Back in the 1990s, I remember watching MTV’s 120 Minutes and discovering a myriad of bands that would influence my own musical output and tastes for decades to come. Sunny Day Real Estate was one of those bands. I remember sitting in the living room when the video for “Seven” came on, a loose, sloppy yet proficient, melodic song that ebbs and flows from the soft pre-verse to a driving avalanche of sound anchored by Nate Mendel’s melodic bass and William Goldsmith’s drums as Dan Hoerner and Jeremy Enigk’s guitars provide a layer of distorted, melodic grime and Enigk’s voice soars above the chaos. From that moment, Sunny Day Real Estate entered my life. I had the chance to see them back in the day at The Parish in New Orleans on the Killed By An Angel tour, and I’m going to see them again in a couple of weeks at Furnace Fest, introducing my daughter to Sunny Day Real Estate live. As such, I want to take a moment and share some of my favorite Sunny Day Real Estates songs.
There are numerous songs on LP2 (1995) that I like, most notably “Rodeo Jones.” However, “Iscarabaid” has become my favorite from that album. While the story behind LP2 is fraught, the end product remains, for me, an extraordinary record. During recording, the band broke up, and, as Enigk put it in 2008, “We put no energy into the artwork or into anything. On a lot of songs, there aren’t lyrics! In a lot of cases, we never sat down to write them, because we just wanted to get it out of the way as fast as possible. So I just sang a lot of gibberish, which makes it really quirky.” The end result reminds me, somewhat, of Sigur Rós’ work or David Yew from The Jesus Lizard where the vocals serve as a direct accompaniment to the music, whether the words sung are “gibberish” or not.
For me, the lyrics of “Iscarabaid” don’t necessarily matter. I hear different lyrics each time I listen to it. What keeps me coming back to the song, again and again, is the aural soundscape the song presents. Mendel’s lulling bass lines paired with Hoerner and Enigk’s guitars during the verses work their way to a blistering crescendo for the choruses before dropping back again to a slumber-like verse. Along with all of this, the vocal layering during the verses and choruses play off of one another, reminding me, in many ways, of Mineral’s…