It's possible that in future years the debauching of Soul Asylum will become one of rock's great cautionary tales. In the 1980s the band was a live powerhouse whose winsome, bashy albums certainly deserved wider attention. The Minneapolis foursome agreeably went the major-label route, eventually scored themselves a platinum record (Grave Dancers Union), and became the first of their 80s indie fellows to find themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone. But the follow-up, Let Your Dim Light Shine, while not a flop, has a strong sense of the evanescent about it; the band is now held in contempt in most parts of the alternative and critical community, and has now suffered the indignity of having what was supposed to be a wildly celebratory Chicago appearance--a low-priced shed event with pals like Matthew Sweet, the Jayhawks, and Victoria Williams--moved from the 30,000 capacity New World to the 5,000 capacity Aragon. The new record isn't terrible--no one ever said the band puts out great albums--but it sure seems that somewhere amid the studio sheen and reverbed power ballads the band lost its soul. Matthew Sweet's latest album, 100% Fun, is another gorgeous collection of slightly twisted pop songs, marked by one of the surest hands with a hook working in rock right now. But his shows are routinely marred by excessive volume and a mix that overamplifies the star's chunky rhythm-guitar playing; after seeing more than half a dozen such events over the past few years I really can't recommend another, particularly combined with the Aragon's echoey acoustics. Note the early start time. Friday, 6:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence; 666-6667 or 559-1212. Matthew Sweet makes a free in-store appearance Thursday, August 24, at 7 PM at Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos/Karen Mason, Jeff Bender.