Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on well-known albums of the past and the reissues they could someday see. A wave of '90s nostalgia leads this column to look back at one of the best one-hit wonders of the latter part of the decade.
The presence of The New Radicals on that NOW '90s compilation brought some memories flooding back. Remember the first time you heard "You Get What You Give"? It was insanely poppy, it sounded kind of like a U2 outtake from an era U2 hadn't even publicly gotten to yet (the All That You Can't Leave Behind era) and, to quote Chuck Klosterman in SPIN magazine, it was "an almost flawless Todd Rundgren-like masterwork that makes any right-thinking American want to run through a Wal-Mart semi-naked." (All this from an article where he claimed New Radicals were the second most accurately rated band in pop history.)
All of these are right, but of course there was so much more to the group - or at least its founder, Gregg Alexander - than meets the eye. We remember the silly hats Alexander wore, the smirky baiting of Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson and the other pop luminaries of the day. But there's so much more to remember.
Gregg Alexander was a shockingly competent songwriter from the get-go. His first album, 1989's Michigan Rain, was recorded when he was only 17, taken from a batch of his own tunes produced by Rick Nowels (producer of Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth"). Follow-up album Intoxifornication (1992), released on Epic after being dropped by A&M, took five tracks from the previous album and another set of good but not great tunes.
In the mid-'90s he began work on the New Radicals project, known for lacking any permanent members other than Alexander himself. (A notable semi-exception was the co-writing and percussion talents of Danielle Brisebois (who, insanely enough, was a former child actor best known for playing Archie Bunker's insufferably cute niece at the tal end of All in the Family and later Archie Bunker's Place. She had worked with Alexander on Intoxifornication and recorded an album of her own with some input from him as well.) The Radicals were crack session musicians, including Nowels, percussionist Lenny Castro, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Rusty Anderson. Amid heavy promotion (and considerable controversy from those celeb-baiting lyrics), lead single "You Get What You Give" was a huge hit, and the album Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too went on to sell a million copies.
But all was not rosy. Alexander soon felt the strain of being a semi-star, namely the "hanging and schmoozing" aspect of the business, and after the release of second single "Someday We'll Know" disbanded the outfit to go back to songwriting and producing. Both he and Brisebois still write notable tunes; he won a Grammy for Santana and Michelle Branch's "The Game of Love" in 2003 and she penned "Unwritten" and "Pocketful of Sunshine" for British pop star Natasha Bedingfield.
And the New Radicals discography is remembered fondly by fans of '70s pop and '90s alt-rock; "Someday We'll Know" was covered by Daryl Hall and John Oates in 2003 and was performed by Mandy Moore the year before for her film A Walk to Remember, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel. (The film adaptation changed the setting of the book from the '50s to 1998, and included another New Radicals track, "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough," on its soundtrack.)
Perhaps someday, a reissue would be in order for this in-need-of-rediscovery pop triumph. After the jump, take a look at what it might look like.
New Radicals, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too (originally released as MCA Records MCAD-11858, 1998)
- Mother We Just Can't Get Enough
- You Get What You Give
- I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away the Ending
- I Don't Wanna Die Anymore
- Jehovah Made This Whole Joint for You
- Someday We'll Know
- Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too
- In Need of a Miracle
- Gotta Stay High
- Technicolor Lover
- Crying Like a Church on Monday
- To Think I Thought (U.K. B-side to "You Get What You Give" - MCA CD single MCD-49103, 1999)
- The Decency League (U.K. B-side to "Someday We'll Know" - MCA CD single MCD-55571, 1999)
- A Love Like That (later released as a Gregg Alexander solo track in 2003 - lyrics for the song were included in the liner notes for Brainwashed)