05.07.13 — “Altar Boy” by Madder Rose

Madder Rose

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Altar Boy” by Madder Rose (1993, from the album Bring it Down).

Madder Rose was an indie rock band from New York City. They released four albums between 1993 and 1999, and tonight’s song comes from the first album.

While the band had a few different tricks up their sleeve, in the early days, they were often compared to the indie pop sounds of Blake Babies and the shoegaze-y “glasses band” sound of Velocity Girl. The first album came out while I was heavily involved in college radio, and I was really into the aforementioned bands. This album was right up my alley, and I had it in heavy rotation for a long time. Although the band put out three more records before calling it quits in 1999, I never got any of them. Since the band quit, the members have been active with other projects, and I haven’t gotten any of those either.

I actually didn’t have this album in my digital library, so I had to literally dust off my physical copy before I could get to work on this post. The album still sounds as good to my ears as it did 20 years ago. Before tonight, it’s been at least ten since I last played it.

It’s a long, complicated story how the song came to me tonight after not hearing it for ten years, but I won’t get into that. It’s late, and nobody would care anyway.

Here’s the song.

“Altar Boy” by Madder Rose

I love the fuzziness of it. I love the hard drums. Simple pattern played hard and loud. The music is super-distorted while the vocals are clear and clean. Sure, it’s all very repetitive, but I still think it’s great. Mary Lorson’s voice, by the way, was always the main draw. Not just for this song, but for the band as a whole. She sounds just a bit like Juliana Hatfield. Or maybe I’m just giving myself an excuse to point out that when The Blake Babies reunited and released an album in 2001, it contained a cover of the Madder Rose song “Baby Gets High”. That song was on the Madder Rose EP Swim, which came out on the heels of their first album.

I think Lorson’s post-Madder Rose stuff is in the “indie folk”, singer/songwriter vein, but I’ve never heard any of it. Some of the stuff on Bring it Down definitely has a folky tone, so I can understand how her solo career might go in that way.

You can get Bring it Down from the Amazon store here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

4 responses to “05.07.13 — “Altar Boy” by Madder Rose

  • phil

    i don’t know that i’d describe mary’s post-madder rose work as “indie folk”…more like “low-key indie rock”. i’d definitely recommend checking out her first album as/with Saint Low (eponymously titled “Saint Low”). she and billy coté have also done some soundtrack work, released an album together called “Piano Creeps”, did a track on a Throwing Muses tribute compilation, and mary did some vocals for billy’s The Jazz Cannon project. while i wouldn’t call her music “folk”, she has indeed gone in a quieter direction as the years have gone by. she also had breast cancer a few years back and her musical output has slowed since then — just the other day i was looking around to see if she had anything new out, but the last release was a 2011 album as Mary Lorson & The Soubrettes.

  • Hichila Macha

    Agreed. One of my favorites coming out of college radio.

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