A Few Of Our Favorite October Albums From Til Tuesday, U2, and Matthew Sweet!

October is a weird month.

Most years the temps are still nice, almost summery, but by now the trees are beginning to betray the myth that winter isn't just around the corner.  Our days are numbered.  Won't be long now before we're using lawn furniture to stake out our parking spots.

Musically speaking, the arrival of October can't help make one reassess their inner playlist.  That hazy summer swoon, for which Chicago's "Saturday in The Park" always seems so perfect, gives way to a heaviness that reveals itself in our musical choices.

Albums that are released in October always seem to be transitional as well.

One (okay, me) immediately thinks of Til Tuesday's second album, Welcome Home, which came out in October 1986 and revealed a still-blossoming Aimee Mann as she very publicly chose to take the artistic road-less-traveled.  Instead of handing her label the "Voices Carry, Pt 2" that they wanted and that she could have written in her sleep, I'm sure, but instead she gave them "Coming Up Close" and "David Denies", two songs just as lyrically provocative as the band's mega-hit, but deliciously out of time with the current musical trends.

And then there was the second album by Irish up and comers U2, whose aptly-titled October was released that very month in 1981.

While we in the US apparently weren't good enough for the original UK artwork, there had still been something very majestic about those mysterious floating faces that appeared one day on record store endcaps.  The album, Boy, beckoned.  Hmm, who's this?  It was simple, yet evocative and led me to buy the album sight-unseen just to know what it sounded like.

What I heard knocked me on my ass.  From the opening salvo of "I Will Follow", there was an urgency to the band that wasn't so much desperate as necessary.  Other bands had been inspired by tough times and turmoil, but this foursome had come from an Ireland destabilized by "The Trouble" in Northern Ireland, yet they sang mostly of sexual politics.

October, on the other hand, is an album that sees the band trying to find their voice.  Musically, the band opts for subtlety rather than the battle cry that had been their debut and, while I admire their artistic ambition to add more colors to their sound, the songs just don't measure up to those on Boy.

"I Fall Down" hints at the iconic piano riff of "New Year's Day".  "Rejoice", meanwhile, exists only as a vague "I Will Follow" sequel.  So many times, second albums are full of songs that hadn't been deemed worthy for the first one, but since most bands just spent the entire year on the road, they find themselves short of material when it comes time to record their follow-up.

For some, autumn can be a period of redemption.  With the release of his long-awaited third album, Girlfriend, in October of 1991, Matthew Sweet emerged from a lengthy period of personal and professional turmoil to enjoy his greatest career success to date.  Few albums are as starkly personal as Girlfriend, with Sweet openly wrestling with a variety of demons and doubts.

Ah, but when given such a meteoric musical backdrop, Sweet could be singing the phone book for all we care.  Sweet, of course, has the good sense to enlist Robert Quine to essentially BE Robert Quine, which gives songs like "Evangeline", "Divine Intervention", and the title cut a beautifully ragged energy.  On paper, it should be a disaster, but in execution, it works to perfection.

Of course, I had known about the album for months.  Sweet had cut it while still under contract to A&M, but was apparently able to retain the masters when that deal went south.  Zoo Records, the label that ultimately released the album, had initially passed on it.  Thing is, so had every other label on the planet, including Zion's very own Black Vinyl Records, run by the guys in the band Shoes.

Can't help wonder what would've happened if they'd been the label to released the album.  Would it have eventually caught the attention of a major label for distribution, or would it have languished, forever doomed to power pop cult status like Shoes themselves?

Thankfully, someone else (completely unaware that the label had passed) at Zoo Records heard the album and decided to give it a chance.

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