Velocity Girl was a five piece indie rock band from Silver Spring, Maryland. They formed in 1989 and released three albums between 1993 and 1996. The first album was pretty much a noise-pop/shoegaze record. The next two unfortunately verged away from that and much closer to mainstream pop. While I still enjoy ¡Simpatico! (1994) and Gilded Stars and Zealous Hearts(1996), they’re nothing compared to the delicious noise machine that is Copacetic.
In 1989 and 1990, Bridget Cross was the lead singer of Velocity Girl. After recording one single (“I Don’t Care If You Go”) on Slumberland Records, they traded Cross to Unrest for a second round pick in the 1992 Indie Rock Entry Draft and a conditional pick. The conditions were that if Cross re-signed with Unrest, AND recorded more than three albums with them, AND she appeared in any All-Star game between 1991 and 1993, Velocity Girl would get Unrest’s own first round pick in the 1994 draft, AND the keys to the Unrest van.
Sarah Shannon, who was a classically trained singer, took Cross’ place in the band, and remained the lead singer until the day the band folded.
During the 1992 Indie Rock Entry Draft, Velocity Girl’s GM Archie Moore was really busy trying to make a blockbuster trade with Superchunk. He actually timed out while on the clock with the second round pick that he had acquired from Unrest. That pick, then, was voided. Later, only one of the three conditions for the “conditional pick” were met, so they didn’t get the 1994 first round pick or the van. In the end, Unrest got Bridget Cross for nothing. However, Velocity Girl did well to grab Sarah Shannon out of free agency. It was a win-win.
Bridget Cross, incidentally, was involved in a too-bizarre-to-be-fiction run-in with some law enforcement officers in rural Alaska in late 2001. She ended up spending a couple of months in jail on charges of aiding and abetting an assault with intent to kill, DWI, and hindering the prosecution. Velocity Girl reunited for a benefit show to help raise money for her legal costs. Read the account of what happened here. You have to scroll down to the comments section for the full details. It truly is very bizarre. More bizarre than a summer action blockbuster film. More bizarre than a Franz Kafka novel. And I never knew about it until just now.
The Versus connection is this. Cross went from Velocity Girl to Unrest. Mark Robinson of Unrest later made a “solo” record — Tiger Banana— in the year 2000. His band on that record consisted of brothers Richard and James Baluyut, and Fontaine Toups. All three were former members of Versus. It was, essentially, “Versus, featuring Mark Robinson” even if it was billed as “Mark Robinson”.
You can get from Velocity Girl to Jenny Toomey in only two degrees. (1)Bridget Cross left Velocity Girl to join Unrest. (2) Unrest frontman Mark Robinson was also in Grenadine with Jenny Toomey.
Anyway, enough with the frivolities. Down to the business of today’s song.
As I said, in the early days of Velocity Girl, they had a sound that was very shoegaze-y and noise-pop. “Catching Squirrels” is a perfect example of that. The whole of Copacetic exemplifies the sound, but I think none better than the album closer.
This is that song:
“Catching Squirrels” by Velocity Girl
There’s a lot that I love about this song. It’s really, really noisy. The drums are thunderous. The bass is really thick. Normally, Velocity Girl was really guitar-centric, but this one is really bassy. Everything is totally washed out in effects, so it’s really crunchy and gooey at the same time. It’s also one of the few tracks on which Sarah Shannon was allowed to show her chops. Sure, everything is washed out, but she’s really showing a lot of vocal range on this one.
At the end of each verse, there’s a little nine second bass solo. Everything else but the drums drops out. In a weird way, it reminds me of the U2 song “Desire”. I never thought I would say that Velocity Girl reminded me of U2, but there you have it.
After each of those little bass solos, there’s a burst of guitar tone and feedback and lots of effects. It’s a stark contrast, like the “cold side” of the McDLT. My favorite of those bursts is at 3:02. It’s a little sharper than the other, and I love it.
My recommendation is to listen to this song very loudly.
The LP and the cassette are out of
print, but you can still order physical copies of the CD directly from Sub Pop records here. Get it digitally from there, too. Or use your favorite legal downloading place.