Review Summary: Celebrating 25-years of being late to the party
It's less likely that someone (even with a passing interest in mid-90s alternative rock radio) would know much about Sponge
. It is more likely you're vaguely aware of the driving rock hit "Plowed", a song about human wreckage and a world full of it, whether you knew Sponge was responsible for it or not. What you should know is that it's the 25-year anniversary of that song's record, Rotting Pinata
, and twenty-five years since the death of grunge icon Kurt Cobain and the beginning of the subsequent downfall of the genre he helped pioneer into the mainstream.
The timing of this is important because it directly affected Sponge and their ability to cash in on what was making Alice in Chains
, Pearl Jam
and others so wildly popular. At their outset, Sponge's sound sat somewhere between the punchy punk sound of Social Distortion
and the moody drudgery of Stone Temple Pilots
-- ripe for radio play and worldwide tours on the back of other grunge giants of the time. Rotting Pinata
was fortunate to hit gold and shoot Sponge into one-hit wonder status for the remainder of their days. However, Rotting Pinata
was already on well-trodden ground by 1994 and too late to pick up any steam on the grunge train that had left the station three years earlier.
By trying again with their second album Wax Ecstatic
in 1996, Sponge was met with little fanfare and acclaim but had a minor hit on the Chasing Amy
soundtrack ("Have You Seen Mary"). The song channeled The Black Crowes
more than band's roots in rusty grunge, and this progression (regression") in sound foreshadowed the bands dive into more pop and country twinged alternative rock, rather than sticking with the dying genre they were borne out of. 1999's appropriately titled New Pop Sunday
saw through their transition to a pop-alternative rock outfit, washing themselves of any indication they were still in the business of writing brooding grunge riffs.
For their trouble, Sponge (who is still a band) gifts its fans a collection of b-sides and demos from a few years following their first and second albums. Demoed
faithfully follows the bands career arc track by track-- the first several tracks featuring the downtrodden riffing of early STP and the croaky vocals of Mike Ness, while the middle of the album matches the alternative rock and pop flavors of Bush
and later-era Collective Soul
. The album finishes with three cover songs and acoustic versions of their two most recognizable tracks, "Plowed" and "Molly (16 Candles)".
has one or two tracks worth a spin (namely the opener), but it's hard to say that this mish-mash of tracks is anything more than a cash in on an anniversary-- whether that's 25-years since the heyday of grunge, or Molly's 41st birthday. For it's run-time, a compilation of b-sides old enough to drink is a hard sell, even to the most devoted grunge fan who likely wouldn't give much time to Sponge in the first place. Even in 2019, being late to the party still isn't doing Sponge any favors.