Soul Asylum: “Something Out of Nothing”
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Soul Asylum was part of the same great Minneapolis scene that spawned the Replacements and Hüsker Dü. They had a sound that resembled a mixture of those two — blending punk, hard rock, and heavy metal — with more of a country influence on their later albums, starting most noticeably on their 1990 album, And the Horse They Rode in On. On that album they continued to refine their sound to something more polished than the rough-and-tumble sound of their earlier, punkier albums. Some might also say the later sound was less exciting, but on And the Horse… they strode a middle ground that was a great blend of the earlier albums and what was to come on their next album, Grave Dancers Union (which became a huge success on the strength of the hit, “Runaway Train,” a song that I never really cared for). An argument could be made that along with Uncle Tupelo they were one of the main instigators of the alt-country genre, although they were less “pure” in that sense than Uncle Tupelo.
Singer/guitarist Dave Pirner was moving into the lead role in the group by the time of this album, and his great, raw rock voice suited the band’s music perfectly. There are quite a few blasts of high energy on the album, as well as some more introspective songs. Both ends of that spectrum are well represented, but one of my favorite songs on the album is “Something Out of Nothing,” a song that somehow blends funk, hard rock, and country into a seamless whole, featuring great guitar interplay between Pirner and lead guitarist Dan Murphy and great drum work from Grant Young. It’s a tight crunching number, and where the Red Hot Chili Peppers usually fail to move me, Soul Asylum does it right here, taking on the funk with conviction and featuring some of Pirner’s best singing on the record.