Home Read Albums Of The Week: Combustible Edison | Forbidden Isle Of Demos

Albums Of The Week: Combustible Edison | Forbidden Isle Of Demos

Dig out the cocktail shaker for unearthed rarities from the Rhode Island lounge act.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “It’s a sonic apéritif! Specifically, this is the apéritif that started the album that helped start the cocktail and exotica rebirth of the ’90s! It’s hard to call recordings as lush and beautiful as these demos, but that’s what they are. These reels preceded the band’s Sub Pop debut I, Swinger, and contains early versions of most of that album — along with songs you’ve never heard them do on record before!

The devil’s in the demos! A singing, dancing tour of the seven wonders of the cocktail world hosted by Satan — it’s as awesome an origin story as any band could want. Especially the ensemble that kicked off the ’90s neo-lounge scene.

In 1992, the band squeezed into bassist Nicholas Cudahy’s living room to cut a home demo on his eight-track cassette recorder. “I think we recorded Liz (Cox, aka drummer and vocalist Miss Lily Banquette) in the bathroom,” reports drummer/vibraphonist Aaron Oppenheimer. “And then Nick mastered it down to these two-track tapes.” The process was anything but laborious. “Every song we played maybe a couple of takes. And then Nick went and locked himself in the room and came out with a demo.”

Some songs wouldn’t make it to 1994’s I, Swinger, and some would never see the inside of a proper studio at all. But in their final I, Swinger versions, the bulk of these songs sparked a nationwide movement. Legions of musicians swapped The Stooges and Ramones for Esquivel and Arthur Lyman in their pantheon of influences. But the tape that started it all was buried for decades until Nick unearthed it.

In hindsight, the 1992 recordings seem as shockingly prescient as they were anachronistic, having foreshadowed everything from neo-swing to post-rock. And the ripples are still spreading. “I do feel like there is yet another resurgence of cocktail culture and tiki bars and things,” Oppenheimer avers. “Maybe it’ll find a new audience. And maybe those folks who were fans 30 years ago will think, ‘Oh, yeah, that stuff is pretty good!’ It’s exciting.”


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