What's the Matter Here?

It's always interesting to see how artists who had a notable measure of success in the past are barely remembered (Humble Pie, and Nazareth are two examples that come to mind) while others linger on in the collective memory regardless of how much popularity and/or critical acclaim they may have had in their initial run. 10,000 Maniacs are in the former category. Such are the vagaries of popular music.

25 years after the release of the upstate New York band's creative and commercial high point, 1987's In My Tribe [Elektra], it seems as if current music fans are largely unaware of the Maniacs, while those who are of age to remember them and may have even been fans of the band, might not be aware of the band's continued existence. (Although truth be told, they haven't released a studio album in this century.) And former lead singer Natalie Merchant, who had a prominent solo career in the mid-'90s, hasn't had much visibility of late, despite continuing to make music and releasing albums as recent as 2010.

Perhaps this might be related to the fact that at its core 10,000 Maniacs' music is dated but in a way that isn't obvious like the big, cannon-like drum sounds and cheesy synths of certain '80s acts, but in that bland, "college rock" soundscape that recalls the less fun parts of the late '80s thru the mid'90s. As the All Music Guide's Chris Woodstra snarkily remarked in his review of In My Tribe, the album once "served as one of the soundtracks for P.C. living and was required listening on college campuses in the late '80s." Ouch.