New Miserable Experience never gets old

In the midst of the early grunge explosion, a band from Arizona snuck onto the scene and made temporary waves. That band was the Gin Blossoms.

After developing a dedicated local following, the group recorded its first album, Dusted, on an independent label. It was not until the band signed to a major label, however, that the Gin Blossoms received more widespread attention.

Their first release with A&M was New Miserable Experience. The twelve-track album was released on August 4th, 1992. On it was a mix of new material and re-recorded efforts from their debut album, including “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You.” Both of these tracks would go on to become fairly popular singles, released in the year following New Miserable Experience.

New Miserable Experience was slow to take off. The reviews it received were lukewarm. Gradually, the follow-up singles climbed up the charts, with “Hey Jealousy” reaching number 25 and “Found Out About You” breaking into the Billboard Top 40.

The easy, pop-informed catchiness of these tracks appealed to listeners. The smooth guitar lines and straightforward rhythms, pounded out by an electric guitar and steady drumming, contrast with the subject matter. Both tracks are about relationships gone wrong. While “I Found Out About You” implicates a cheating girlfriend, the chorus of “Hey Jealousy” leaves the narrator to blame.

Self-effacing and blunt, it concludes with “If I hadn’t blown the whole thing years ago / I might not be alone.” There is a brief lead guitar solo about halfway through, around the 1:45 mark, which adds interest and urgency to the sentiment that can be in turn very casual and very serious. It is a big emotional jump from the colloquial, almost accidental tone of “Tell me do you think it’d be alright / If I could just crash here tonight” to the part of the chorus that reads, “You were the best I’ve ever had.”

The increasing popularity of “Hey Jealousy” was accompanied by a tragedy for the band. Guitarist Doug Hopkins, one of the founding songwriters, struggled with alcoholism during the recording process. About one year after the album’s release, Hopkins committed suicide. Both of the singles that made the charts were written by him.

The band also gained attention with the single “Til I Hear It From You,” which never appeared on a full length album, but rather came out as a single for the soundtrack to the movie Empire Records, a quirky cult classic. “Til I Hear It From You” rose on the charts after the release of New Miserable Experience, eventually proving to be one of the band’s best-known songs.

The Gin Blossoms produced one more album before breaking up. Congratulations I’m Sorry was an album that was all-too-aptly titled. It came out in 1996 and, though a solid effort, failed to impress critics – because the sound was too similar to New Miserable Experience – or fans, who had been looking forward to the inclusion of “Til I Hear It From You.”

Although they would remain separated for ten years, many of the members stayed involved in music through various side or solo projects, with the exception of bassist Bill Leen, who cultivated another interest of his by opening a rare books store. In 2006, the group came together again, with a few alterations in the lineup, feeling they could not create the same quality of sound in any other setting. Since the reunion, the Gin Blossoms have released two albums, Major Lodge Victory and No Chocolate Cake.

Although the group faced a rocky future at the time, their effort on New Miserable Experience proved an excellent snapshot of the state of popular music. The cynicism and disillusionment that was a facet of grunge blended with the melodiousness of the pop, creating a type of music that was relatable and very listenable.

* Anne Kilfoyle, MXDWN