Late Greats: Evergreen’s debut LP

trr64Growing up in Louisville in the early 90’s, Evergreen was one of the first “local” bands I heard of. For some reason, all of the skater kids in my suburban middle school were issued Evergreen t-shirts. Fast forward to my freshman year in high school and I get my first Evergreen record, the 5 song 7″ record the band released in 1992 on Self Destruct Records. With a recorded output that spanned 13 songs, “old” Evergreen were the local spastic punk overlords of Louisville’s all ages scene. That was a great band, and I’m happy to know that those thirteen great tracks will be getting the digital treatment soon from Noise Pollution Records.

The subject of this review, however, is not a record by “old” Evergreen. The subject of this review is the sole LP from the “new” Evergreen. But don’t rush to any Van Halen vs. Van Hagar style judgments here. It may indeed be a different band under the same name, but it is nonetheless a different GREAT band under the same name.

Featuring the original lineup’s Tim Ruth on guitar and Troy Cox on bass, the band at this point had grown out of the all ages scene and into the dive bar scene. With the addition of former Undermine frontman Sean McLaughlin and Slint drummer Britt Walford, the new lineup was a local supergroup of sorts, slowing it down and sexing it up just enough to sound like a throwback to the Rolling Stones of the mid-70’s.

At the time, this was one of the most anticipated local releases in years. I can still remember a friend’s older sister praising the band and dreaming about a full-length record back in ’94 or so. It’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint.

The album kicks off with “Fairlane,” a blazing mid-tempo riffer that introduces and typifies the sound of the record: meat-and-potatoes hard rock in the vein of a lo-fi AC/DC. “Petting the Beast” speeds things back up to punk speed, before “Solar Song” drops like an atomic bomb in the middle of side one. No other song so demonstrates the raw power of this band. While the record IS wildly imaginative, it doesn’t waste a note on anything that comes close to resembling a frill. It’s a pure and direct POWER record, and it sounds as live as a band can in the studio.

“Whip Cream Bottle” and “Plastic Bag” head straight into strong grooves, setting the stage for the record’s centerpiece, “Klark Kent.” Registering for the first two and a half minutes somewhere in proto-punk territory, the song speeds into a brick wall and rides a slow groove into oblivion.

Unfortunately, the band seems to have packed its most powerful songs into the records first side, leaving side two to retreads (“Zoom Zoom” and “Glass Highway”), cryptic alley rock (“Sweet Jane”), and curious excursions (“New York City” and “Coyote”). It’s not that the second half is BAD – after all, this is among my top 10 Louisville full-lengths. It’s just that the focus the band pulled off on side one loses cohesion, and an already great record suffers for it. Still, for the record, I do really like side two as well, and the record is and will always be what it is.

What made both “old” and “new” Evergreen great was undoubtedly the guitar work of Tim Ruth. Like any great guitarist, he had his own unique style that added a special touch to the songs and could imbue otherwise straightforward songs with brilliant life. Sadly, the band never seemed to be able to completely pull its act together, and a follow-up was never delivered. If you look really hard in the right circles, you can find demos and live tracks that hint at what a follow-up may have sounded like. But this one record is all we’ll probably ever get from this Louisville legend.

One Response to Late Greats: Evergreen’s debut LP

  1. Pingback: Evergreen | Premesso di Soggiorno

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