Applehead Man (Reissue)
Omnivore Recordings 2014
Review by David Bowling
I don’t know how much tuition was at Harvard during the 1980’s but I am fairly sure that the original intent of students Matt Wilson and Elaine Harris was not to form what would become a highly regarded Indy band called Trip Shakespeare. Bassist John Munson gave them the core trio of their earliest incarnation. Soon after their formation they moved back to Wilson’s home town of Minneapolis, where they gained a significant regional following and released two albums before signing with the national A&M label.
Trip Shakespeare released four albums and one EP, 1986-1992, before disbanding. Omnivore Recordings has now reissued their first two independently produced albums with previously unreleased bonus material, plus a booklet which chronicles the band and music complete with a number of archival photos.
Applehead Man is Trip Shakespeare at its simplest and rawest. They added a second guitarist and voice shortly after recording this album, which gave the band a fuller sound and better harmonies. The songs in this album were performed live for years within that quartet context and so sound very different on the album.
The lyrics are poetic but the music and rhythms were at the beginning of a learning process, which was limited by one guitarist. The sound, like many independently produced albums of several decades ago, is average at best and even in a remastered form, remains a product of its time. Still, when you hear the band roll through “Fangs,” “Washington Bridge,” “Fireball,” “Highway In The Sun,” and the title track, you gain an appreciation of the band’s passion and power even at the beginning of their career.
The seven bonus tracks center on “Susannah,” “The Nail,” and “Patricia,” which would all be further developed as their career proceeded. “The inclusion of an early take of “Fool For The Wicked” ends the album on a future note as the song would re-emerge down through the years with tight and layered harmonies.
Trip Shakespeare is one of those bands who shined for a number of years by producing creative rock and roll before fading away. Applehead Man is their opening statement in what would become an all to short career.