Soul On Nice

Author Janet Ray
Publication Twin Cities Reader
Date August 16, 1995

While it's de rigueur to rag on Soul Asylum these days -- from Dave Pirner's new haircut to the content of their videos -- allow the jury to focus on the music for the moment. While "Misery" and "Hopes Up" from Let Your Dim Light Shine reek of existentialist fodder for the hair-farmer bands of yore, songs like "Just Like Anyone" and "Eyes of a Child" are beautiful lyrical fables of the archetypal roller coaster of life's joys and disappointments. The cyclic "String Of Pearls" elegantly recounts the fate of a lost pearl through the course of one day and night. The song is rife with simplistic but philosophical notions of dark and light; seamless lines flow so beautifully that Pirner could be singing the SuperAmerica jingle and it would still be evocative. "Caged Rat" is a wiggy amalgam of styles that approaches John Zorn's Naked City in intensity, and proves the band hasn't lostits Clam Dip diversity.

Soul Asylums South By Southwest show in Austin, Texas, in March was less inspired than I'd seen in the past; Pirner seemed cranky and tired. But considering he was amidst a three-day interview with Rolling Stone writer Neil Strauss -- an interview that would inspire the mother of all innuendo pieces in recent journalistic history -- his mood was pretty understandable.

Delving into the nonmusical evidence, Soul Asylum's Minnesota work ethic remains intact, despite their position at the center of the media petri dish. Having recently completed the video for "Just Like Anyone" with director PJ Hogan (Muriel's Wedding), Karl Mueller says, "I think we overdid [touring] with Grave Dancers Union, so we dropped out of sight for a while afterwards. But we're excited to be touring again. It's been too long."

This tour, with the Jayhawks, Victoria Williams and Matthew Sweet, looks like a mini-Lollapalooza. Partially at Soul Asylums insistence, the field at Midway Stadium will trumpet causes like Planned Parenthood, the American Indian Movement and local AIDS awareness groups. Greenpeace will donate leftover food to local food shelves, and there will be recycling stations.

"Even when we're doing a small show, the amount of cans and bottles that just go into the trash makes me sick, " Mueller says. "So we decided to do something about it."

I'm looking forward to this show. It's no Entry gig of days past, but what the hell? I'm more interested in watching a band evolve than slagging them for doing so. If the next record sucks, the ruling might not be so benign, but for now, we'll cut them some slack.