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Truck Stop Love | Can't Hear It: 1991-1994

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Rock: 90's Rock Rock: Americana Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Can't Hear It: 1991-1994

by Truck Stop Love

These previously unreleased demo tracks and never-before-heard recordings capture the band's wheels-about-to-come-off-the-rails Midwest rock twang at its most formative – when the songs were fresh, raw, and loud! 1991-1994
Genre: Rock: 90's Rock
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  Song Share Time Download
1. You Keep Searchin'
3:51 $0.99
2. For Awhile
4:15 $0.99
3. Dear Lincoln
4:49 $0.99
4. Got a Pistol
4:14 $0.99
5. Hi-Tone
5:44 $0.99
6. River Mountain Love
4:42 $0.99
7. Townie
5:50 $0.99
8. Tommy
3:38 $0.99
9. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
2:01 $0.99
10. Old Flame
4:24 $0.99
11. After Hours Party
2:31 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994
Liner notes by Ed Skoog

Believe this band was yours and tonight they’ll be down at some shit bar in Aggieville that doesn’t care, but a tight squad will be there, untucked and cheerful. Believe each chord comes from the rejection of the world around us, rural and collegiate and repressive and beautiful, mostly quiet, and this is loud, very loud, the guitar is loud, the bass is brash, the other guitar is louder and brasher, and the drums are thunderous and clattering. Truck Stop Love was the best rock band ever to come out of Kansas. They were led by Rich Yarges, a charismatic antihero with a vision and a churlish country attitude that bore little patience for foolishness, and who inevitably clashed a bit with the very talented singer and guitarist Matt Mozier, laconic and unflappable, who had gone off to New York and come back with a few ideas, and whose own vision overlapped with Rich’s as often as it collided, a tension that helped keep the sound alert and agile and shifting. They both sang, while the rhythm section of Brad Huhmann on bass and Eric Melin on drums pushed the dynamic towards speed; the songs borrowed energy from the metal and punk underpinnings of Melin and Huhmann’s tastes. Melin told me once that he wasn’t a musician, he was a drummer, and carried a photo of John Bonham in his wallet. Mozier left the band eventually and Jim Crego joined, a veteran gunslinger from Minneapolis, a great songwriter whose “Something To Cry About” by God’s Favorite Band remains one of my favorite rock songs: he continued the role of sympathetic antagonist, which I think was important in leading them to craft these songs: they’re never quite comfortable—they push beyond their premises into musical counterpoint and lyrical reversals. They have a ragged perfection. The band probably drank too much, or too much at the wrong times, I’ve seen worse, and they were all dependable, reliable dudes. Their one full album was produced by Jody Stephens, of Big Star, at Ardent Studios in Memphis, which was a big deal, also perhaps helped share the curse of greatness done in by bad luck. They broke up and went separate ways. The vocals are a bit of a murmur, a resonant instrument of their own, singing honest, codependent elegies, but it’s importantly guitar music, though the guitars wouldn’t have anything to do without Rich’s sardonic outlook, a bit scolding, observant, occasionally anthemic. Although we were in the country, Truck Stop Love wasn’t country or alt-country: it was power pop worn down by hard weather. It’s island music, in the sense that Manhattan, Kansas might as well have been on an island, remote and isolated and insular. It was a long drive to Kansas City, which was itself fairly isolated and remote, in those days (less so now), and you might get popped for a DUI if you drove there carelessly. Between Kansas City and Manhattan there was a verdant rock milieu – Zoom, Panel Donor, Kill Creek, Roach Factory, Moving Van Goghs, Vitreous Humor, Sufferbus, Arthur Dodge, Tuber. But it really could have been anywhere. I don’t know if they’re still doing it, the young. Do they come to Manhattan for college, drop out, hang out, play rock in storage sheds and bars along I-70? It was a scene, but it didn’t seem like a scene, it seemed like our rotation in an unending cycle of wasted rural youth, that started before us and would continue after. There would always be some oddballs semi-“in-the-know” with no job prospects, serious book-reading cynical wise-asses, thoughtful, hard to rile up, without the slightest idea what to do with our lives, except to make some music or art and see what happens. That’s why, twenty-five years later, we’re all still poor, so far as I know. But some trace has been left. These recordings: we have need of them.

“You Keep Searching,” with its northern-lights of an introductory solo and chest-cutter drumbeat, translated the live performance to the album, converting the interior of your car or apartment to one of the beer-fungal college dives along Moro Street in Aggieville. And one does keep searching – it’s music of the searching years, with the starts-and-stops, the sudden acceleration of life when it feels like your wheels are spinning. The song’s a victory against the bastards trying to keep you back.

“For Awhile” is a plangent plea for a lover to come back, for a while longer at least. “How long is a while? It’s a real long time.” The song makes its strongest argument in its guitar solo, all clashing harmony and bending strings, the notes prostrating themselves without pride, the band’s heart on full display but knowing that it’s probably not going to be persuasive. It’s a lonely song.

“Dear Lincoln” begins in a melodic citation of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” which was pointed out by guitarist Lincoln Linder, who was in the band for a year before rejoining Roach Factory, another great Manhattan band. So it’s “Dear Lincoln,” as I understand it. You can be the judge, but after the opening it moves along as a battle between fuzzy and gritty guitars, emerging in a bridge that confesses the obsessive and nihilistic love the singer wants, to turn away from the world: “Don’t want to meet none of your friends…I would leave you if I should, because I know what you need: you don’t need me.” The song erupts at the end with a speeded-up coda in which Eric Melin smashes all of his drums.

“Got a Pistol” presents a litany of suicide methods, too many, really: gun, noose, needle, poison, etc, and the singer is willing to use all of these to send a message to his ex, a mixed message – yes I’ve been foolish, but I want to kill you and your new lover. But the singer can’t bring himself to hurt himself or hurt others, leaving a plaintive thrash that consoles itself in sorrow. It’s close to bluegrass, this fast-paced near-murder ballad adorned with virtuosic guitar runs and drum fills. It’s a rock showcase.

The intricate “Hi-Tone” is almost an instrumental, setting several scorpion-tailed guitar motifs against each other, and they strike and strike at the Dave Brubeck-ish tempo, and, failing to kill it, join it. This song shows the band’s talent as an ensemble, dynamic and conversant, as well as Mozier’s stinging vocals.

“River Mountain Love” rolls along at a two-lane highway pace, with a sing-along “and I’m dyin’, and I’m lyin’, river mountain love” refrain, burnished by some severely golden guitar solos. I’ve been listening to this song for twenty-four years and have no idea what Rich is singing, honestly, but I love its long vowelly whole notes: it is sung with feeling. And there’s a key change, or as it feels, a key correction: the song is trying to put it a different way, to try to make sense of the turbulence of a relationship, when we’re at our worst, at our best, down in the muck of the river, up at the mountaintop.

“Townie” and “Tommy” are portraits. I know who “Townie” is about. But it’s also a self-mocking portrait that hits too close to home for anyone listening, in one image or detail or another. “Small town boy, got a chain hanging from your pocket.” “Bet you can’t remember when you were five and you were glad.” The guitar soars above the song, patient, like vultures, waiting for the right moment to descend. The scene was full of caricatures of lost people, the band was not separate from it. The people around Manhattan were easy targets, but we had little to compare ourselves with. There was tragedy, poverty, bad fortune followed by good fortune, squabbles and grudges. In the autumn light of the after party, the intensity of the best of that time and place could seem shimmeringly clear. And then not. The song could be a real bummer if the band was a in a bad mood when they played it; a real hoot if they were on the way up.

“How I Spent My Summer Vacation” should have been on the hit parade. This is a rawer, punker version, which I prefer, of the streamlined version on their full-length album of the same title. It’s a galloping drinking anthem of divided subjects: “Officer, the problem’s not with me. Staying home writing letters: ‘Missing you are you missing me’. She said that she was mine!” This is a loud-fast-rules take with shouts and asides, the raucous attitude of their live shows, in and out, nobody gets hurt.

“Old Flame” captures the confusion of having to confront old emotions: she comes into town and breaks his heart again, but he also re-experiences what drove them apart. The feeling’s ancient, the ambivalent uncertainty about old flames, but the focus of the song on her “coming into town” feels very specific to the miniature world of midwestern college towns, where there is little anonymity or escape. It’s a song about the claustrophobia of places like Manhattan as much about the claustrophobia of the heart.

“After Hours Party” is a good way to end this album, a quick wolverine of a song dashing through the snowy fields of night, blood-soaked and ebullient, a party song encouraging wild abandon but also darkly warning about wild abandon. This song was left off the full-length album, so I hadn’t heard it since they played it live on stage, but hearing it again I fell immediately into that side-of-the-stage trance, young-old, with fathomless possibility ahead of us before the sun comes up.

Truck Stop Love Bio


The early '90s were a huge time for underground rock and roll. Everybody knows about "grunge" and the Seattle music
explosion, but another movement was bubbling up around the same time in the Midwest, and it has proven to be just as
influential on today's music scene, if far less hyped.

Call it "No Depression", Americana, Alt/Country, or whatever, but bands like Minneapolis' The Jayhawks, St. Louis' Uncle
Tupelo, and other, smaller bands paved the way for artists like Ryan Adams and (insert hot-shit new country rock band
here) to incorporate a little local twang into their punk rock ethos.

Long before it was cool to wear a trucker hat, a little band from Manhattan, Kan. called Truck Stop Love stopped drinking
long enough (well, not really stopped) to record a 1993 self-titled EP and a 1995 full-length that, courtesy Los Angeles'
Scotti Bros/Backyard Records, slowly crept its way across the plains and into the stereos of America. And then those
albums were played loud.

Guitarist/vocalist Rich Yarges and drummer Eric Melin formed the band in 1990, but it wasn't until guitarist/vocalist
Matt Mozier and bassist/vocalist Brad Huhmann joined Truck Stop Love in 1991, that the band solidified their aggressive,
fuzzed-out rock sound. In the back room of a record store in Manhattan, TSL recorded a demo tape (yes, people used
cassettes back then) that won them a spot in MTV's national band competition, "Dodge's Rockin' Campus Bash." A
smashed guitar, a flat tire, and a many big hangovers followed.

Another well-received demo, recorded at Red House in Lawrence, garnered the attention of the College Music Journal,
which gave it a glowing spotlight review that sent labels scurrying to the unlikely locale of Manhattan.

Ignoring the advice of their lawyer, Truck Stop Love signed with Scotti Brothers Records, a label best known for "Weird
Al" Yankovic and Survivor. "We thought it would be a good idea because we heard they were run by the mob," Melin
explains. Truck Stop Love's self-titled debut EP contains some of their best-loved tunes, including "Stagnation," "River
Mountain Love," and "Townie." The band hit the road hard after that in Hi-Tone, their 1954 Chevy school bus. The gas
mileage was horrible, but it looked cool and it was big, allowing the members to be apart from each other whenever
fights would break out.

The group covered "Listen To Her Heart" for "You Got Lucky - A Tribute To Tom Petty" and participated in the sold-out
"Lucky" tribute concert at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles in January of 1995. The show was later seen by more than 3
million music fans when it aired on ABC's late-night music show "In Concert."

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" is the album that defines Truck Stop Love for many in the Midwestern music scene.
Produced at Memphis' legendary Ardent Studios by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and Jeff Powell (Afghan Whigs,
Primal Scream), the album is a dizzying mix of TSL's wide influences. Drenched with loud guitars and a twist of country,
the album features a dozen songs that range from the subtle country yearnings of "Whiskey Waltz," to the catchy hooks
of "Other Stars," and the in-your-face fury of "You Owe." The raw emotions of small-town boredom and angst are
evident on hard-rocking tracks like "Bitter Boy," "Benny" and the title cut "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." Rounding
out the record are the bittersweet "Carolina's Eyes," and a hidden, thirteenth track - an acoustic duet between Stephens
and guitarist/vocalist Mozier.

A great sounding record and an expensive video weren't enough for the label to push four unpolished Kansas scrubs into
the national spotlight, and, despite college radio airplay and the support of commercial Lawrence giant, KLZR (R.I.P.), the
album didn't catch on with the pre-TRL crowd. After a typical drunken fight ("Beatles or Stones?") between band
members escalated into a wrestling match on a concrete back porch, Mozier left the band, and the remaining members
soldiered on.

Mozier's replacement was Jim Crego, formerly of the Minneapolis powerhouse God's Favorite Band. Truck Stop Love's
new focus was on a tighter, more focused pop sensibility. Crego brought his melodic chops into play immediately as the
band recorded a split 7-inch with Lawrence rockers Action Man, and three tracks for various compilation CDs. More
touring, more drinking, and a new demo with Ed Rose at Red House came next. The new material was some of the best
stuff TSL had recorded, but Scotti Brothers' experiment in the post-Nirvana alternative explosion had ended, and so had
the band.

Aside from a string of three notoriously rowdy reunion gigs in 2004, it would seem the band had finally called it
quits. But early in 2017, possibly after a few too many (no one will admit, or can remember), the band felt it was finally
time to get the their material online for the next generation to hear (and before their generation’s CD players all
stopped working). Not interested in angering their former mafia bosses, they decided to focus on the 50+ songs they
had recorded themselves. Resurrecting those tunes from hibernation, however, would require special skills and high
technology. Fortunately, longtime friend of the band, Kliph Scurlock, had both the skills AND the technology needed to
remaster the songs back to life.

When Huhmann’s former band mates in Red Kate, founders of the Black Site record label cooperative, got wind of what
Truck Stop Love was up to, they knew they had to put out a record. They were struck by the urgency and intensity of the
recordings, especially in this age of over-produced, digitally perfect “rock.” After a couple beers and repeated assurances
that Black Site was not in any way “connected,” Truck Stop Love’s second full-length LP, Can’t Hear It:1991-1994, was
born. From the stoney drone of “Townie” to the frenetic blast of “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” to the headslamming
psych-pop of “You Keep Searchin’,” this is Truck Stop Love at its wildest, sweatiest, beer-soaked best.



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