IMI PARE RAU











{Thu, 15 February, 2007}   This ain’t a post, it’s a movement.

Senior moments… I returned from Romania in June ’03, a beat but not beaten man, & as the months separating my departure from the now have lengthened to years, my recollection of those moments in Dacia has become clearer, & more forthcoming.

So, too, my interest in late nineties rock n’ roll. Precisely, Athenaeum. (Thus, the bold-face afore this post. It was twelfth grade when I recall hearing “What I didn’t know”.)

A bit over a year ago, then, I went to CD*Exchange & put down a sawbuck on a copy of Radiance. I didn’t know quite what to expect, buying on the whim of a whim, just the opening chords of the first track running thru my head for about a fortnight in late November ’05.

Let’s say, I havn’t returned the disc since (nor do I listen to it each day).

I do listen to it a fair bit though, it being just down my playlist from the Carpenters, Killers, & Streets, & right next door to Cornershop.

With each listen, too, I find myself wondering, Why not Athenaeum? What disposed this band to one-&-done-single purgatory, left to play low-capacity dives (under 250 capacity) for a year or three after “breaking”, then breaking up for real churning thru members the same as Jack Bauer churns thru girlfriends?

Was it hipster indifference antipathy to the band’s open nod to Hunter S. Thompson in discussing the origin of the band’s name? (If memory serves, one of the bandmates (present for the release of Radiance) was reading thru a biographic excerpt on HST & stopped at the mention of the young Gonzo’s time in the Athenaeum Literary Society as a teen Louisvillian, to jot the word that would be the band’s name.) Were the judiciously, obviously pop-rock performers not vanguardist enough to be the foam on the wave of Thompson revivalism that followed Depp‘s turn as the Doctor of Journalism?

Or, perchance, was Athenaeum the first spew of vomit to emerge from the music-listeners’s purge of late ’90s alt-pop (but before said purge really took root, c. ’02, & prolly ’cause the band’s name was just too difficult to remember, anyway)?

I cannot say exactly, sans research. I do recognize, that said, that Athenaeum was hardly the most atonal &/or glooping offender of the pre-willenial tension period in pop/rock.

Somehow, though, where Athenaeum failed, Train made a career out of its ’98 entry, “Meet Virginia”. (Quite possibly the ploddingest song I’ve ever heard, & aside from that, not memorable in the slightest.) Tonic soldiered on, ’til just after a new century had dawned, its last record out in ’02/3 — & it still tours, as I’m positive Tonic played a Summerfest side-stage in the past year. Semisonic kicked around for a bit, following “Closing Time” — itself a catchy number, if not also a bit too close to “Tubthumping”, in its repetitiveness — & the singer still produces bands. Why, even Gin Blossoms got out another album, after the principal songwriter in the band leapt to his death.

What was the difference between simultaneous charting & oblivion for Athenaeum & half-decade or more endurance for other, similarly categorized, but to my ear, not as tuneful, alt-pop performers?

Each listen to this separates the band more profoundly from its cohort. It helps, I’m sure, that the album opens with a drum pattern comparable to Pearl Jam’s “Spin the Black Circle” — though unlike Creed (another longer-tenured rock act, but how?) — the Pearl Jam influence abates thereafter. Overall, the album Radiance is of a piece with Southeastern U.S. rock. “Different situation” strikes me similarly to Hootie & the Blowfish’s version of “I go blind”, while “Spotlight” has shades of alt-country in its tone.

That would seem to make this album a decent draw. Certainly it’s better than anything Rock*a*teens have shat out. But, still, nothing. No staying power.

I suppose I should chalk this album’s disappearance, & the band’s quick round-trip from oblivion, to chance, of course. & I will. Just one more drink, ’til I do, bar-keep. One more taste.

* Hopefully, I will not be caned for this.

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