Eleventh Dream Day – El Moodio

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

This is my favorite Eleventh Dream Day album. I don’t know how this wasn’t a hit in 1993 – I’m not saying the album was made for the times (that would be too calculated and careerist for the band) but rather that there is no discernible reason why this album by this band shouldn’t have been widely and loudly embraced during that cultural moment. The overdue attention for women musicians that arrived with the rise of alternative rock should have made Janet Beveridge Bean a hero for her songwriting, drumming, singing, and guitar playing. The celebration of loud guitars that propelled grunge bands to stardom should have done the same for Eleventh Dream Day. The newfound appreciation for lyrics that went deeper than what had been offered by hair metal and top 40 pop should have popularized the band’s literate and dark songs. Should have, should have, should have. This album was the last on Atlantic, the major having given the band three chances. Also calling it quits was original guitarist Figi Baird, who left during the Lived to Tell tour, replaced by Matthew “Wink” O’Bannon, who had engineered the band’s debut album. O’Bannon died in 2020.

What I Think of This Album

While I cannot dispute that Prairie School Freakout is essential, I submit that this is the most enjoyable and accessible Eleventh Dream Day record.

Janet Beveridge Bean starts things off by taking lead on a memorable and tough song. That track is the chunky “Makin’ Like a Rug,” on which she adopts a clench-jawed Southern accent on the verses while someone engages in some seriously sinister string-bending. The tune explodes into fiery melody on the choruses, augmented by Rick Rizzo’s contrapuntal vocals.

Even better is “After This Time Is Gone,” a tuneful, jangly pop song that incorporates a fluid, expressive solo full of color and light. I don’t usually credit Doug McCombs with much of value on these albums, but his bass work on this track is sinewy and melodic. And there’s even a false ending! I love a false ending. 

“Honeyslide” achieves levels of sophisticated lushness nothing like the band had ever attempted before. It sounds like the time spent with Yo La Tengo on a 1991 European tour was instructive, as the epic soundscape is right in line with YLT’s oeuvre. “Figure It Out” likewise betrays a debt to the Hoboken trio, with some elegiac melodicism in the guitar solos and a delicate, intimate touch on the verses. 

Wink O’Bannon makes himself heard with “Murder,” a song that fits in well with not just the band’s sound but its history, as this creepy slab of malice is the closest the band has come to the terrorizing mayhem of Prairie School Freakout in a while.

“That’s the Point” recruits Velvet Crush drummer Ric Menck, who propels the punky tune (again, McCombs does critical work) which still makes room for some key guitar tremolo (or maybe vibrato?) accents and a laser-like solo. “Motherland” is another excellent song, with a more relaxed pace (though Beveridge Bean goes to town on the drums) and thoroughly enjoyable guitar work, including the solo. Speaking of guitars and solos, guest Tara Key adds some droney texture to mood piece “The Raft,” while slow workout “Rubberband” is this album’s Neil Young tribute.

Tara Key would end up collaborating with Rizzo on a couple of albums’ worth of instrumentals; all the members of Eleventh Dream Day as well as Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo contributed to Key’s Bourbon County album from 1993. Producer Jim Rondinelli (Sloan, Jayhawks, Everclear, Wilco, Pooh Sticks, Magnolias) became a tech executive. 

I recently learned (or possibly relearned, who knows?) that Eleventh Dream Day originally recorded a version of this album in 1991 with Brad Wood (Liz Phair), which they hoped to shop around to labels after they fell out with Atlantic. When Atlantic wooed them back, they were encouraged to start anew with another producer, and those sessions led to El Moodio. The original recording was finally released in 2013, under the name New Moodio.

The Best Thing About This Album

I love “After This Time Is Gone.”

Release Date

1993

The Cover Art

The art reminds me something from the v23 shop – mostly it’s the album title printed on top of itself. The crab by itself would be cool, but the ropes make it too busy. I also don’t like the letters in circles used for the band name.

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