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Eric’s Trip: Peter (1993)

August 22, 2013

R-1728060-1249134072

Roll: 3-1-6
Album: Eric’s Trip, Peter

Sometimes life, and being an utter pillock, conspires to keep you from enjoying a really great band. Let what follows be a cautionary tale.

The year was 1993 and despite being into other “Halifax Pop Explosion” bands such as Sloan, Thrush Hermit and Jale, I didn’t really take to Eric’s Trip. It was partly for the rather shaky reason I was leery of bands named after songs. Rightly or wrongly, I instantly associated Eric’s Trip with the tribute bands that’d come through the local rock club on their perennial circuit.

  • Cold Gin: a KISS tribute
  • Black Dog: an evening of Led Zeppelin classics
  • Comfortably Numb: the songs of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters
  • Freebird: a celebration of Lynyrd Skynyrd 
  • Eric’s Trip: playing the hits of Sonic Youth 

Obviously, Eric’s Trip were never actually a Sonic Youth tribute band. Though in true ’90s fashion they did emulate the Pixies/Smashing Pumpkins/Sonic Youth gender roles.  And if the name wasn’t a giveaway, you could easily surmise from their noisy take on the pop song that the band had listened to their fair share of Sonic Youth records.

At any rate, Sonic Youth (who I’d mysteriously—and temporarily—decided were talentless hacks) were at the forefront of my mind when I heard Eric’s Trip for the first time. It was at a record store where I asked about Sloan’s self-released EP, Peppermint (1992), and the dude behind the counter sneeringly said, “Yeah, I guess we can get that in for you… but have you heard Eric’s Trip?”

So he tossed Peter on the listening station for me and I gave it an optimistic listen.

I regret to report I simply didn’t get it.

Yeah, sure, the songs were catchy but I found the lo-fi recording quality completely detracted from them and only highlighted how sloppy the band was as players. To me it sounded like one of the many shitty live Sex Pistols bootlegs that always made you feel ripped-off and stupid for falling for—yet again.

I might have appreciated the New Day Rising-ish sound of “Listen” (Hüsker Dü were at least in theory still a favourite of mine) but then when I got to the sour, woozy, acoustic number “Tangles“, that’s probably when I turned it off and filed the band under: half-assed amateur garage band.

I definitely have a memory of thinking, “What the fuck is this shit?”

Truthfully, I still find “Tangles” pretty grating even within the already pretty grating ’90s cassette 4-track bedroom recording scene. But I can now at least appreciate for what it is, and for its place in the annals of Canadian indie-rock. But at the time I didn’t have Pavement or Sebadoh as reference points to clue me in. As much as I liked to think I was a kid who had progressive, avant-garde music tastes, I really only liked things that sounded almost exactly like things I’d previously enjoyed. For instance, I needed a gateway drug like Jane’s Addiction to get into Fugazi or Front 242 to get into Einstürzende Neubauten.

Though they sound like pure pop honey to me now, Eric’s Trip were too far out on the distorted, ramshackle, off-key fringes. Though I’ve broadened my horizons significantly since I was 19, and I have a library of musical reference points to help me out when I encounter something new, sometimes it still takes me a while to “get” something that’s currently popular.

It’s one of my great fears that someday I’ll “get” dubstep.

Anyway, in ’93 I was still into the far more slick, well-heeled alt-rock sounds of Nirvana, DoughboysSugar and the aforementioned Sloan.

Though what I claimed to like about records like Sloan’s polished major label debut, Smeared (1992), were pop melodies coated in fuzzy noise, something Peter has in spades, I felt it was far too smeared. Completely smooshed, perhaps. And due to Peter being issued by Sloan’s own Murderecords, I think I also erroneously compared it directly to Smeared and thought it sounded like quickly tossed-off Sloan demos recorded on a ghetto-blaster. 

I knew they were apparently friends and all but I wondered, Why would Sloan put this out?

Instead of my band!?

Ah, well, there’s the rub. It was purely the sour grapes of a young “musical genius” who felt entitled to have a recording contract fall in his lap. 

At the time I was vaguely resentful of Sloan as well, who’d played the Music West festival the same year as my teenage band Common Buddhas and they seemed to have been signed to DGC immediately afterwards (in reality they’d probably been signed long before). But Sloan’s record was solid and I had to admit “Underwhelmed” captured the zeitgeist of the day better than anything I’d ever written, so I was able to grudgingly accept their success. Eric’s Trip, though… completely unreasonable.

Like I said at the start, being an utter pillock can keep you from enjoying a really great band. As well, due to being an utter pillock, I was ignoring a few key factors in their success and my own lack of success:

  1. I didn’t actually have a band.  I’d broken the Buddhas up right before Music West and we reformed only for the two showcases we were offered.
  2. Even if I hadn’t broken up the Buddhas, my voice wasn’t suited to the already quickly becoming dated “Pearl’s Red Hot Pumpkin Addiction” material we’d been writing. Also my lyrics were cripplingly naive (cringe-worthy proto-MRM platitudes). On top of that, our playing was pretty sloppy for the alternative arena-rock genre we were aspiring to. Unlike Eric’s Trip who nailed their sound perfectly.
  3. As well, the Buddhas weren’t touring and barely gaining exposure of any kind (at least not until after I’d broken us up). Having convinced myself that “paying your dues” was a myth perpetuated by booking agents and industry fat cats, I was determined to go to college for the next four years. I needed a solid “fall-back plan” in case being a musical genius didn’t work out—a self-fulfilling prophecy, it turned out, when I refused to do any of the things to make being a musician a viable career.

So when I heard Peter, I was probably jealous of Eric’s Trip on a few different of levels. Jealous of their “success” (I wouldn’t have clued-in that they were probably practically starving at the time); jealous they had the gumption to cast comfort aside and pursue their dreams; and, more subconsciously, jealous of their tunes.

Which are pretty effin’ fantastic.

A few years ago Sloan’s sophomore long-player, Twice Removed (1994), may have been voted “Best Canadian Album” by some magazine or other, but in many ways it’s just another Canadian rock album and is really only a regional classic. Heroes on their home turf, I can’t help but feel the international audience probably remembers Sloan as Teenage Fanclub or Weezer also-rans, if at all.

Eric’s Trip, on the other hand, delivered three solid indie-rock classics (Love Tara (1993), Forever Again (1994), Purple Blue (1996), plus countless cassettes, EPs and 7-inches) that rival anything by their American and British contemporaries as well as Twice Removed. Their songs are as poppy as the Buzzcocks, as ramshackle as The Fall, as grungy as Mudhoney, as sweet as The Breeders, punky as Superchunk, and as gloriously fuzzed-out as Hüsker Dü. But, on top of that, they’re just as original as any of those bands. When you put on one of their platters, you instantly know who you’re listening to.

They’re the real deal.

Only an utter pillock wouldn’t have been able to see it.

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2 comments

  1. “cringe-worthy proto-MRM platitudes”

    Men’s rights movement? Mechanically recovered meat?



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