Madder Rose

The 12 (or so) Records of Xmas: Madder Rose – Bring It Down

Madder Rose - Bring It Down

[a.k.a. #7 of However Many I Care to List, in No Particular Order: Albums That I Have Listened To Both Intermittently And Incessantly, That I Imagine I Will Continue To Listen To Periodically For The Remainder Of My Life, Which I Consider To Be The Seminal Works Of (Or Most Accessible Entry Points To) Musical Artists Whom I Believe Have Been Woefully Underrated And Criminally Underrepresented In The Modern Music Canon At Large, And Which Also At Some Point While Playing I Have Very Likely Been Asked To Turn Down or Turn Off]

Madder Rose is perhaps my foremost example of a great band that got lost in the soundscape at large at first, but grew on me over time to the point of becoming an obsession. Once again, we have a female-fronted alt-rock quartet from the 90’s (no surprises here for followers of this list), but when I first encountered them, I really didn’t hear them at all.

Madder Rose - Panic On

Initially, I confused the title track from their 2nd album Panic On with their (overrated and inferior, sorry) contemporaries Velocity Girl, and I didn’t suss out guitarist Billy Coté‘s sublime songwriting skills, or learn to truly appreciate the pleasures of Mary Lorson’s minimalist melodies, until they’d already released their 4th and final album, Hello June Fool, in 1999 (sadly, too late for me to catch them live).

Madder Rose - Tragic Magic (Promo CD)
Remember these fucking things? So long, overpriced silvery drink coasters…

Each of their records is a different fantastic beast (Spotify is tragically missing both the US & UK versions of their darkly intriguing 3rd full length effort, Tragic Magic), as they began to experiment, as many bands do, with expanded instrumentation and different production techniques in their later period, but their debut, Bring It Down (the last of their albums I was to acquire) lays out their mission statement as cleanly as its distorted guitars will allow: rock like we’re on drugs (minus the actual drugs).

I could have been at this show, but I had yet to know I should have been…

Early reviewers compared them to The Velvet Underground, and though these comparisons would become something of an albatross around the band’s neck over time, they were not far off the mark: there is definitely some of that special fuzzed-out, blissful droning going on (particularly in their stellar Swim EP, also released in ‘93). Once I began to pay closer attention, I found most of their songs tended to transport my mind to strange yet familiar psychic landscapes, places I knew by heart, yet couldn’t precisely name (in this album’s case, especially the stretch from the 2nd track, the dreamy slow-dance “While Away,” through to the 8th, the twangy, biting “Lights Go Down”).

Not holding back during their Peel Session… Makes me regret not seeing them live even more.

I’ve personally covered several of these songs in solo and full band performances, and have long intended to record a tribute cover EP. After disbanding, Mary and Billy would continue to work together on film scores and as The Piano Creeps, and each formed their own, more-jazz-inflected group (Mary Lorson & Saint Low & Billy’s Jazz Cannon). Theirs is a discography begging for an updated remastering, but until that happens, you’ll just have to TURN IT UP!


When I first posted this piece on Facebook, I tagged Billy Coté, and he read it and liked it (!), leaving the following comment:

Thank you for this thoughtful post, Billy. We’re actually recording a new record right now, that will come out next year [2019] on Trome Records in the UK and elsewhere. “…rock like we’re on drugs,” that’s a good one!

Billy Coté

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