One of the many fun things about revisiting albums, like this one, is learning out new things about the record that most may have missed when it first came out. For example, while researching the context surrounding Gin Blossoms and their second studio album called New Miserable Experience, I never knew there was an alternate cover that was released for this record. In fact, the first cover for the album depicts an Arizona desert, which would later be replaced with the current image after A&M Records decided to push the record hard at radio outlets. With singles like “Lost Horizons,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away,” and arguably their biggest breakthrough single called “Hey Jealousy,” Gin Blossoms had everything you’d like to see in a band trying to make a name for themselves. The set was co-produced by Gin Blossoms and John Hampton (The Raconteurs, The White Stripes), and this LP holds up surprisingly well after 30 long years. By the time the promotional cycle would wrap up on New Miserable Experience, Gin Blossoms would earn a 4x Platinum record on their sophomore effort.
During the summer and fall of 1992, Gin Blossoms and their music seemed to be everywhere. The newfound love from their record label deciding to push the material at radio was paying off, and “Hey Jealousy” struck the biggest heartstrings of pop-rock music lovers everywhere. The song featured a great driving bass line, pulsating drums, and lyrics about being truthful and trustworthy to the person you care most about in this world. As lead singer Robin Wilson would put it on the second verse, “And you can trust me not to think / And not to sleep around / And if you don’t expect too much from me / You might not be let down / ‘Cause all I really wants to be with you / Feeling like I matter too / If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago / I might be here with you.” The thing that Gin Blossoms do best is craft easy to sing along with melodies built around great guitar parts for a radio ready sound. “Hey Jealousy” would go as far as becoming a Top 25 hit on the Billboard 100, and be a driving force for the album’s steady success.
Other early tracks, like the original lead single “Lost Horizons,” showcase the Arizona-based band’s ability to convey real-world themes and struggles over a likable music approach. For example, lyrics like “I drink enough of anything / To make this world look new again / Drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and the graves,” sound as catchy as ever, even if the inner demons of the lyrical material may worry listeners doing deeper dives into the liner notes. “Mrs. Rita” is a mid-tempo track that continues to focus on the band’s core strengths, while the ballad “Until I Fall Away” is simply gorgeous in its construction to this day, and likely made its way into several wedding playlists during the early 90’s.
More raucous songs like the guitar-heavy “Hold Me Down” and “Hands Are Tied,” rock just hard enough to pick up enough casual fans from “rockers” listening to their girlfriend’s favorite pop-rock band on those long summer drives. More thoughtfully built songs like “Allison Road,” which was inspired by a photo Wilson took near Interstate 10 in Roosevelt, Texas, pack a little bit of a punch over the great melody and paired harmonies. On the inspiration behind the single, Wilson shared in an interview, ”I walked to the other room, sat down in front of the television and turned on CNN. And the moment the TV turned on I heard that little melody in my head; ‘On Allison Road.’ And I was like, ‘Shit!’ So I turned off the TV, climbed over the couch and went back in my bedroom and the song was pretty much done 20 minutes later.
Add in a few other quirky tracks like the Side A closer “The Cajun Song,” and the Side B closer of the country-tinged “Cheatin'” and its easy to look back fondly on this chapter in Gin Blossoms career. The band would follow up their breakthrough success on New Miserable Experience with a single called “Til I Hear It From You” from the film (and soundtrack) Empire Records that would also garner several key radio station placements. Gin Blossoms continue to play shows to this day, and their music continues to pull on the heartstrings of many who enjoy the genre of pop rock. My experience with looking back on this album’s 30th anniversary was a lot of things, but it certainly was not miserable.