Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves
Wound tighter than a death grip and playing guitars like buzzing weapons, The Van Pelt's debut album, Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves, provided fierce post punk and quasi-hardcore in a world diverging into turntables or alternative rock and grunge. Their acerbic observations were dished in a staccato talk-sing, punctuating the riffs and crashes, headlined by often humorous song titles. It was defiant and breathtakingly life-affirming, with melody present but suited in a coat of protective aural armor. And for us, when you listened to it, it was as if this was the only music in the world. If you were an A&R guy looking for the next big thing, you wanted to be the guy to sign this band. If you were such an A&R guy, it would end in tears for you.
The band was formed in New York City in 1994 by Chris Leo (vocals/guitar) of Native Nod (and brother of indie hero Ted Leo), with Sean Greene (bass), Brian Maryanski (guitar), and Neil O'Brien (drums). This debut album was released two years later by a small New Jersey label Gern Blansten, supposedly turning down big money offers. Apparently, DIY basement rock by disaffected outsiders was too deep in their psyches to shake off for a few dollars. The explosion that was Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves detonated with great impact, especially with critics, label scouts and college radio, and further marked the band as one expected to continue an upward trajectory.
The reissue of Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves is out now in digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl formats via Spanish label La Castanya.
Sultans of Sentiment
So, what do you do when you are on the cusp of becoming the country's new darling rockers? Well, if you are The Van Pelt you tack in a new direction. With Seth Green leaving the band and Yoko Yasuda (Blonde Redhead) joining on bass, the band wrote and recorded songs that emphasized the melodic core of its predecessor and dialed down the volume and pace a bit. The resulting Sultans of Sentiment, also released by Gern Blansten, offered measured steam of consciousness observations with relaxed and more spacious arrangements. The band still could bring the noise, such as on "Yamato (Where People Really Die)" and "My Bouts with Pouncing", and the song titles remained in the whimsically absurd range. Nevertheless, the overall tone of the album risked losing the momentum created by the band's debut. But instead the stripped back approach allowed fuller appreciation of the quality of the songwriting and melodic presentation, bringing the band new fans and greater recognition. And it is our favorite of the two '90s releases from The Van Pelt. Sultans of Sentiment also has been reissues by La Castanya, and is out now in digital, CD, cassette, and vinyl formats.
As an indie music fan, you can probably sketch out how this ends. The band records a third album that doesn't see the light of day (until this decade), and the members of The Van Pelt go on to other projects. But now, thanks to La Castanya, we have our Van Pelts back.
Bandcamp for Stealing From Our Favorite Theives
Bandcamp for Sultans of Sentiment
La Castanya page for The Van Pelt