This Beautiful Mess
This is not the artwork for Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess.
But since the test presses only came in paper sleeves, I let my two-year-old toddler doodle on unused Nervosas jackets to make her own.
Let’s back up: I wrote the liner notes for a vinyl reissue of Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess! The analog remaster brings out some textures I’ve never heard in this dense dream-pop record from 1995, especially Matt Slocum’s inventive effects pedal work and the backing vocals of Tess Wiley. And, while it’s not my toddler’s drawings, the actual artwork restores the original cover painting and features some never-before-seen photos from the era. It’s out Jan. 2022 via Lost in Ohio — the label’s also released impressive-sounding and looking reissues for L.S. Underground and The Julies.
This Beautiful Mess is a record forgotten by popular culture, but not hardcore fans — it’s a sliver of time when Sixpence took note of what was happening in alt-rock and synthesized its own meditation on the loss of innocence, but gained a youthful wisdom.
Obviously, if you want to read my essay about The Album Before “Kiss Me” Soundtracked Every Teen Romance (Especially She’s All That), you’ll need to buy the record. But here’s a taste: a paragraph cut for space and clarity from the liner notes.
> Sixpence toured churches, festivals and even a camp during this period, but also Metro in Chicago and The Strand in Marietta, Ga. But sadly, there isn’t much footage online of this band’s incarnation. The closest we get are two songs (“Field of Flowers” and “Drifting”) from the Cornerstone Festival in the summer of 1994, just months after Tess Wiley had joined. There is, however, a surprisingly raucous set on YouTube from Oct. 1995, filmed at The Scream in Concord, Calif. This is months after Wiley had left, but her energy remains: for lack of a second guitar, J.J. Plasencio explores the range of his six-string bass; Matt Slocum sears his guitar in effects worthy of My Bloody Valentine’s blissful noise; Dale Baker, typically jazz cool, bashes his kit like a punk drummer; and Leigh Nash, sometimes barely audible over the blown-out mix, is a cool and confident presence. It actually sounds like a beautiful mess.
The Playlist: Viking’s Dogma
26 tracks. Opens with Circuit Des Yeux’s Can-funkin’ organ hypnosis. Love is weird, so London post-punk band Bas Jan makes it weirder. Jumbled rap from Injury Reserve (RIP Groggs). Vanishing Twin’s breezy tropical psych. Dear Laika’s time-stretched vocal choir. The sweetest song about a crush via Kississippi. Denzel Curry remains the hardest in the game. Kowloon Walled City’s noise-rock bummer. Eyes of Perdition makes hardcore slam. Carcass has been around for 36 years and still out-schools every death metal band. I’m slowly coming around to Blackwater Holylight, the new Not Metal Band That Metalheads Like. Iceland’s Kælan Mikla really leaning into Zelda soundtrack post-punk. Egyptian psych-folk via Maurice Louca. Van Buren Records shakin’ the foundation. Brogan Bentley’s not-so-chill downtempo. Mister Goblin setting the are-we-going-to-shows? vibe with “Left Before Your Set.” supernowhere’s busy noise-pop. Tasha’s string-swept swoon. Thalia Zedek Band shows everyone how to properly rock and roll. Luda back… on a trap beat! Throwbacks to The United States of America, Sixpence None the Richer, Aru Takamura, Motohiko Hamase, Mates of State.
Stream the official Viking’s Choice playlist via Spotify, Apple Music or ¡STILL NEW! BNDCMPR (third-party playlist platform for music on Bandcamp) . Here’s the permalink for this week’s mix and the archives.