Congratulations I'm Sorry

Gin Blossoms

A & M Records, 1996

http://www.ginblossoms.net

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/09/1997

In order to keep in touch with what is happening in the music world, I sometimes turn away from the Internet, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone to speak with fellow members of the entertainment media. When I heard on a Chicago radio station last week that the Gin Blossoms had broken up, I called disc jockey Heidi Stern of WTMX-FM to get more information.

After a quick check of a Gin Blossoms fan page, Ms. Stern and I learned that the band was, thankfully, still together. (Editor's note: Turns out this was incorrect - though at the time of this reposting in March 2002, rumor is that the band is indeed getting back together.) But she informed me the band was beginning to get frustrated that all their songs sound the same.

You need to look no farther than their 1996 sophomore release Congratulations I'm Sorry as proof of this. Robin Wilson and crew fail to live up to the hype they created in the world of alternative rock, and bring out a very bland album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With their first major release New Miserable Experience, the Tempe-based band slowly built up a solid fan base through some solid hits like "Hey Jealousy," "Mrs. Rita" and "Found Out About You." The hype around their followup release was intense - how can they top their initial success?

The answer: they didn't. A stopgap single on the Empire Records soundtrack, "Until I Hear It From You" was a light, decent song that showed a lot of promise for Congratulations I'm Sorry. But the first single, "Follow You Down," was a letdown. This sisn't seem like the same band their fans fell in love with. Sure, the dual guitar work of Jesse Valenzuela and Scott Johnson are still here, as well as the solid backbeat of bassist Bill Leon and drummer Philip Rhodes. But the magic is gone.

And it's not as if they aren't trying. "Day Job" tries to capture the magic of songs like "Allison Road" and comes close, and "Not Only Numb" isn't a bad effort. And "My Car" has some very exciting moments on it.

But the remainder of Congratulations I'm Sorry, for what it's worth, could have all been one long song, and I don't think may people would have noticed. Their sound does get old after a spell, and the disc becomes tough to listen to - it took me no less than seven tries to get through this disc from start to finish. (And is it me, or was "7th Inning Stretch" more of an annoyance than a relaxing break?)

But, you say, at least "Until I Hear It From You" saves the album. Ah, if that were only the case - in fact, the song appears nowhere on this album... big mistake.

So is this a bad album? I wouldn't go that far - Wilson still is an excellent singer, and the band does have a lot of talent. No, this isn't a bad album - it's a boring album, a victim of the dreaded "sophomore slump" that has affected more bands than I'd like to count.

I think Ms. Stern and I would agree with the Gin Blossoms that all their songs do sound the same - this could be the reason the band is taking a little time off to regroup. With a new studio album promised in 1998, I do believe we can look forward to a rebirth by this band. Until then, when you pass Congratulations I'm Sorry in the bins at the local record store, take a close look at the album's name. Wonder which half of the name you'll consider to be more accurate.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.