Life After Nirvana: The Magic Of Rob Zabrecky

Bring up the idea that maybe the world would be a better place if Elvis or the Beatles had never happened and folks are bound to look at you funny.  How dare you challenge all that they hold dear!
The idea that maybe something BETTER might have come along if the Beatles hadn't essentially created the very musical template that most pop acts use to this day - some 50 years later - is such a foreign concept.

The same can be said of Nirvana's "Nevermind".  The kids whose life was changed by that album will argue otherwise, but Nirvana dumbed us down more than any other band.  It also gave us the fucking Foo Fighters, which, let's face it, is reason enough to chastice them.  What if some other album had gotten the attention that Nevermind received?  Like, mayabe, that first Possum Dixon album?

Who?  Possum Dixon?  Is that some fictional band that appeared on an episode of Dukes of Hazzard?
No, I'm talking the L.A. band that 9.995 out of 10 dentists who chew gum have never heard of despite making a few pretty damn good albums before succumbing to the drug abyss of De Longpre Avenue circa late '90s.

Now, before you stop reading and return to your fantasy sports league of choice, pull up your favorite streaming service and follow along with me as we listen to "The Singularly Most Important Record Of Your Sad, Pathetic Life That You've Never Heard Of Yet You Lack The Shame To Lie About Owning A Dave Mathews or Hootie Record", aka Possum Dixon.

The first thing you'll notice is that there's absolutely nothing about the actual look of this album to clue the listener into what might be found inside.  Sadly, we American music lovers need more.

Come on, give us a baby floating in a swimming pool, man!

Those who managed to make it past that obstacle were greeted by the frenetic and angular juggernaut of "Nerves", which, to my ears, is the crack heroin version of every band I have loved that only ever sold twelve copies of their one and only major label album before breaking up in disgust.  I'm talking Modern Lovers and the Feelies, among others.

There are shards of big suit-era Talking Heads and early B-52's thrown in for maximum dance appeal.  Plus, the band's singer Rob Zabrecky sounds like Chris STamey from the dB's, whose voice is like butter on my sweet rolls.  There's also a little tension reminiscent of L.A. post punk acts like T.S.O.L. and Social Distortion, which gives the band the necessary element of danger for world domination.

"In Buildings" begins with no intro - straight into the fucking verse - "she looks like an actress who's late for an audition/Is she Catholic or Jewish or the devil?" and then the fucking rhythm section just lays out the tastiest fucking groove, like Television on a hot and sweaty night at CBGB's when the toilets were overflowing and nobody cared.

"Watch The Girl Destroy Me" - the one song you might have heard - is like a Pixies song without the need to resort to maximum distortion.  See, Possum Dixon, unlike Nirvana and the Pixies, had the solid gold clackers to let the song speak for itself.  There is no need for unnecessary sonic histrionics here and, seriously, bless this band's fucking heart.

Of course, the man who really needs the biggest shout-out for creating truly one of the most remarkable albums you've never heard (he's made more than one actually) is none other than Earle Mankey.

This original member of Sparks went on to some acclaim as an engineer in the Beach Bosy camp in the '70s, but he also produced the first 20/20 album and the Three O'Clock's "Sixteen Tambourines", among others.

What makes his work here so noteworthy isn't so much the actual sound of the record, but that he was able to make an album like this in the year 1996.  See, back then, the band's label (along with every other) was still madly trying to cash-in on the Weezer/Nirvana sweepstakes, wherein every album being made was either produced by Butch Vig or Ric Ocasek, or some engineer who'd worked on the sessions.  Sadly, Possum Dixon eventually succumbed to this malady by allowing Ocasek to produce their swan song, New Sheets in '98.

Considering Mankey's moment in the sun had come and gone with little fanfare a decade earlier, one can't help wonder how much wrangling it took the band to get the label to go along with it.
Of course, the label was right.  By using Mankey, the band all but guaranteed their own demise.  He was, after all, an artist's producer and the last time an artist's producer sold records was NEVER.  Granted, guys like that are responsible for literally creating 85% of my record collection, but I'm not exactly normal  If anything, I'm quite abnormal.

I'd have to be to favor Andrew Bird to Pharrell Williams and to recognize Taylor Swift as a vapid burrito fart in the great scheme of things.  A very rich one at that.

Am I the only one able to fathom that if the Beatles had never happened, John Lennon would still be alive?  Had he not been turned into a cultural icon, idolized by millions of strangers, he most certainly would not have been gunned down by a lunatic in front of his home in New York City.

But, thing is, once he became a Beatle, it was a death sentence of sorts anyway, for he could never be anything else to the world.  It was the sort of success that freezes you in time forever and whatever you do from that moment will be judged against you at your most youthful and vital.  Can you imagine that?

Once he became the face and voice of the biggest band on earth in '91, Kurt Cobain received the same life sentence.  Near the end of his life, he was obviously tiring of the Nirvana formula, being made to tap dance when he didn't want to - "Play 'Teen Spirit', man!"  But what if he just wanted to do comedy, or magic?

With that in mind, I'm totally okay with Possum Dixon not getting to be Nirvana, especially since they completely self-destructed as it was.  Knowing what I know now, I almost want to keep them my little secret so that a guy like Rob Zabrecky can do his thing without continually being compared to his musical past: "It was okay, but it was no Possum Dixon."

Thing is, as great as he was as a musician, what he's doing now is so steeped in tradition, yet masterfully original that I never even once think of him with a guitar in his hands.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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