August 26, 2016 for the CD. I would have bought the cassette version around the time of its original release.
What is the memory you most associate with this title?
My bus commute from home to the University of Hawaii. It usually took the length of the album to finish.
What was happening in your life when it was released?
I would have been taking summer classes at UH at the time. I actually deferred my entry to college from fall 1990 to winter 1991 because I was burned out by my senior year in high school. My mom also had gone through heart surgery, so she needed help to recuperate. The summer session of 1991 was my way to catch up.
What was happening in your life when you bought it?
I had bought Toni Childs’ debut album and liked it enough to get this second album, probably right when it was released in 1991. I didn’t like it enough to get it on CD till I spotted it at Lifelong Thrift Store, where I bought it for $0.10 during the monthly CD sale.
I wanted to go college on the Mainland like my friends, but my parents couldn’t afford it. I got over my disappointment fast enough when I started my music classes. I also started my first job that year, working at the circulation desk of the A/V center in the undergraduate library. In short, I was taking those first few steps into adulthood.
I would later discover how much in tuition my parents were paying — let’s say, significantly less than the years of Catholic private school leading up to it — and I’ve been thankful ever since for never acquiring student debt.
What do you think of it now?
It took me a few spins to warm up to House of Hope, but Union is definitely the better album.
The music on House of Hope takes a darker turn, and when I rediscovered the album in 2016, the contrast with Union struck me.
I even questioned how I had grown to like the album in the first place. However much I liked taking more responsibility for my life in 1991, it was under a cloud of heartbreak. One of those friends who went to the Mainland for college was the first person with whom I fell in love.
I’m sure I was in a more receptive state of mind for an album that dark.
Before 2002, I tried to be a cheerleader for everything I heard and liked. It was a philosophy I carried with me from 1992, when an editor at the Hunter College student newspaper told me it’s not cool to trash unknown artists. Why kick underdogs when they’re down?
That changed a decade later when I worked at Waterloo Records. During my shifts, I was subjected to music I would never willingly listen to and, in many cases, would never wish to hear again.
I come across as incredibly cranky in my 2005 review of Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut album. It’s because I stopped being a cheerleader. I no longer cared if you were an underdog — if you play music that raises my ire, I would not spare it from you.
Franz Ferdinand had initially raised that ire, but the album’s songs were too catchy to stay angry for long. At the same time, the acclaim showered on it rang hollow for me. It was good, certainly, but prize-winning?
My ambivalence shows in the review. I try hard to justify to myself why I ultimately liked the album, but I also resisted following the hive mind of critical thought at the time.
It’s little surprise the album would exit my collection in exchange for cash. I have, however, missed listening to “Michael”, and it was that sense of nostalgia that allowed me to welcome it back into the fold.
Time hasn’t really softened my opinion of it, however. If anything, it makes my ambivalence even clearer. It’s a good album, and a generation of music fans will consider it a cultural flash point. I can’t count myself among that number.
Rewind takes a look at past Musicwhore.org reviews to see how they hold up today. The albums featured on Rewind were part of my collection, then sold for cash only to be reacquired later.
Kronos Quartet with Mahsa and Marjan Vadat, Placeless, March 22
This album is already available on streaming services, which means I’ve had a chance to listen to it. Unfortunately for Kronos and the Vadats, the new Solange album has also monopolized my attention.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 (Beth Gibbons, Krzysztov Penderecki, Polish National Radio Symphony), March 29
I don’t know about this one. Portished has never been a band I could internalize, and while I like Górecki’s third symphony, its reputation has become a bit outsize. I’m wondering how Penderecki got roped into it.
Emerson String Quartet and Evgeny Kissin, The New York Concert, April 12
The works on this program are tamer than what I normally pursue, but I like both the Emerson and Kissin.
Björk, Vespertine: A Pop Album as an Opera (Nationaltheater Mannheim), April 12
I’m willing to give this one a chance, if only because Vespertine is one of the few Björk albums I no longer own. I couldn’t get into it when it came out, so I welcome a chance to hear it in another context.
Jack Ingram, Ridin’ High … Again, April 26
I’ve been wondering what’s up with Jack Ingram. I stopped following him when he decided to make friends with country radio, but he left that behind at the end of his Big Machine contract. His 2016 album, Midnight Motel, is breezy and off-the-cuff, so I’m curious to hear what’s next.
NUMBER GIRL, OMOIDE IN MY HEAD 1 ~BEST & B-SIDES~, May 1
More time has passed since NUMBER GIRL’s break-up than the band was ever together, and a large portion of the band’s discography is out of print. So on the heels of their reunion tour, this collection of singles and b-sides gets reissued for a generation who missed out the first time.