For too many years, the fortunes of Soul Asylum appeared to follow a course outlined in their own 1990 tune, "Nice Guys (Don't Get Paid)." Now, finally, after a decade of critical acclaim and commercial failure, Soul Asylum seems to have broken through with their new album, Grave Dancer's Union (Columbia), and its propulsive single "Somebody to Shove." Lead guitarist Dan Murphy first began to feel that the band's luck was about to change when they toured the nation's album-oriented radio stations in support of Grave Dancer's Union. "We'd drive up to really conservative stations in the middle of the country," says Murphy."A Jethro Tull song would finish and the DJ would say, 'We've got Soul Asylum coming up to the studio!' As if it really meant something. We all looked at each other in shock. I guess if you stick it out long enough,whatever you play becomes 'in.'"
Not necessarily true-unless, like Soul Asylum, what you play is smart, aggressive, punk-influenced, hook-filled, straight-ahead rock. The band hasn't really changed its approach much through the years, though they've become considerably better musicians and added oodles of subtlety to even their most bruising numbers. On Grave Dancer's Union, Murphy recorded numerous layers of guitar, using his trusty Les Paul as well as dozens of other axes, which add muscle and grit to singer David Pirner's rhythmic acoustic strummings.
"We recorded most of our earlier albums more or less live," says Murphy, "in order to replicate our live shows. This time, I cut five or six guitar tracks for each song, and Dave played a lot of acoustic. It's kind of ironic that when, after all these years, punk rock has basically become commercial, we go and record our softest, most acoustic album to date. We're always out of time." But no longer out of luck.