It was the peak of “alternative rock.” You couldn’t turn on the radio without getting hit in the ear by crunchy, grinding guitars. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some FM stations rode this so-called third wave of punk by giving airtime to hometown bands.
Tuned to the weekly Burque show “The Local Edge” on 104.7 FM The Edge, I was grabbed by a song that far surpassed the commercial swill the station usually played. (Sponge? Bush? Ned’s Atomic Dustbin? Please!) It was full of dirty guitar riffs, precise drums popping like rifle shots on a clear day, deep, drawn-out bass and sweet female vocals with a vicious edge.
I stay glued to the speakers until the musicians were identified as being in Elephant, a band I’d somehow managed to miss in exploring the local scene. I scoured flyers stapled to telephone poles, watching for the band’s next show. In a matter of weeks, Elephant was gigging at the Launchpad. As I soon found out, guitarist Eric Kennedy was one of the founding owners of the club.
Chris Partain extracted killer rolls and fills from a sparse kit that looked like a kid’s five-and-dime toy. Kennedy flopped around on his back like a hooked mackerel, ripping out hot leads as Christina Condon leaned back into luxurious bass lines. To top it off, the songs were bursting with catchy hooks.
Recording since 1991, it took Elephant six years to get that airplay. It was just in time for me. Kennedy and Condon were about to hang it up in favor of starting a family. I managed to get a couple of 7-inch singles and a self-tiled CD released by local Resin Records at shops like Mind Over Matter and Bow Wow Records. I scooped them up along with Elephant’s new CD on the Science Project label, recorded by Tim Stroh at Stepbridge Studios. For all its crunch, Sweetie was aptly titled: full to the brim with pop goodness.
Besides the transformation of Flake into The Shins, Elephant has to be one of the great turnaround stories in the local scene. The older stuff was killer sludge punk with Eric’s adenoid-tearing vocals, but except for one song, Sweetie is Christina’s baby. No longer in a supporting role, she showcased a side that far surpassed her few earlier pop-punk songs. Elephant’s last CD remains one of the best local releases ever, playable from start to finish and never a need to skip to the next track.