This post is another in a long series of posts about songs from the early-mid 1990s. It was a great time to be a college kid, and it really was a golden age of indie rock. Or as we used to say, before the term got co-opted by the mainstream acts, “alternative”.
Ultra Vivid Scene was an indie rock band from New York City. They were active between 1987 and 1993, and they released three proper albums. While they each achieved some critical success, the band never really took off like I always thought they would. And when I say “band”, I really mean “Kurt Ralske”. For the first two albums, Ultra Vivid Scene literally was a one-man show. On the last album, he brought in a band and a bunch of “guest musicians”. Among the guests was Matthew Sweet, who played bass on the album, but not on today’s song.
I was a big fan of Joy : 1967-1990, even if I’ve never owned my own copy. I played it a lot at the radio station, and I eagerly anticipated the release of Rev. Of course we had an advance copy at the station, and I played the hell out of it as well, but I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Especially because there was a limited edition bonus disc version. That was all the rage back then. Remember that? We’d shit ourselves with excitement about a bonus disc that had three songs on it. Because I was a poor college student, I couldn’t even afford to spend the $14.99, or whatever, to buy it. Or maybe I was rationing my money for the forthcoming Ned’s Atomic Dustbin record. I dunno. Either way, I had Rev high on my “wait a while” list. Here’s where it gets funny. At least it’s funny in my head.
My friends and I were always doing wacky stuff in the cafeteria, making a game out of dinner. Whether it was the muffin catapult, or the rotation of silverware like that lemonade stand/hat scene in Duck Soup, we were always more interested in tomfoolery than eating. Because we were college kids, and this is something college kids do, we were always mixing shit up in a glass and daring each other to drink it. One night, one of my buddies put $10 as a reward for drinking something that I didn’t think was all that bad. Just the normal stuff. A mixture of condiments, soda and breakfast cereal. I really wanted some funds for Rev, and with some additional egging on, I drank the stuff. And I made my buddy pay up. The next day, I bought Rev.
After all of that, here is today’s song:
“Blood and Thunder” by Ultra Vivid Scene
Don’t be alarmed. There’s 16 seconds of dead air at the beginning and 20 at the end. I don’t know why, and it has nothing to do with digital transfers. It’s like that on the physical copies, too.
The “bonus disc” featured a slimmed down version of today’s song. The album version clocks in at 10:21, while the edit is just over 4:30. If you ask me, the edited out the wrong bit. My favorite bit of the song is everything that happens after the 6:00 mark. The instrumental part. I love the cascading drums that go on and on and on. But then it makes a brilliant turn at 9:21, and the drums become more and more rapid-fire. I don’t care for the way the song ends at exactly 10:00, but has 20 seconds of filler.
Even with that bit of annoyance, I still love the song, and I much prefer the extended album version
After this album, Kurt Ralske pulled the plug on Ultra Vivid Scene. He put out a couple of solo records.
These days, he’s doing some visual art stuff, and has spent some time as an art professor at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.
Rev is out of print, but easy to find at a very reasonable price. Try amazon, for instance. Here.