Up & Crumbling, the Gin Blossoms rocketed out of the college pop charts and into the mainstream with their 1993 hit single "Hey Jealousy." Combining the ringing guitar hooks of the Byrds and R.E.M. with a solid, rootsy drive, the band's breakthrough full-length album, New Miserable Experience (which had actually been released the previous year), was filled with songs equally as strong as "Hey Jealousy," including the second hit single, "Found Out About You." New Miserable Experience and its assorted singles dominated radio and MTV for the following year — "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You," both penned by Hopkins, remained in heavy radio rotation nearly a year after their initial release — and such success pushed the sales of their debut album to over one million copies.
All was not well within the group's ranks, however. Hopkins' battle with alcoholism and depression had taken its toll on the band during the sessions for New Miserable Experience, and he was fired shortly after the record's release, with guitarist Scott Johnson taking his place. Speculation abounded as to whether the band would be able to maintain their success without Hopkins' melancholy songwriting voice. Tragically, on December 5, 1993, Hopkins shot and killed himself, even as the songs he had written were blanketing the airwaves.
In the summer of 1995, the Gin Blossoms contributed "'Till I Hear It from You," a song they co-wrote with Marshall Crenshaw, to the soundtrack of the film Empire Records. "'Till I Hear It from You" became a major radio hit, but was never released as an official single until it was the B-side of "Follow You Down," the first single from the group's second album, Congratulations...I'm Sorry. Upon its release in February of 1996, Congratulations...I'm Sorry charted well, but within six months, it had disappeared from the charts. Following the supporting tour, the Gin Blossoms disbanded in 1997.
Strangely enough, the group reunited (sans Rhodes) for a 2001 New Years Eve concert. The Gin Blossoms hit the road several months later for a summer tour, drumming up renewed interest with the release of Dusted — originally issued in 1989 as the band's debut cassette tape — as well as a live DVD, Just South of Nowhere. Four years later, the band unveiled its first batch of new material since the mid-'90s. Major Lodge Victory proved to be sonically similar to the band's earlier efforts, and the album earned warm critical reviews. Signing with 429 Records, the Blossoms released No Chocolate Cake in 2010.
Perhaps it’s the curse of Doug Hopkins, but the Gin Blossoms have rarely been able to strike gold on their own, with most of their biggest hits being written by someone outside of the band. First, there was co-founder Hopkins himself, who wrote “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You” before his alcoholism resulting in his dismissal from the group before either song was released. Then there was Marshall Crenshaw, who co-wrote the band’s first Top 10 hit, “Til I Heart It From You,” in 1995. When the Gin Blossoms returned in 2006 with Major Lodge Victory, they partnered up with the Rembrandts’ Danny Wilde, who wrote several of the album’s tracks. Wilde is back on board for No Chocolate Cake, this time in a more active role that finds him producing, co-writing, and playing on most of the album. That’s not meant to diminish the group’s own contributions, which retain much of the spunk from the Gin Blossoms’ mid-‘90s heyday. Robin Wilson’s voice is strong, if a bit nasal at points, and the songs have a familiar heartland hum to them, with Jessie Valenzuela and Scott Johnson filling each one with jangled guitar arpeggios and tasteful solos. None of these tunes can compete with the band’s singles, of course, but that’s not the point, since No Chocolate Cake sets its sights on maintaining the band’s audience rather than reclaiming a spot in the mainstream.
1 Don't Change for Me Moon, Valenzuela, Wilde 4:05
2 I Don't Want to Lose You Now Valenzuela, Warren, Warren ... 4:10
3 Miss Disarray Colton, Valenzuela, Wilde 3:29
4 Wave Bye Bye Wilson 4:06
5 I'm Ready Sandberg, Valenzuela, Wilde ... 4:22
6 Somewhere Tonight Valenzuela, Wilde 3:56
7 Go Crybaby Wilson 4:59
8 If You'll Be Mine Valenzuela 3:13
9 Dead or Alive (On the 405) Northey, Valenzuela 3:02
10 Something Real Wilson, Woolford 4:02
11 Goin' to California Johnson, Wilson 3:43