Eyes Adrift was an alternative rock supergroup consisting of Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Bud Gaugh of Sublime. There was one thing that these three musicians clearly had in common: all of them experienced tragedy in their better-known bands. Novoselic lost his job as Nirvana’s bassist when Kurt Cobain died in 1994, and Gaugh lost his job as Sublime’s drummer when their frontman Bradley Nowell died in 1996. Meanwhile, Kirkwood saw his brother and bandmate Cris Kirkwood descend into disturbing depths of drug addiction in the mid-to-late '90's.
Despite the members' troubled backgrounds, the sole album recorded by Eyes Adrift does not display any feeling of Temple Of The Dog-like mournfulness. The only famous person the trio grieves for on their self-titled 2002 album is JonBenet Ramsey, in the lyrics of “Inquiring Minds”. Even more surprisingly, the trio’s sound bears little, if any, resemblance to their other bands. Instead, they offered a pleasant brand of post-Wilco country rock, with a presentation that is both polished and down-to-earth. Kirkwood dominates the album, singing nine of the twelve songs. His guitar playing often gives the material an attractively trippy quality. Kirkwood’s vocals, however, are the album’s main flaw. His singing is alternately reminiscent of Jackson Browne and Steve Miller, but with less range than either. He makes a tepid entrance on the opening track “Sleight of Hand”, but fares better on later tracks such as “Untried” and “Slow Race”. Novoselic and Gaugh make a sturdy rhythm section, and Novoselic takes the lead vocal on three tracks. On “Inquiring Minds” and “Dottie Dawn & Julie Jewel”, Novoselic does a better-than-expected job as the vocal frontman. On his other track, the 15-minute “Pasted”, Novoselic’s vocal turn comes across as an unnecessary indulgence, before the song settles into a lengthy Neil Young-style instrumental that closes the album and leaves the listener with a strong impression. Eyes Adrift is a good album, especially on the instrumental level, even though an occasional substandard vocal turn gets in the way.
Notes: In Australia, the trio and their album were called Bud, Curt, and Krist because another band owned the Eyes Adrift name in that country. The Japanese CD version of Eyes Adrift contained two bonus tracks: “Son of Pasted” and “The Cup & The Lip”. The same two tracks were included on the “Alaska” CD-single; but “Son of Pasted” was titled “The Jerk” on the CD-single.
1. Sleight of Hand
3. Inquiring Minds
5. Blind Me
6. Dottie Dawn & Julie Jewel
10. Slow Race
11. What I Said
Eyes Adrift broke up shortly after their album proved to be a commercial failure, and Novoselic declared his retirement from the music business (until he joined the reunited punk cult band Flipper at decade’s end). However, Kirkwood and Gaugh soon reteamed to form another short-lived group called Volcano, who also recorded only one self-titled album. Volcano's lineup was rounded out by members of Gaugh's extended Sublime family: the bass player was Jon Poutney of the Ziggens, and additional guitar was provided by “Mike Stand”, a pseudonym for Michael “Miguel” Happoldt, who also produced. This album received very limited distribution on Happoldt’s Skunk Records label, and is now difficult to find. (It doesn’t help that at least three other artists used the name Volcano during the same decade. Maybe this band would have been better off calling themselves Pine Cone, as Kirkwood originally wanted them to).
Volcano offered an earthier cowpunk sound than Eyes Adrift. Unlike Eyes Adrift, the Volcano album is often reminiscent of the members’ previous bands. Its sound often recalls the Meat Puppets (especially the Puppets' 1985 indie album Up On The Sun), with a similarly independent spirit and an ability to vividly evoke lonely Middle American locales. Although Kirkwood is the author of all the songs, many of the tracks (particularly “It Don’t Matter”, “Arrow”, and “Some Kind Of Light”) have a definite Sublime-like reggae and ska flavoring. Kirkwood’s vocal limitations are less of a drawback in this lower-fi setting, because his singing blends in well with the less-polished production and adds to the album’s backwoods feeling. The Nirvana-like title track makes artful use of grungy distortion. The Volcano album is a great find for fans of the Meat Puppets, Sublime, or indie-rock in general.
Although Volcano turned out to be another one-album band that went by unnoticed, this story does have a happy ending. Kirkwood has since reunited with his rehabilitated brother Cris in the Meat Puppets, and Gaugh has reunited with his fellow Sublime survivor Eric Wilson in Sublime With Rome, in which singer/guitarist Rome Ramirez has replaced Bradley Nowell.
1. Pine Cone
2. Twisted Seeds
3. Love Mine
4. It Don’t Matter
5. Run Aground
6. Blown Away
7. Some Kind of Light
8. Rave Only
13. Lonesome Ghost
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