February 06, 2003

There's a reference in the preceding post to the eponymous debut album by a band called Semi-Gloss. I wanna talk about that record a little bit. See, it's the beginning of the year, and I'm allowing myself a few months (before getting back into aggressive All New Music All The Time mode) to listen to older things. And among those "older things" I've decided to revisit some of my favorite overlooked '90s alternative records, many of which date from 1995-1998. This was a really fruitful period -- "alternative" as a construct/marketing concept was a dead horse, but that also meant that bands could stop trying so hard and settle into themselves, make good music without A&R people breathing down their necks.

Semi-Gloss (Dirt) came out in 1997 and that's exactly the year it should have come out. It's a groovy Lower East Side record, a dirty-twee Velvets/Television/Feelies chug done up by some Vassar kids -- including a smart, sarcastic Swiss-Chinese-Parisian chanteuse-in-training named Verena Wiesendanger (who hits the French textbook for "Sans Expliquer" and at least one other track). They're young, enthusiastic, thoroughly amateurish, and even though they're working towards professionalism, they sound like they're having a grand old time putting into action what little they know about theory and technique. Semi-Gloss is sensuously cool and urban, too -- just the right accompaniment for running breathlessly down Houston Street in the middle of an early summer night, still floating on the high from seeing your favorite second-tier touring band at the Mercury. I miss that historical moment, that sense of relaxed innocence-in-spite-of-it-all: see also Dump's A Plea For Tenderness (1998), Luna's Penthouse (1995), the Legendary Jim Ruiz Group's Sniff (1998), any number of artists on Jeepster, Parasol, etc.

I don't know what ultimately became of this band, and I actually don't care -- this one record, this one moment in time, is all I need from Semi-Gloss. It's a sensation that can never be duplicated or reinvoked.