Treble Charger: NC17 (1994)

October 12, 2012

Treble Charger nc17Roll: 6-7-12
Album: Treble Charger, NC17

By the time summer of 1994 dragged its sorry ass to bed, a year’s worth of vicious domestic tensions coalesced into my first spectacularly nasty break-up. This left me in an appropriately nihilistic and dismal state of mind for an autumn where my trust in everyone and everything was as rotten and torn as the decaying grey leaves that littered the rain-swept sidewalks of Nanaimo, British Columbia.

In a clichéd stereotype of the decade, I began making grand, angsty gestures like getting smashed and branding my arm with a butterfly knife heated in a candle flame. Subconsciously, I was trying to make my friends feel uncomfortable and guilty for not telling me my girlfriend (who’d just left me for a man older than both our ages combined) had been sleeping around.

Some of my more nihilistic friends just found my behaviour to be a real hoot. Really punk rock. Others, who’d been sleeping with my girlfriend themselves, were used to concealing any discomfort my emotional distress caused them. Perhaps not the proudest moments for any of us. Well, what’s the point of being young if you’re not going to act out in melodramatic, immature and manipulative ways?

Anyway, by mid-winter that was all behind me and though I wasn’t really any more self-aware, I was on the mend. I’d put away the nihilistic angst of my Ministry, Revolting Cocks, NIN and Helmet cassettes and turned to the slightly more uplifting angst of Nineties Indie (on CD this time).

Of course, we didn’t call it Nineties Indie—or even Indie Rock—back then. We called it Alternative Rock. Since people like Rick Astley and Milli Vanilli had turned “pop” into a four letter word in the late ’80s, the perfectly descriptive term Power-Pop wasn’t used anymore. Also bands like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard had so tainted the word “rock” that everything had to have “Alternative” or “Alt” attached to it. If it wasn’t undeniably Hip-Hop, Jazz or Country, it was pretty much called Alternative Rock. Ultimately this resulted in the complete misnomer “Adult Alternative” which was marketing slight-of-hand used to make traditional MOR singer-songwriters seem somehow relevant and vital. It totally worked, of course.

By that time the idea of Alternative Rock had so fully taken hold of the public consciousness, it had become an oxymoron. Though Grunge would be proclaimed dead along with Kurt Cobain, nobody seemed to pay much attention to the dire proclamations of jaded music journalists. Stone Temple Pilots‘ Purple and Soundgarden‘s Superunknown might all have been considered the nails in the grunge coffin by music snobs, but that didn’t hurt sales or discourage hundreds of bands to continue in their footsteps. The new Punk Rock had become the new Classic Rock. And though it was beginning to sound just as tired, this naturally only made it all the more palatable to the masses.

Meanwhile, on the coat-tails of early ’90s records by Superchunk and Sugar (not to mention a little band called Nirvana), Green Day‘s Dookie and Weezer‘s self-titled debut helped launch Power Pop back into the top-40. Canada’s own Sloan released their much-lauded sophomore album, Twice Removed, which helped fellow Canadian Noise-Pop bands like Thrush Hermit and Eric’s Trip garner a little some more attention. And in the midst of all this was lesser-known, often neglected little record by Toronto’s Treble Charger called NC17.

As much as any other album in the genre, this is the one that had the most direct influence on me as a musician. Set aside along with my Ministry and Helmet tapes was my Punk/Industrial band Neo-Psychotic Mind Rape which so faithfully aped those two bands, I would have been sued for copyright if NPMR had actually gone anywhere (highly unlikely). Freed from the naive, juvenile nihilism of that project, I started down an equally derivative road with superPOP (see below).

Originally I consciously attempted to replicate Treble Charger’s shimmery, distorted, slightly shoegazerish guitar sound from the album opener “10th Grade Love” to the minutest detail. I wanted the band to sound exactly like those opening chords. I was specifically drawn to how they made discord sound pretty without overglossing their arrangements. At the same time didn’t play simple, thuggish, three-chord Punk Pop either. They struck a nice balance yet none of it is terribly original.

When I listen to the album now I can’t help but hear Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody ValentineSonic Youth or even a little R.E.M. all over the place. And in some ways the whole thing is a carbon copy of Sloan‘s Smeared but with fewer, or less obvious, pop hooks.

Due to the association they hold with that period of my life, I still find it hard to listen to a lot of the albums released around ’93 and ’94. It’s difficult for me to listen to Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and not remember sitting on the couch and watching the video with my girlfriend, utterly mired in seething resentment towards each other. Similarly tarred with this brush are The Posies, Beck, Depeche Mode‘s Songs of Faith and Devotion, and anything by Nine Inch Nails.

But NC-17 is the sound of leaving that all behind; the sound of making a fresh start. It might have been another dozen years before things actually started to get better, but I don’t hold that against Treble Charger.

superPOP – Exploiting Teen Angst for Profit (Complete Recordings 1995-1997)

Everything recorded by superPOP between the years 1995 and 1997. A total of 31 tracks. Includes the 110% Fun album (plus digital booklet), the unfinished Exploiting Teen Angst For Profit sessions in their entirety and an expanded version of the Lost Tapes compilation. 


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