Tonic Mountain – Spotify

I discovered this on Daily Mix.

I heard Barenaked Ladies’ “Baby Seat,” skipped through a song by Beck from “Sea Change,” heard another number that was blah and then…

You know it when you hear it, paraphrasing the Supreme Court on pornography.

I always thought Tonic was a wimpy act, closer to Starland Vocal Band than Alice In Chains, BOY WAS I WRONG!

Yes, they had that big hit “If You Could Only See,” but “Mountain” isn’t playing to the cheap seats, it’s not pop music made for coin, it’s like something out of the glory days of FM radio, when testing limits and providing substance was the goal, the empty sugar calories of Top Forty being completely irrelevant.

Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been.

MTV started with the classic rockers with videos, Rod Stewart, other acts that had broken in Europe where the visual format mattered.

Then the rest of the oldsters poured through the gate, Tom Petty, Don Henley, and then Duran Duran blew the paradigm wide open, it was all new acts with new music.

And then Michael Jackson widened the horizon, MTV became a big tent.

And then when the decade turned, from the eighties to the nineties, production became everything, pop made inroads, but rock soldiered on, even if we sometimes considered it ersatz, with the ultimately underrated Matchbox Twenty ruling.

And then it went totally urban, hip-hop and pop, and that sound has been dominating for the entire twenty first century, it’s like rock is a lost art, except for the shoegazers, you know, the boys with the thin voices and the thin guitars who believe they can bring the magic back if they just get enough attention.

And then you hear something like “Mountain” and you’re brought back to where you once belonged, it feels so good, it’s like discovering a Dead Sea Scroll. Whew!

It starts with an acoustic guitar, like a graybeard sitting around a campfire, completely disconnected from society, picking for himself as opposed to the audience.

And then there’s this descending figure, like someone’s telling you their life story, not someone famous, but a regular joe, like you and me, the people who count, and then…

A bit after thirty seconds, the guitars start to spit lightning, lighting up the sky, and a mellifluous voice sits atop the whole thing.

She came down
From the mountain
And I
I stood my ground
On the mountain

And the guitars ring like bells in a cathedral, spouting religion, you become an instant believer, and that descending figure hooks you in its electric iteration and Emerson Hart is twisting and turning the words and you can feel it in your gut.

Like a fire I’m drawn to her lust
I can’t run from her, but lord I must
Like a demon I’m drawn to her flame
I’m gonna burn calling her name
I’m gonna burn calling her name

It’s loud, but it’s intimate. You’re twisting and turning in this section, like a roller coaster after the big hill, and then…

The whole thing amps up, everybody turns it up to 11, everybody’s firing on all cylinders, but unlike with today’s speedy metal it’s not overbearing, it’s not too much, it’s not made to turn you off, rather it’s a pill you cannot help but swallow, one that will take you on a magic trip.

And when it gets quiet again, with the acoustic instruments reappearing.

And then it gets so HEAVY!

It’s like Led Zeppelin filtered through a modern paradigm, the dynamics, the loud to soft and back to loud again, with lyricism and melody baked in, it’s INFECTIOUS!

And if we, are patient
Then maybe, we’ll get it straight
On the mountain

Oh, this image resonates. I love the city accoutrements, everything at your fingertips, but it can become oppressive, I can breathe in the mountains, atop a hill, free, that’s where the insights come, in a vacuum where you’re alone with your thoughts.

And the music.

Used to be we knew the songs by heart, we sang them to ourselves, they were playing in our head. Now we can take them everywhere.

I couldn’t believe it, I had to fire up Wikipedia, learn more about this act.

I read this track was from their debut, “Lemon Parade,” and that they’d remade it acoustically just now, in 2016, via PledgeMusic.

So I pulled that up.

Same song, but different. I missed the dynamics of the original, even though it was satisfying on its own merits.

But, was this album so popular, was it the “Jagged Little Pill” for a subsection of the population, to the point fans were clamoring for a redo?

“Lemon Parade” went platinum, then again everything went platinum in 1996.

Then again, albums come out today and instantly disappear. And when you go back to them, eh.

So now I’ve got to listen to more of “Lemon Parade.” I start with the opening track, “Open Your Eyes,” I can’t believe it, it’s so heavy yet so lyrical, I get it immediately. I’m coursing through the album, I play “If You Could Only See,” find out that after the light intro it too gets heavy. I go on Deezer Elite to hear “Mountain” in CD quality.

And it’s all because of Spotify’s Daily Mix.

We live in a golden era. I must not have been on the mailing list back then, I don’t remember owning “Lemon Parade.” And it would have disappeared completely if not for the modern paradigm, wherein everything’s at your fingertips for one low price.

But I needed someone to lead me to it.

And the algorithm did. Lord only knows how it knew. Lord knows how I missed this the first time around, “Mountain” could reestablish your allegiance to rock music, if you only heard it.

But it was cut twenty years ago. The band members are now fifty.

But what I wanted most was to SEE THEM!

Not for the production, not for the dancing, but the sound. I wanted to nod my head and mouth the words, be entranced, taken away.

“Mountain” is as fresh as yesterday. I mean Wednesday.

You’ll be stunned.

Tonic Mountain – YouTube electric

Tonic Mountain – YouTube acoustic

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