Formerly known in the office as "the intern who can type really fast," I've since settled into the role of "the metal guy." This makes it all the more enjoyable to gauge people's reactions during "What was your first show?" conversations when I get to say "the Cherry Poppin' Daddies." The blank stares turn to raised eyebrows when I go on to declare that more than 10 years after Zoot Suit Riot, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies are still one of my favorite bands. Tonight, I'll be seeing the Eugene, Oregon-based eight-piece for the first time in four years.
It's always bummed me out that what drove the band to multi-platinum success is also what later knocked them down to "Remember those guys?" status. Zoot Suit Riot, with its ubiquitous title track, was released in 1997, as the swing revival was kicking into gear. The song was inescapable — high school marching bands across the country were playing it at football games, and the band rode the wave. But then it was over.
And the real bitch of it was this – the Cherry Poppin' Daddies weren't even really a swing band.
What most listeners weren't aware of was that the Zoot Suit Riot album was a compilation of the handful of swing songs from the band's previous albums, which let the band cash in on the craze, but for the most part, the Daddies were a rock band that happened to have horns. So in tribute to what I've personally deemed one of the most misunderstood bands of the Nineties, here's five of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies finest non-swingin' moments.
"Teenage Brainsurgeon" [Listen] With lyrics about "Nazi robots in straitjackets" and a carnival nightmare vibe, this song off the band's 1990 debut is more Misfits than Stray Cats.
"Johanna of the Spirits" [Listen] Thick with distortion, a huge chorus and a big build to a climax, frontman Steve Perry (not that one) crafts an ode to being stuck in the past.
"Hazel, South Dakota" [Listen] The most bitter song in the band's catalogue, Perry rails against an absentee father and promises vengeance: "When I find you, you're gonna know it/You're gonna sleep right next to your [dead] wife, man."
"Cosa Nostra" [Listen] A weepy, Old Country sound slinks along against lyrics about regretting a life wasted in the sleazy confines of organized crime.
"Bust Out" [Listen] From this year's Susquehanna, Perry and Co. experiment with Latin sounds and rumbling guitars, again showing the band toying with a genre for the fun of it, which is where its idea to dabble in swing began in the first place.