The following was originally published in 2011 on another blog that I don’t really use anymore. I have made a couple of grammatical and punctuational corrections.
Bloomington, Indiana in the mid-to-late 1990s was a pretty cool place to discover new music. There were at least 6 music stores that sold used CDs and cassettes (five of the six were located within three blocks of each other), and being a college town, the variety was pretty extensive. I found albums by all kinds of bands that I’d read or heard about through interviews with other bands I liked, talking to people at shows, the occasional video on Headbanger’s Ball or 120 Minutes, etcetera – bands like ALL, Clutch, Helmet, Quicksand, Leeway, Only Living Witness, Sick of It All, Murphy’s Law, Agnostic Front…the list goes on and on.
Occasionally I’d find an album by a band I’d never heard of, and I would buy it because it was super-cheap, I liked the cover art, I thought the song titles were funny or cool, I liked another band (or bands) on the same label, or I saw bands I liked thanked in the liner notes. Sometimes all the above. One fateful summer evening in 1995, Travis and I were digging through the Discount Cassette Milk Crates at Tracks, one of two of those old music stores that survives today. The Discount Cassette Milk Crates at Tracks had been good to me before – I found Leeway’s Adult Crash (which I still love) in those crates earlier that summer, along with Brightside by Killing Time (one of the first New York Hardcore albums I ever heard – it opened a lot of musical doors for me). I was desperately pulling out tape after tape, and nothing was grabbing my attention, until finally, right near the bottom, I noticed a full-length promotional cassette from Columbia Records called Stress, by a band called Stompbox.
The name of the band sounded heavy, and it compelled me look at the track listing on the back, where I saw titles like “The Making of Pump”, “Forever (In Blue Jeans)”, “Fool For the City”, “Workin’ For Sony”, and “Carry on My Wayward Son”. How could I not be intrigued? Here’s my 50 cents plus tax, sir, and I thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my car stereo. And what a date it turned out to be! Stress became my steady for the remainder of that summer, and has remained in my life ever since.
From the opening lick of “No Woods” to the trailing feedback that ends “Carry on My Wayward Son,” Stress is an absolute masterpiece of mid-90s post-hardcore. Huge riffs; time signatures just off-kilter enough to make you pay attention (drummer Zephan Courtney is nothing short of amazing); big, burly, bellowed vocals; choruses catchier than herpes (even though I still can’t understand a lot of the words); and enough melody for 3 albums. Like Betty, Helmet’s third full-length album (also released in 1994), Stress holds its own against any album from any genre from the 1990s.
Comparisons have been made on other blogs to Helmet, Clutch, Tad, Paw, Quicksand, and (Pepper Keenan-era) Corrosion of Conformity, and those comparisons are all valid, but Stress is very much its own rabid animal. Fans of all those bands should check this out, but quite honestly, I think this is better than nearly all of that. Clutch remains an all-time favorite of mine (though I have yet to warm up to their latest, Strange Cousins From the West, but that’s a subject for another entry), and Helmet’s Meantime and Betty are both impossible to deny, but aside from that, Stompbox are where it’s at. Stress is long out of print, but you can pick it up on Amazon for less than a dollar (plus shipping), or if you don’t care about lyrics and artwork, you can download it from the bass player’s personal blog, I Am a Jackass.
Sadly, Stompbox broke up not long after the release of this album. For more info about the band, check this out. And now, the evidence:
“The Making of Pump”
This concludes the previously published content. Stay heavy, heavy people.