10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe on 180g LP
Along with R.E.M. and XTC, 10,000 Maniacs epitomized 1980s "college rock" in terms of sound, style, expression, and attitude. A staple of the underground, independent, and university scenes, 1987's In My Tribe remains a landmark recording, an ideal synthesis of fundamental eclecticism, roots music, and personalized narratives anchored by Natalie Merchant's inimitable singing. Unlike most of their contemporaries, and in particular, the alt-country acts that followed in their wake, 10,000 Maniacs were truly a product of their environment – a small-town Appalachian setting that informs their songwriting, approaches, and arrangements.
Seemingly coming from a different landscape, nothing about the 10,000 Maniacs' fare is typical – for its era or now. There's a genuine nature to the material on In My Tribe that directly relates to time and place, personal emotion and devout introspection. Probing issues of child abuse ("What's the Matter Here"), alcoholism ("Don't Talk"), illiteracy ("Cherry Tree"), and the environment ("Campfire Song"), the ensemble ushered in a period of artistic political correctness and high creativity during an era short on both.
Refraining from preaching and focused on pure rhythms, catchy melodies, and inoffensive rock structures, the band channels an inherent folk goodness that's forever tethered to Merchant's mellifluous vocals and heartfelt cadences. Veteran arranger David Campbell (Beck's father) organizes the strings, and producer Peter Asher (Linda Ronstadt) smooths over the edges just enough to give In My Tribe the ideal sound. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe even lands a welcome hand on "A Campfire Song."