The Volcano Suns – The Bright Orange Years

The Volcano Suns – The Bright Orange Years (Homestead) 1985. 1985 was the year I got hipped to the whole post-hardcore thing. Of course at that time, I called it underground music. The term “alternative” with all of its ugly post-grunge connotations was yet to be popularized and I didn’t have the historical hindsight to call it “post-” anything.

I would like to say that I was a big Mission of Burma fan and that the purchase of The Bright Orange Years was a logical extension of my super-good and righteously forward-thinking tastes but that would be untrue. At the time, the Burma LPs were hopelessly obscure. I was a punk/HC fan and I liked some new wavey-type stuff but c’mon….I was a 15 year old in suburban St Louis, MO.

Yep…I read about The Volcano Suns in a SPIN Magazine at my neighbourhood 7-11 and rode my bike to Streetside Records to buy it.

When I got this home and played it, I was floored. It sounded very Midwestern to me. Shit, there was even a song about cornfields. But unlike the Replacements, who had made the bid for a wider audience the previous year with Let It Be (a great album), The Bright Orange Years rocked hard…and these guys were from Boston, not the Midwest at all.

Sonically it was similar to Husker Du and came out right between New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig (both 1985). But it was WEIRDER than Husker Du. The song “(I’m Gonna) Make You Mine” sounded like “Dum Dum” by The Butthole Surfers on Another Man’s Sac (also 1985) and yeah, that’s what The Volcano Suns kinda were really….a compromise between the midwesternisms of Husker Du and the weirdness of The Butthole Surfers built on a foundation of Mission of Burma.

Anyway….hindsight can turn any of us into Greil Marcus. At the precise moment I heard this for the first time, I was not doing any deconstruction. I just played Side A over and over and over….

Their next album All Night Lotus Party was great too. Then Both Jon Williams and Jeff Weigland left the band while Peter Prescott soldiered on with mixed results. A few years later, Rykodisk would re-release all the Burma material and I was one of the few people who upon hearing Burma for the first time, said “Shit, they sound like the Volcano Suns.”

1985 was the year I moved away from just being a punk rocker. This LP was one of the catalysts.

Side A

Descent Into Hell
Truth Is Stranger Than Fishing
Balancing Act
Promise Me
(I’m Gonna) Make You Mine

Side B

Mouth That Roared
It’s Stewtime

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21 Responses to The Volcano Suns – The Bright Orange Years

  1. Mike Von Doom says:

    Thanks for this! I was blaring the vinyl just the other night and thunked, “I wishes I had this on my compooter”. And lo & behold, now I do!
    Criminally under-rated band!

  2. crass gnat says:

    In case anyone didn’t know:

    The Bright Orange Years and All Night Lotus Party are being rereleased by Merge Records early next year. Each CD will be issued separately with 10 bonus tracks. Remastering by Bob Weston.

  3. Tipsy McStagger says:

    yay. and Jeff is soooo hot. i hope there’s pretty pics of him.

  4. jay says:

    Hey Joe – Thanks very much for this. In the mid-80s I made the mistake of favoring Roger Miller’s tuned electric piano solo projects to the later Volcano Suns albums. The Bright Orange Years, however, makes me realize what a fool I was and it’s a shame that I never heard it first time around. Even living in Boston in 1986 the buzz around the Suns was over in lieu “new” bands like Throwing Muses (who would regularly do a verion of “Jak” in their live set). An inspired post (as was The Bizarros)!

  5. Pogel says:

    Great stuff. I picked this up and a “All Night Lotus Party” a few years back for 25c each.

  6. b. brown says:

    Oh! Once again, we’re unwittingly on the same level of music bloggery. I was just about to do a Volcanosuns post. Glad you did it first though. You had a lot more to relate with it. Good post, dude!

  7. Eric says:

    I too was contemplating a Volcano Suns post, I’ll agree with the comment above on your post though. All Night Lotus Party was the album that hooked me. Along with
    Bright Orange Years it’s the best of the VS lot, as some of the later releases were hit or miss. I think the recent MOB discs sound very much like the Career in Rock era Volcano Suns. Not bad, but not what I was expecting.

  8. Mrow says:

    Saw ‘em burn it up at Raji’s in LA a few years later – they were great, esp. that drummer. He just drove the whole thing to a new level. Methinks all their recs are good-to-great, no?

  9. Anonymous says:

    you are the best person in the entire world for putting these mp3′s up…dude you made my day…I have been searching for this forever,now please put up “All Night Lotus Party” ,please…come on it’s fucking brillant,you know you want to…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks very much for posting “Bright Orange Years”. I was a bit later to the party and didn’t discover The Volcano Suns until a friend recorded this for me back in ’87. Like you, for me the Suns were very much a part of my transition from hardcore to ‘underground’ music (along with Soul Asylum, Sonic Youth, Scratch Acid, et. al.). I promptly went out and bought the LP along with “All Night Lotus Party”; both of which I still haven’t listened to in years. Downloading and listening to this brings all those great memories flooding back, and that opening 1-2 punch of Jak/Descent Into Hell is to this day a shining moment in music history.

  11. says:

    hey..i really liked this review of our 1st record…most of the crap written about us is pretty stale..but this is good..especially like the part about being in 7 eleven and riding your bike down to store to get record…and altho this is subjective, i never really liked post jon and me suns stuff…career in rock is good tho…jon was such a great player…to me, he made those records what they were, his playing and his ideas…by the way, my name is spelled weigand…ok…see you , jeff weigand

  12. DC Harbold says:

    I lost all my treasured Suns albums in the flood that followed hurricane Katrina. This is like having an arm that was lost in the war replaced. Thank you.

  13. Joe Stumble says:

    Jeff — your post is my all time favorite. Thanks man. I think the Volcano Suns review was one of my best ever largely due to the fact that I love the album so much. It’s one of those rare LPs that I love as much now as I did when I was 15….unlike say, MDC.

  14. says:

    dc harbold…hey man..if you want the first two suns records on tape i will send you a copy…cant do cd..but would be glad to send you a tape via katrina fund..let me know… contact me i am seroius man…

  15. sean says:

    thank you for this. I haven’t heard this album in decades and I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful. Thanks for this. This is the only lp of theirs I couldn’t get on vinyl.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Joe your are the F##%*& Man brother. I caught this one the week it came out and I was blown away. Plus I was a huge Husker fan like many of us.

    I was searching around for this cd on Amazon and was feeling like I was going to hook my DPF-47 into the Soundblaster card. This after tossing on Bumper Crop after some serious years bro. (What a good album), luckily you are the man though and I did’nt have to go to the trouble. Thanks bro I love ya and I’m gonna check out the Ryko stuff. Always wanted to check out Burma. Think I have some Comp with Wire from somewhere! Thanks again!!!!!!

  18. Daniel says:

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding The Volcano Suns – The Bright Orange Years, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong :)

  19. Ian B says:

    Am I the only nerd out here who’d like to see these gents REFORM…?

  20. Joe says:

    This nerd is in total agreement

  21. Brad says:

    I saw the Volcano Suns roughly 30 times, with every line up except the original pre-album Michener/Prescott/Waleik version. While the Suns of these two records were astounding (largely due to Williams’ very original guitar style) and the Chuck Hahn period was a bit challenged, the eventual Kleiler/Weston/Prescott Suns were every bit as good in their own right. Thing of Beauty is a great record though it could probably have been half as long. This final line up had a much more cohesive feel and conveyed the sense that they actually all liked each other. (apologies for all name misspellings).

    One highlight occurred when Williams briefly rejoined the band which became a foursome sometime in 1988. I still have one of the big white plastic urns that would show up as one of their stage props from time to to time.

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