It’s been over 9 years since I started going through my CD collection in alphabetical order and writing about it here and perhaps the reason there have been so many stalls along the way is that I was petrified of reaching the letter ‘S’. Over the next year or so you’ll see why. It’s the biggest section of my collection. But as Tolkien once said (I think it was him) every great journey begins with one footstep, or somesuch guff, so here we go.
‘S’ is for Salad, a band I saw, I think just before the release of their debut album Drink Me in 1995, at Loughborough Universtity’s Student’s Union. I’m playing the album on Spotify now to remind myself of the tracks and this is the only album I can honestly comment on – I did have the 1997 Ice Cream album but that’s since gone the way of many not-quite-as-good-as-the debut albums in my collection – it’s in some charity shop somewhere, and strangely isn’t on Spotify at all, although I’m pleased to see a 1994 compilation album, a 2017 ‘lost’ album, a 2019 album and a 2021 single, and to read that they reformed in 2007. I will be listening to all their other stuff this week and maybe reminiscing about my student daze.
Drink Me is a vastly underrated post-punk indie-guitar album and I think that the music critics at the time are partly to blame for this as they didn’t like the fact that Dutch lead singer Marijne Van der Vlugt had been a model and a video-jockey for MTV. This album spent a lot of time on my hi-fi when I was coming to the end of my university studies and always had a soft spot for indie bands with female lead singers such as Echobelly, Elastica and Sleeper.
The first track ‘Motorbike to Heaven’ was the third single from the album and only reached number 42 in the UK chart. It’s a shame they never quite made it. I remember enjoying their live gig a lot. I always twinned this song with ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ by the Manic Street Preachers and while I liked the Salad song as a melodic opening track it was overshadowed in my mind by the MSP song. Not sure why my brain works that way, but there you go.
The big track for me was the second single ‘Drink the Elixir’ and my first introduction to the band despite the first single ‘Your Ma’, a story of getting off with a friend’s mum, actually being more aligned to my indie-rock-leaning-toward-new-punk sensibilities at the time (I was listening to a lot of Green Day at the time) and my love for anything with a sample in it. However, I think if I had heard it I might have thought it was a Lush track.
I loved the energy of this track and the breathy vocals leading to the imploring demand to drink the elixir – of life I presume as the lyrics seem to imply some being wrapped in bandages, and leopard skin, having been alive for a century. I also like the third track ‘Granite Statue’ just as much with it’s catchy rhythm guitar and repetitive lyrics that see the song move from a lilting style into a driving guitar-loaded romp with some odd samples overlaid in the mix. I was never a big PJ Harvey fan but I can now hear some similarities to her award-winning music in this Salad album. It’s a shame Ice Cream didn’t sell and they got dumped by their label after that.
The album isn’t banger after banger unfortunately and I have to admit my finger would be hovering over the skip button quite a lot, so some tracks are more familiar to me than others. ‘Muscleman’, ‘Gertrude Campbell’ and ‘No.1’s Cooking’ are filler rather than killer, and the album, with 14 tracks, does feel a bit long as a result. It’s a shame that the quirky story song ‘A Man With A Box’ comes so late in the album, it has some really interesting moments and to my mind would’ve made a good single. A man with a box made a train escape from Euston/While his butterflies went wild in the woods is one of the less obvious references made along the way from the 1920s to the 1990s.
I won’t go through every track but just finally make the outlandish claim that ‘Shepherd’s Isle’, with it’s great lyric Come all ye faithful Tractor salesmen from hell…, sounds a bit like an early Veruca Salt track (another band I was into back then) – maybe ‘Forsythia’.
There are also shades of The Pixies and Salad’s contemporaries Sleeper in their songs and maybe that’s why Salad didn’t make it – was it truly different enough in what was back then a rather saturated market for quirky indie-rock? Shame because Drink Me certainly bears listening to again half a lifetime later.