Bush w/ The Murmurs @ The Rave, 1995

Nov. 10, 2008
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The ever-wonderful Ryan Miller introduced me to some of his fellow FM 102.1 DJs last night at the Shepherd’s Best of Milwaukee party, and our conversation turned to songs long since retired from the station’s regular play list. We covered favorites brought back occasionally (Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl”) and novelties unlikely to return anytime soon (The Ass Ponies’ “Little Bastard”), which led me to recall the one song I don’t think anybody misses: The Murmurs’ “You Suck.”

A little history: These days, alternative rock is a well defined, market-tested beast, and alt-rock stations stick to a steady diet of Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day and the bands they’ve inspired. But in the early ’90s, “alternative” was more of a catch all, and alternative stations gave time not only modern rock and its derivatives, but also to proto-jam music and the burgeoning order of Lilith Fair-friendly singer-songwriters. Stations like 102.1 aired singles by Hootie and the Blowfish and Sheryl Crow, artists long since written out of alternative-rock history.

With their plucky demeanor, ample sass and Manic Panic fashion sense, The Murmurs weren’t all that out of place on the alterna airwaves at the time, but their acoustic folk did make for a bizarre contrast to the heavy grunge rock that still commanded the most airtime. At no point was this more apparent, perhaps, than at a 1995 concert that the band split with Bush at the Rave.

In case you need a audio-visual representation of the disparity, here’s Bush’s video for “Everything Zen,” their only single at the time. It looks like a trailer for The Crow. And here’s the Crayola-colored video for “You Suck.”

Needless to say, the flannel-clad, mostly male masses at the Rave were less than enthused about having to wait through The Murmurs’ chipper, feminist kiss-offs to get to Bush’s hard-driving grunge rock. The crowd and the band began heckling each other back and forth, but it was the audience who had the upper hand. They seized on the most logical diss: “You suck!” It was a put-down The Murmurs doubtlessly heard hundreds of times during their alt-rock tenure.


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