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Pony Express Record

Shudder to Think

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Album Review

Shudder to Think's major-label debut, Pony Express Record, boasted a better sound/production than past releases (courtesy of producer Ted Nicely and mixer Andy Wallace), and signaled more focused songwriting on the group's part. It was by no means a sellout, because even on earlier releases the group's ambitious songwriting was in full effect. And "focused" songwriting from Shudder to Think does not mean three-chord, predictable verse-chorus-verse compositions, either. Pony Express Record challenges the listener in many ways: stop/start riffing ("X-French Tee Shirt"), oblique lyrics ("Earthquakes Come Home"), often dramatic, Freddie Mercury-like vocals ("Gang of $"), and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink song structures ("No Rm. 9, Kentucky"). The music is consistently unpredictable, mixing jazz, metal, art rock, folk, experimental, and alternative in the band's melting pot. And all of the songs boast strong melodies, which initially draw the listener in until you realize that there's more than meets the ear. Pony Express Record also marked the studio debut of guitar whiz Nathan Larson and drummer Adam Wade (Larson became an integral member of the group, helping to write five tracks, while Wade left after the supporting tour). One of the most underrated rock records of the '90s.

Biography

Formed: 1986 in Washington D.C.

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Shudder to Think's hardcore punk background (courtesy of their affiliation with the D.C.-based label Dischord Records, also the home of Fugazi) doesn't give the best indication of their sound, since the group embraced pop influences and a skewed sense of songwriting as well. Formed in 1986, the band's initial lineup — vocalist/guitarist Craig Wedren, guitarist Chris Matthews, bassist Stuart Hill, and drummer Mike Russell — released two singles and one 1989 album (Curse, Spells, Voodoo,...
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