Mad Season – Wake Up.

In 1994 the underground swelling that was to be labelled as “grunge” was dead. The Slacker generation had moved on.

Mad Season, some might say had the potential to be a grunge supergroup – the pedigree was there. A band already out of time – but they did have a very strong line-up and musical blueprint but it was to only to end in total personal tragedy.

Layne Stanley who had sung for Alice In Chains, a band I never really got on with (their music), was clearly a very talented vocalist. Mike McCready (guitar) had played on early Pearl Jam material and had already dabbled with a grunge supergroup notion with Temple Of The Dog. John Baker Saunders, bass, had dabbled with various relatively low key bands from the era / genre. Brett Martin played drums, as he had for Screaming Trees.

A rep from Sony gave me the vinyl of the album simply stating as he did “you must have liked Temple Of The Dog” – I didn’t really. I’d heard bits from Temple Of The Dog – but, to me – it sounded overblown.

“Above”, the only album Mad Season were to make, sure looked good physically. A double vinyl record – the final side of which was blank and was artistically etched all over. I quietly thought to myself, “three side of grunge in 1994, isn’t this all over?” – but I couldn’t complain I was being given the album.

That evening I gave the record a spin. It was much stronger than I had imagined it could be and, with hindsight – is a massively, now overlooked offering.

I have never liked Pearl Jam. Sure, “Alive” is a decent alternative track but that band really did latch onto something they didn’t quite belong with. I’ve always questioned how genuine they are. Maybe it’s just me being unreasonably cynical – but I really do loathe them. That said, McCready gives his best performance on “Above”. The guitar does not dominate but when it rises on this album it really does burn – it hits the right spot – gone is the Pearl Jam pomp, and it’s shimmeringly glorious with it too.

Although “River Of Deceit” is touted as the stand-out track (and was released as a single) the outstanding track, for me, is the albums slowly burning opener “Wake Up”. The whole album is strong but the opening piece towers above the following tracks. It has a wallowing feel. My interpretation of the lyric is that it’s time the band (and generation) stop dabbling, it’s an attempted wake-up call to the Slacker following. Lush, looming imagery. In a way – a slap around the chops. It ambles (it’s seven and a half minutes long). It has Neil Young & Crazy Horse qualities to it. Despite looming hushness it does rise like a phoenix, a blistering guitar matches the developing urgency the vocal spews. An overlooked classic.

The interpretation is my own – the irony is the singer and the drummer would die from suspected overdoses. Mad Season did not achieve any commercial success in the U.K. despite backing from Sony (Colombia) – the album sold in relatively fair quantities in the States. I listen to it about once a year and every time I do so I still feel a connection with the albums opener like I do with few other records – pure quality.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s