Now, What’s It Worth: A Thing About a Band Called Stompbox

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.

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:

“No Woods”

“The Making of Pump”

“Jake Song”

“Chevy S-10”

This concludes the previously published content.  Stay heavy, heavy people.

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4 thoughts on “Now, What’s It Worth: A Thing About a Band Called Stompbox

  1. I know that I don’t need to tell you this but I still think that in many ways, the 90’s post hardcore sense was some of the most creative music that came from that era. The time signatures, riffs, and the melodies were matchless.

    I didn’t realize it at the time, but the 90’s was a time when true music lovers could find really beautiful music. Whether it was the alt. country thing or indie rock (before it became mainstream), or the garage punk resurgence, there really was some great music at that time. Thanks for reminding me of how great this band was!

  2. I’m listening to this CD at my pod/desk thing today at work. I got this back in the 90’s same way you did years ago, was a great record from start to finish. Never got rid of it because it was that good, sad they broke up. Sugartooth was another band from this error that was good as well for a record, Sold My Fortune was awesome. As for Clutch, they went a more musician route, but I can still get into some of the jam band stuff. Peppers is back in COC, saw them with Clutch recently, dudes still got it.

    • I still play Stress at least once a month, and usually more often in the warmer months. I’m not sure if it’s because I first heard it in the summertime or what, but it always seems to sound better in warm weather. I never listened to Sugartooth, but I remember hearing about them. I’ll look into them.

      I haven’t heard the latest Clutch album, but I thought the last two were pretty boring. I love everything up to and including From Beale Street to Oblivion, though, and they still kick tons of ass live.

      As for COC, my favorite album of theirs is Blind. I like Deliverance, and Wiseblood is okay, but it all kind of started to sound the same to me after Pepper took over on vocals. I’d still love to see ’em live, though. I missed out on that tour with Clutch, due to work obligations.

      Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks for taking the time to comment!

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