New Miserable Experience (Deluxe Edition)

Gin Blossoms

A & M Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


I don't know about you, but my experience has been that quote-unquote "special editions" generally aren't that special, and "deluxe" is often a euphemism for "overpriced." The good news is, there's always room for exceptions, and that's exactly what this album is, because at the moment I'm writing these words, New Miserable Experience (Deluxe Edition) feels like the best $26 I've spent this year.

Most special editions involve three components: remastering the original album tapes -- maybe even well enough to tell a difference; adding a handful of rare and/or unreleased songs -- just enough to force the true fan to buy the album a second time; and repackaging the album -- usually not very imaginatively. Plus, in many cases the historical significance of the album is exaggerated by the label and/or the band in a further effort to boost sales.

The NME Deluxe Edition outdoes expectations by a substantial margin on all counts.

First off, it does so by re-releasing a set of songs with actual historical value. The rock world was still in the midst of a grunge hangover in 1992, the market flooded with Nirvana clones and wannabes, the only "alternatives" on the charts being rap and sugary pop. Straight-ahead rock was as rare then as a botox-free actress is at the Oscars today. Enter the Gin Blossoms, a hard-working, hard-living club band out of Tempe, Arizona armed with nothing but a barrage of memorable, guitar-driven, four-minute, utterly sincere rock and roll songs.

It took a year after the August 1992 release of NME for the album to catch on, but when it finally did, the results were nothing short of stunning. First "Mrs. Rita" made a brief foray onto the charts in spring '93, hitting #36 on "Album Rock" before fading. Then "Hey Jealousy" launched a full frontal assault, finishing at #4 in July, followed by "Found Out About You" (#1 on the new "Modern Rock" chart), "Until I Fall Away" (#13), and "Allison Road" (#39). The Blossoms' sound was exactly what had been missing on the scene, matching tight, melodic, classic rock-style songwriting with muscular guitar lines and lyrics brimming with genuine emotion. A new genre - alternative rock - was busy being born, and the Blossoms were at its forefront.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fast-forwarding to the present, not only are the aforementioned alternative rock classics given a loving remastering, highs and lows tweaked within an inch of pure sonic perfection, but this release actually restores the band and producer's original intent. Somehow in the original mastering process the channels were switched, swapping left for right. This release corrects the error, and you can hear it immediately, from the first propulsive notes of the desperately sad opener "Lost Horizons."

Because Universal wisely authorized an entire second disc for unreleased material, the original NME is re-issued here without a blemish. The driving guitar lines of heavy rockers like "Hands Are Tied" and "Hold Me Down" have never sounded better, nor has the ocean-deep melancholy of the songs of ill-fated lead guitarist Doug Hopkins ever been more affecting. (By the time this album was released, Hopkins had been fired from the band as a result of a singularly brutal battle with alcoholism and depression; by the time his searing elegy for the dumped "Found Out About You" became a #1 hit, he was dead by his own hand.)

And then there's the second disc!

Here you'll find a virtually perfect mix of rare early tracks, unreleased outtakes and live material clocking in at a very generous 71 minutes. An early highlight is the NME outtake "Blue Eyes Bleeding," a rollicking, sweetly sad tale of "two white boys on the wrong side of town" that was maybe just a touch too frivolous for the original album (my guess is it was between this cut and the sly, chuckle-inducing "Cheatin'" for the final track, and the latter got the nod). Another is the inclusion of four strong tracks from the hard-to-find '93 EP Shut Up And Smoke, plus the EP outtake "Number One," a remake of a Rutles (Beatles parody/homage) tune that manages to be both on-target funny and quite hummable.

Two more nice rarities are a never-before-heard track from an unreleased Big Star tribute album ("Back Of A Car"), and a version of "Pieces Of The Night" that includes the Springsteen-like piano coda Hopkins had originally intended for it. Throw in three strong tracks from the band's early DIY disc Dusted, three from their first EP Up And Crumbling, and six live tracks from May 1993 (including the theme song from "The Jeffersons"…!) and you've got quite a musical package. When they're not putting their strong musical roots on display, the Blossoms are demonstrating their remarkable versatility as a unit, veering from somber and serious to tongue-in-cheeky without missing a beat.

Last but not least, the packaging itself is top-notch, featuring a vastly expanded booklet with lyrics, full liner notes on the bonus disc, and a gallery of NME-era cover art that includes all the relevant singles and EPs plus the album's original cactus-blossom cover art. There's also a very appropriate and respectful tribute to Hopkins.

Deluxe in every way that matters, this is a package that puts the special back in special editions. If you're a fan, you have to have this; if you aren't, you will be after listening to it.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.