Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

This is yet another album I’ve purchased twice. The first time, I bought it around the time of its release date, and I believe I sold it not long thereafter because it was “too country.” Just in case you were wondering if there was any time in my life when I wasn’t a complete fucking idiot.

What I Think of This Album

Velvet Crush delivers a more mature and organic sophomore album, and any loss in exuberance (arguable, anyway) is more than made up for by the excellent musicianship. Needless to say, all the usual signifiers remain in place, from the Brian Wilson-derived album title to the Gene Clark cover to Paul Chastain’s Hofner bass (or similar knockoff) to the choice of Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) as producer.

Still officially a trio, the band benefits from the unexplained contributions of Greg Leisz (pedal/lap steel, obviously), Stephen Duffy (the Lilac Time, Duran Duran), Mike Deneen (producer of Fountains of Wayne, Aimee Mann, and Letters to Cleo), Wes Lachot (who has also worked with Flat Duo Jets – a band that featured former Let’s Active member Sara Romweber), Lynn Blakey (a touring member of Let’s Active, and the subject of the Replacements’ “Left of the Dial”), John Chumbris (who played with Blakey in Glory Fountain and on a Peter Holsapple/Chris Stamey (dBs) album), and Easter.

I am particularly interested in who played the guitar leads, as Matthew Sweet is not present this time, and the leads are still quite excellent. In addition, the band provides their usual stellar vocals, Ric Menck’s unflappable drumming, and tons of melody. The guitar leads on sighing but tough “Hold Me Up” are matched only by the wonderful backing vocals. A squalling guitar kicks off frustration-fueled “My Blank Pages.” The band follows its credible cover of weepy “Why Not Your Baby” with its own strong and swirly country-rock effort, “Time Wraps Around You.” I am not sure about the sequencing of those two songs back-to-back, especially with the very slow ballad (and unnecessary) “#10” and the additional laid back country-rock of “Faster Days” (co-written with Duffy) coming so soon after, but that’s the only complaint. The cover of Matthew Sweet’s “Something’s Gotta Give” gets the band back on more solid power-pop footing. The absence of serotonin on bleak “This Life Is Killing Me” is more than made up for with a surplus of adrenaline; this rocker could’ve easily come from the debut. “Weird Summer” is a jangly lite-psych love song with fantastic drumming from Ric Menck, and “Star Trip” is basically the American version of a Teenage Fanclub song (I approve!). At the close, Velvet Crush bestows its most fully realized country-rock song in “Keep On Lingerin’.” Jeffrey Borchardt by this time had dropped the “Underhill” and reverted to his birth name. The back cover shows all three members performing in denim jackets . . . which is weird.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Hold Me Up,” but any number of the songs could’ve gone here.

Release Date

July, 1994

The Cover Art

Yes! The drawing (reminiscent of a children’s book illustrator I can’t remember) is carefree and lighthearted. I like the “stereo” et. al in the ribbon at the top, and I appreciate the band members’ names being listed, too. The drawing is by the excellently-named Edwin Fotheringham, who has done work for Dylan, Mudhoney, Elvis Costello, and Flop.

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