Thursday, March 17, 2005 at 10:09 AM

Engine 88 / 'Manclub'

Toby wrote a very nice introduction for this site at The Scowl, which I deeply appreciate. Now allow me to throw overboard his description of Dead Vinyl. (Don't thank me, T... that's the kind of good guy I am.) While I will be relying heavily on the music I loved as a confused teenager growing up in North Jersey, I've decided not to focus solely on North Jersey bands.

That said, Engine 88 is a band I saw the fall of '96 or the spring of '97 at Maxwell's in Hoboken. (That counts for something, right?) I dragged my friend Jamie all the way down from the Bronx to go with me, because no one else would. I'd picked up a promo of their first record, Clean Your Room at Flipside Records, probably on a recommendation from Alan, and absolutely fell in love. It fit perfectly in my collection of quirky indie punk, equal parts Bay Area, San Diego, Chicago, and D.C.

Alas, Engine 88 never really seemed to find their niche. The singer, Tom Barnes had been in the band Sordid Humor with Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, which Caroline played up heavily in the promo materials, but probably lost them a lot of indie cred in the process. Basically, I don't think people knew what to make of them. A columnist from their hometown San Francisco Chronicle apparently wrote that the band "suffered from gross underexposure." I'd say that's about right.

Anyway, getting back to the Maxwell's show, it was about half full, but a great show none-the-less. Three things about the show still stick out in my mind. I had a good fifteen minute conversation with the guitarist, Damon Wood, who couldn't have been nicer. The band closed with an amazing cover of Jawbreaker's "Condition Oakland", which is one of my all time favorite songs. (Hot damn, I wish I had a bootleg of that show...) And they played the cover in homage to probably the most famous attendee in the room, Blake Schwarzenbach. Now, you've got to remember, this was right after the Jawbreaker break-up and all the buzz in my peer group was 'what's next for Blake'. There were some rumors about Blake moving back to New York, but nobody knew anything. Such were the days before Pitchfork news and the Buddyhead gossip board. So there was Blake, quiet in the back and friendly, but keeping largely to himself.

Sadly, for every Jawbreaker, there were a million Engine 88s. The little bands that couldn't. Everything going for them, but nothing going their way. Superstars of the bargain bins. Well, I still love them, anyway.

The song 'Manclub' is from their second album Snowman, but also appeared in a slightly different version on a split 7" with American Sensei. That version, in all of it's 96kbps glory, can be found at the awesome site for the preservation of music i love.

Right-click, save as to download

More info: Engine88.net

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