On the Radio (Flashback): Superdrag, Sucked Out

Like this, but lamer

Like this, but lamer

Recently my brother and I were talking about his band and some of the troubles they have had forging a unified idea of what kind of band they would be and managing expectations about success, playing out and ‘ownership’. Anytime you talk to someone who is in a real band, they will talk some about the music and the sound, but push a little more and you will uncover some hard-felt anxieties and hurt feelings about serious issues like who comes late to rehearsal and who lugs the most band equipment.

See, as I told my brother, most bands fail. And they don’t fail because of lack of success (although that will almost always happen) but they fail because they are based on human relationships and uneven expectations. Just as romantic relationships thrive on desire and sex but founder on garbage day and dishes, so too the most beautiful harmonies are shattered by the mundane details of schedules, personality tics, and whose turn it is to wake up the drummer.

When I was talking to my brother I was wistfully thinking of the old days when my high school band used to practice at our house. Because the basement was also the province of too many cats, we had to clean vigilantly to keep the piss smell at bay and the equipment free of fur. Because we were teenagers and high school students, we rarely had time when together to clean. So, typically, I cleaned alone. (Boo fucking hoo, right?)

While cleaning, I used to make use of the PA to blast my favorite albums and whatever song I was into. For a while, the song “Sucked Out” by Superdrag was in heavy rotation.

This song is almost a perfect synthesis of alt-rock and pop that happened in the late 1990s (other examples include Third Eye Blind’s big hits, Harvey Wallbanger’s “Flag Pole Sitta” and several early Weezer tracks). It is melodic is fun; we find the classic alternation between loud and soft (going soft on the chorus) with a heavy and memorable bassline.

Now, while the band was largely a one-hit wonder and the song was faddish, there may be more of a reason that it struck me as perfectly apt in those days. For one, the lyrics are really about a feeling of disenchantment with the music business itself.

Look around,
Could it bring somebody down
If I never made a sound again?
In your eyes you’ve already spread my thighs
And you’re rocking to the next big thing

Kissing the bride,
45 minutes a side
This was my dream
Played out a rocking routine
Who sucked out the feeling?

The song resonated with me, I think, because I was looking for a way out of the band and on with my life. Like any relationship, sometimes a band turns out to run on its own internal logic, you work it because you have worked it and you have built your identity around it. Sometimes, you just need a clean break to start again. I didn’t get a clean break, but I did dislocate my shoulder and the band went out not with a bang but a whimper.

Superdrag? They broke up and got back together again. Sometimes your first love just keeps coming back.

10 comments on “On the Radio (Flashback): Superdrag, Sucked Out

  1. theyoungerj says:

    I’ve always loved this song, i wish i still listened to the Retro Lunch hour.

  2. T.A. Gerolami says:

    I completely forgot about this song, which I always liked, but never knew who it was.

    It’s funny how songs can take on meanings whether the songs support them or whether you realize what your subconscious is telling you with them. I was thinking about that myself recently while driving and listening to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, which somehow became my soundtrack for a relationshipish thing despite it not really being romantic relationship material, being a concept album about a musician in the future and all.

    • theelderj says:

      This is a great one-hit wonder song.

      I think that what you’re mentioning–that songs take on meaning that has nothing to do with the content of the song or the singer’s ‘intention’–is what I value so much about music. It is also important to me from a critical perspective because it reinforces the theoretical imperative that authorial intention is so often secondary to audience reception.

      • T.A. Gerolami says:

        One thing I love about your blog is that you prove to me that I actually liked 90s alt-rock stuff, just not most of the big guys. I should probably have been actually buying stuff from the people I liked.

        I can think of a ton of film examples where the audience reception for thoughtful films actually angered the filmmakers or actors, like how Peter Boyle was horrified that people looked up to his working class yahoo turned hippie killer character from Joe. I’m sure the same thing happens in music too. I think authorial intention is always interesting but in the end the audience is going to be the ones whose reaction really matters.

      • theelderj says:

        I have been worrying about how much we like 90s alt rock and whether it is analogous to our parents Oldies stations when we were kids. The other night I was in this hippish pizza joint and every fucking song was on my iPod. They played the fucking Pixies in there.

        Of course, the Indian pointed out that the whole place was aimed at a white guys from the 90s. And why? Because now where in that disposable income but still reckless category…

      • T.A. Gerolami says:

        I would think at this remove it’s more like the Classic Rock station? But maybe I’m being generous. At least you guys have some kind of a theme. My kids will grow up listening to a smattering of new alt-rock stuff, 80s Brit Pop and 90s-00s stuff from the Baroness (with maybe some 60s stuff like Simon and Garfunkel and some classical/opera kind of things) and then, well, you know the kind of all over the place crap I listen to. I am just assuming a lot of head shaking will be happening from a very early age.

        The cover band at the Movember Gala played a LOT of 90s covers in a way that would have been 70s or 80s covers in the late 90s. It was also in the former Palladium where I saw Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and lesser Swing acts and I was embarrassingly nostalgic about the whole thing. Hopefully we’re still Bruce Willis Moonlighting about it and not Bruce Willis Hudson Hawk…..

  3. […] it in a different genre makes it different from the original. It’s the same principal my own band makes its money on, taking songs people know and playing them in a style we hope is somewhat ours. […]

  4. 2bitmonkey says:

    I felt exactly the same way about this song! My friends that were obsessed with Pearl Jam and bubble grunge bands used to think I was nuts, but I had a thing for “Sucked Out” that lasted at least an entire summer. Alas, I bought the cd and it was meh. What a delivery in that chorus though.

  5. […] it does seem creative enough that I will actually listen to this album a few times. There is some Superdrag and Eels-lite aura to the sound that makes me think I may end up liking […]

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