The world of rock and roll is littered with captivating tales of what-ifs and alternate routes that pushed a musician in one direction instead of another. One such captivating story of late is that of Jason Everman, a seemingly unassuming Army Ranger today who at one point was a member of the Seattle grunge scene, playing in both Nirvana and Soundgarden before both rocketed to success in 1991.
What's particularly interesting about that New York Times piece on Everman, other than its subject, is the byline: it was penned by Clay Tarver, himself a rock guitarist who was part of a great unsung band of the 1990s: Bullet LaVolta. The Boston-based hardcore punk outfit was one of many bands who made the jump to a major label in the early years of the decade, as labels started to catch onto new and unusual shifts in rock music at the time. (The band also featured two other members who'd find interesting successes down the line: vocalist Kurt "Yukki Gipe" Davis would later become an employee of music video game developer Harmonix Music Systems and have his latest band, The Konks, featured in the first entry in the Rock Band series, while drummer Todd Phillips formed the band Model/Actress with ex-Brainiac bassist Juan Monostereo.)
After a successful EP and LP on the independent Taang! label, RCA signed Bullet LaVolta and released their final album, Swandive, produced by Dave Jerden (engineer on Talking Heads' Remain in Light and David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts as well as producer for Jane's Addiction and Alice in Chains). Its street date? September 24, 1991 - the same day Geffen released Nirvana's major-label debut Nevermind. (In what may be one of the most stunning bills of the decade, both bands shared the stage that night at local Boston club Axis, with The Smashing Pumpkins as the opening act.)
For whatever reason, Bullet LaVolta's Swandive, with its hardcore riffs and clean production, was received much better by critics than fans, who would fly their flannel for the grunge movement over the next several years. (The band would decide to split within the year.) Now, over two decades later, RCA/Legacy celebrates the band with a new digital-only compilation, Force Majeure: The RCA Anthology ('90-'92). The 18-track set features a newly-remastered versions of Swandive, Gimme Danger (a part-live/part-studio EP released on Metal Blade Records and featuring a cover of KISS "Detroit Rock City"), a B-side cover of The Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer," a 1992 live in-studio performance from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's WBMR-FM and an unreleased demo recorded at the famed Ft. Apache studio in 1990. As an additional bonus, the set also features the original promo video for lead single "Swan Dive," directed by Kevin Kerslake, hailed as "the Scorsese of grunge."
Force Majeure: The RCA Anthology ('90-'92) is available now from Amazon; the set's stunningly low price is as good as any an impetus to rediscover one of the best "side routes" in '90s rock. Hit the jump for order links and the full track list!
Force Majeure: The RCA Anthology ('90-'92) (RCA/Legacy, 2013)
- My Protector
- Swan Dive
- Between the Lines
- Before I Fall
- What's in a Name?
- Ceiling Life
- Every Hungry Rabbit
- Transparent Man
- Detroit Rock City (Live '90)
- Blind to You (Live '90)
- X-Fire (Live '90)
- Sonic Reducer
- Guerrero (Demo)
- Mother's Day/Bloodstains (Live on WMBR-FM, Cambridge, MA - January 1992)
- Swan Dive (promo video)
Tracks 1-10 released as Swandive (RCA 07863 61011-2, 1992)
Tracks 11-15 released as Gimme Danger EP (Metal Blade 72433-2, 1990)
Track 16 was the B-side to "Every Hungry Rabbit" German single (Glitterhouse GR-0125, 1990)
Tracks 18-19 previously unreleased