Review Summary: A highly underrated and standout Alternative album.
The debut album from Sponge, while largely forgotten now, for me captures a nostalgic moment in time when Alternative rock and its several forgettable and fewer memorable acts owned the airwaves. By late 1994 Grunge as a dominant mainstream genre was starting to slide. With the death of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder turning himself into a pretentious “artist” instead of a rock musician, and Layne Staley slipping further into a crushing drug addiction, the door was open for a new breed of post-grunge radio friendly bands to spring out of nowhere, delivering hit singles and selling more albums than they should have. For the most part, most of these albums from the likes or Bush, Better than Ezra, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Refreshments, Nada Surf, Candlebox, Space Hog, etc carried two stellar tracks, tops, and a great deal of sometimes unlistenable filler.
Rotting Pinata is an exception.
While this record is certainly not the greatest offering of this era or genre, it is severely underrated. Although Sponge enjoyed a moderate amount of success from this album, they quickly faded and sadly never came close to delivering anything comparable.
Rotting Pinata opens on a weak note, with the plodding “Pennywheels” representing the worst song on the album. For a first time listener, this would not exactly entice one to listen further. Luckily, the next offering, the title track, explodes with a furious jangly intro and continues into one of the catchiest songs I have ever heard.
I am curious as to who decided the track order, as the next two songs “Giants” and “Neenah Menasha” are decidedly average and are two of the weaker tracks on the album. By now a first time listener may be ready to move on to something else. “Miles” is an improvement, with an infectious verse and above average chorus. This is a small point of redemption, and represents the turning point and catapults the listener into an entirely new experience.
The meat of the record is the latter half, with the 3 singles released all represented here. The most well known, “Plowed,” is a soaring rock anthem that is impossible to forget. From the catchy opener to the simplistic but huge chorus, “Plowed” is Sponge’s signature song for good reason. “Molly” was a moderately successful radio hit, and oozes pop while sarcastically paying tribute to 80’s actress Molly Ringwald. “Drownin’” and “Fields” are stellar slow tempo songs, the latter being the superior offering. “Fields” may actually be my favorite song on the disc, with a glorious “save me from myself” chant in the chorus. The album closes with “Rainin,” the final single and a ballad that begins slowly and builds up to a cataclysmic ending that brings a strong close to the record.
To conclude, Sponge didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but they released one of the strongest offerings of the post grunge/alternative genre. Although this era is mostly forgotten now (mostly for good reason), this is a gem that stands out amongst the crowd and still plays strong today. Aside from arguably 3 filler tracks, the rest of the album is stellar and worth ownership.