Supremely disciplined rock : Soul Asylum

I used to love a rocking gig by an experienced band with strong songs.

But there’s nothing now. Nothing at all.

The last group I really, really got off on was this one from the MidWest.

Thanks, guys!


Soul Asylum @ Underworld, London

After ten years on the road, Soul Asylum, a quartet from Minneapolis, know how to write a song which lends itself to live performance, how to work a crowd , how to put light and shade in a set, and how to keep an experimental edge.

As soon as they slammed into Without A Trace I remembered that there is nothing quite as exciting as raw, honest and supremely disciplined rock ‘n’roll. It had been a long time since I’d heard the real thing.

Compared to Soul Asylum, The Black Crowes are dull, The Spin Doctors phoney, and Guns N’ Roses just cartoon rockers for the MTV generation.

Keep It Up was a great punk-boogie (that is, a song as solid as a blues boogie, but cranked up to a New Wave tempo), Get On Out recaptured the slam-bang aggro of The Who, Runaway Train had an even better groove than the single, Somebody To Shove created pogo-frenzy, and the Zep-heavy grind and grunt of April Fool was wild and playful.

It is this fusion of pre-1976 hard rock disciplines and post-punk intensity that makes them unique. They also know how to throw in a good cover. Here it was a magnificent version of Marvin Gaye’s  Sexual Healing, building the pulse into a throbbing climax, then segueing into a whacky Jessica, an Allman Brothers instrumental which stopped abruptly halfway through. We Three was a strong story-ballad, and singer Dave Pirner and his superb guitarist Danny Murphy ended 99% with a feedback duel.

The encores didn’t add anything significant, but after an hour of the most electrifying rock ‘n’ roll you will hear anywhere on this planet, that scarcely mattered. They are dynamic, sexy, funny, and invigorating  performers, the kind of group people will go and see again and again.

Grave Dancers Union, their first major label album, has already sold over a million.


Note: My last line was incorrect. They had been on A&M.

This was Without A Trace on Letterman, their debut on network TV.