When it comes to groundbreaking albums, no format is considered too outlandish to the avid collector. Take for example, Ministry’s 1990 live album, In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Live). I own it on compact disc, twice on vinyl (US pressings), and cassette (featured here, obviously). This is one of the few dubbed tapes I had kicking around the truck back in high school (I believe Operation Ivy’s Energy was the b-side), so when I ran across this genuine, slightly grubby tape at a thrift store a few years back, I couldn’t help but part with my hard earned $2.
Understanding that a groove is relevant only to a record and does not, in any case pertain to the spools of a cassette tape, I, via ways of inadvertent and very magic-like slight of hand, attempt to fool your senses in discussing a nostalgically important glimmer of rural mid-western indie-pop music… before the term indie was, well, indie. (How’s that for the recommended number of commas for those comma-touting liberals? #sniff) Cassettes need love too, so today The Prudent Groove will temporarily change its name to The Prudent Spool.
Illinois to Wisconsin is like Republicans to Democrats… or Democrats to Republicans, depending on where you align your morals. (The Prudent Spool doesn’t, as of yet, publicize its political alliances.) There was a batch of amazing music emerging from both states during the early 1990’s. The Smashing Pumpkins; remember them? They recorded their debut album, Gish (produced by Butch Vig), at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. The mid-90’s brought Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring and their absolutely perfect debut, 30° Everywhere.
While south of the line that divides the cheese heads from the FISH, bands like Braid, Lard, Slapstick and the alternative (again, before the term was branded and incorporated) and very groove-heavy 7-track cassette (the name of which I’ve never known) by the locally infamous cats, Vacuum Scam. The Scam sounded like an amped-up, pop-punk version of early Pearl Jam if you know, Pearl Jam were ever any good. To say they were crunchy guitar driven is to ignore their brilliant ability to create melodies so painfully catchy, yet with the ability to sound fresh with each new listen. They were a SOLID unit, and to this day I’m scouring the earth, emailing the band, convincing my High School friends to search their junk drawers for the original 7-track cassette. It’s been 17 years and my search has turned up nothing.
Adrian, or DJ Mr. Brown as he is internationally known, introduced me to these 7, anxiety-ridden-jam tracks. You see, back in the day, cassettes were the thing. You could, well, I guess what 2013 would call the loathingly media-heavy adjective, “pirate,” tracks onto a “mix tape” that personally represented the “recent break-up mood” mix, the “my folks don’t let me go out on Friday nights and I’m fuggin’ pissed about it” mix, or even your “big bro says this is necessary listening material” mix. A mixed CD before mp3s, for those of you who remember what it was like before the internet. I dubbed these 7 tracked from someone who dubbed them from someone else who had the original tape. I’ve always been thankful that Adrian introduced me to the Scam (and endless other essential music). I managed to burn the cassette to CD before returning his dubbed copy, so I’m still able to enjoy the memories of my Senior year of high school anytime I choose.