Album Review: Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience (Vinyl)

Simply ear candy.

If it’s been a while since you sat down and listened to New Miserable Experience from the Gin Blossoms. Then don’t.

At least not until you buy it on vinyl. For several years, my record collection hunt included the band’s multi-platinum album from 1992 as well as the solid 1996 follow-up Congratulations I’m Sorry to no avail. Since the 1990s marked in many ways a temporary end to vinyl records I figured these albums on large black disks were somewhere lost on the horizon.

Therefore, it came with great excitement a few months ago when the Gin Blossoms announced the release of both albums (for the first time) on vinyl record on March 24, 2017. So that’s why they proved so elusive!

New Miserable Experience serves as a quintessential album of the 1990s. Released in 1992, it didn’t find much traction until “Hey Jealousy” hit the airwaves a year later, and by 1994 it was a smash record. It helped usher in the start of the alternative rock era and in many respects represents the sound of a perfect debut album (yes, Dusted was technically the band’s first album which includes a number of songs off Miserable… but hardly comparable in terms of production and engineering). New Miserable Experience also typifies what often happens after a band captures lightening in a bottle. It’s hard to capture that full magic again.

It’s a beautiful record, epitomizing 90s alternative rock at it’s finest while oozing heartache and flowing with drama. One needn’t a degree in psychology to recognize the pain suffered by principal song writer Doug Hopkins. Nor would it come as a surprise to learn he committed suicide just as album sales skyrocketed. He was dismissed from the band before the release of the album because of persistent alcohol problems.

Yet, while Hopkins wrote “Hey Jealousy” and the band’s other huge single “Found Out About You” singer Robin Wilson and guitarist Jesse Valenzuela (both current members) wrote the somber “Until I Fall Away” another huge hit for the band and Wilson penned the fantastic “Allison Road.” New Miserable Experience is reflective and often wistful perhaps of lost loves, lost opportunities and just bad decision making it’s also a bit witty with “Cajun Song” and “Cheatin’” while “Hold Me Down” is a fun uptempo rock song.

Alas, if you were lucky to discover the Gin Blossoms either before or during the band’s ascension it’s a good bet any one of these songs brings back feelings and memories of your personal yesteryear. It was a must-have album in the mid-1990s and is synonymous with the college years for many who put New Miserable Experience on repeat while studying or lamenting over the same things Hopkins so brilliantly defined.

It’s one thing to get lost in thought the next time you hear “Hey Jealousy” or “Found Out About You” during a flashback or 90s lunch on your local alternative rock station it’s another to tune out the world, sit down with the linear notes, and listen. Vinyl records always sound better and New Miserable Experience is no exception. Plus all those lyrics you sang along too might be a bit off.

Phillip Rhodes’ percussion and drum fills come across crisp, Bill Leen gets upfront and moves these song’s forward on bass guitar, Hopkins’ and Valenzuela’s guitars (acoustic strumming, melodic chords, solos,… etc. – see what I did there?) melt in your ears and Wilson’s vocals. Wilson is one of the most underrated singers in rock today. Such a smooth delivery with that buttery original tone. No one sounds like him.

The record itself plays flawlessly and features the cover artwork for the album’s re-release in 1993 and a back-then photo of the band with Hopkins’ replacement and current member Scott Johnson. You probably didn’t know the original front cover artwork for the album depicted a desert scene. A single loose sheet inside the record sleeve features the lyrics on one side and all the photos featured on the CD insert on the flip-side. Credits go to Wilson, Hopkins, Leen, Rhodes, Valenzuela and Johnson. Rhodes continued with the band when they reunited in 2002 after breaking up in 1997 but is no longer active.

It’s a big year for the Gin Blossoms as 2017 represents their 30th anniversary and the 25th anniversary for New Miserable Experience. A sixth album is expected this year with the band hiring producers Don Dixon and Mitch Easter who worked on the R.E.M. albums Murmur and Reckoning.

So how about a fully produced tour in support of the new album, celebrating the band’s anniversary and playing New Miserable Experience in it’s entirety?

Grade: A

New Miserable Experience Track List

  1. Lost Horizons
  2. Hey Jealousy
  3. Mrs. Rita
  4. Until I Fall Away
  5. Hold Me Down
  6. Cajun Song
  7. Hands Are Tied
  8. Found Out About You
  9. Allison Road
  10. 29
  11. Pieces Of The Night
  12. Cheatin’

Written By: AndrewT

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