Dramarama – Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

Vinyl should’ve turned Dramarama into stars, but even after once again failing to catch on, they had one bullet left. Turning the guitars up was probably the right strategy, but by then the target had shifted towards grunge, and I think Dramarama missed the mark through no fault of their own. At the same time, personality conflicts between John Easdale and Chris Carter were growing more intense, and substance abuse was a factor, so after the tour to promote Hi-Fi, the band broke up. Carter became a radio DJ, Peter Wood moved back to New Jersey to work construction, Mark Englert went into insurance, and Easdale stayed quiet for a couple of years before resuming performances solo. But VH1 came calling in 2003 and gave the band a second chance.

What I Think of This Album

The hardest rocking and loudest album of Dramarama’s career, Hi-Fi Sci-Fi was also the last bid for success by this hard-luck band. As usual, it features some great songs and wonderful guests, but the public was focused on sounds other than an unhip mix of melody and classic distorted guitars.

Blondie drummer Clem Burke is happily beating the skins for this album, and the other guests include friend and Heartbreaker Benmont Tench, Dwight Twilley, Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), Astrid Young (half-sister to Neil), and Nicky Hopkins (Stones, Kinks, Who). Though not as consistent as Vinyl, this is a very strong collection and ranks as the band’s second best album.

The excellent musician-turned-homeless-person saga of “Work for Food” should’ve been a hit; Easdale’s clear-eyed and sympathetic recognition of a passed moment and the difficulties thereafter is among his best songwriting. I love the line “No one wants to pay me for my broken heart.” The incendiary and hilarious “Bad Seed” gets by on nasty guitar work and pounding drums. At the other end of the spectrum is the sweet “Incredible,” a celebration of love and radio. The band puts two drug songs back-to-back, which seems like a bad sign. “Prayer” rocks almost as hard as “Bad Seed” and provides some unforgettable imagery:  “Got used to bloody snot / And going to heaven in a parking lot.”

Meanwhile, “Don’t Feel Like Doing Drugs” offers a more nuanced take on maturity and sobriety. Also worth a listen is “Shadowless Heart,” which is dark, direct, and foreboding, as well as “Swallowed Your Cure,” which could have worked well on Vinyl with its slightly less hard guitars (but a great solo and yet more references to drugs); this track was written by bassist Chris Carter and another individual. The remaining tracks are forgettable, but the ones listed above are well worth getting this album for.

Hopkins died in 1994, and Sylvain passed in 2021.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Work for Food,” though if Sylvain had played guitar instead of just providing vocals on “Bad Seed,” I might have chosen differently. Keep rollin’ on.

Release Date

January, 1993

The Cover Art

Weird and messy, but I actually don’t hate it.

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