Great Cult Bands, #1

No, not THE Cult.


You know, a band or an album that has a group of fanatical followers that are very, very passionate.

This, you know, means that the band, or album, in its time, made no money or commercial impact whatsoever. The few fans the band had, over time spread the good word and after a few decades, VOILA! The band (or the album) is getting name checked by artists who cite said band as highly influential. “If I’d never heard ___________ by The___________, we never would have started this band!” If I was in one of these so-called cult bands and saw someone reaping the financial rewards of my trailblazing, I’d be crazy mad! Its little wonder Lou Reed always looks so pissed off, innit?

Ahead of their time, or behind the times (at the time), too weird/ avant-garde, experimental, so un-cool they’re cool, etc, etc. As an example, it took Cartman singing Come Sail Away on South Park and a stupid car ad featuring Mr. Roboto to make it o.k. to like STYX again.

One cult band has my attention lately, and that’s Jellyfish. I started with their second and last album, Spilt Milk. Picture a band consisting of Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen (guitar and drums, respectively), Dennis De Young (of STYX fame) providing the vocals, the bassist from Cheap Trick (what the f*&k’s his name?) and Roger Hodgeson (from Supertramp) twinkling away on his Wurlitzer. Oh, and Jeff Lynne writes all the songs. Picture that in your minds ear and you might have a pretty decent idea of what to expect from the San Francisco based Jellyfish. It’s not as horrible as it sounds. Each of those bands I list above had their moments, and some had much more than their share, and Jellyfish blend the best from each, arriving at a totally unique, yet very familiar, sound. There’s a bit of psychedelia about them as well, especially in the lyrics. It even has an ode to masturbation entitled “He’s My Best Friend”. Delightful!

Their first album, Bellybutton, had more of a hard edge about it, relying on melody ridden power pop and bubblegum, and there is no better example of this than on the single “Baby’s Comin’ Back”, which sounds like a long lost song by the Bay City Rollers. That wasn’t the only gem on Bellybutton: “The King Is Half-Undressed,” “That Is Why,” “I Wanna Stay Home,” and “Now She Knows She’s Wrong” are four more stellar examples of why this band is so revered.

Also, Andy Sturmer, the vocalist and chief songwriter, sounds a HELL of a lot like Ben Folds at certain points. Interesting as I’ve heard he cites these guys as an influence.

Bottom line: these guys are infectious and they knew how to write a great pop song.