Cult Albums: #6 IDAHO – Year After Year (1993)

Idaho could be the archetypal cult act. They’ve been going for ages with little in the way of mainstream attention or commercial success, but have a small, deeply loyal and dedicated following. I first came across them some fifteen years ago when they were featured on a cover mounted cassette that came with Lime Lizard magazine (blimey, I forgot all about that publication – I seem to remember it being pretty good) called Altered States of America. Nestling alongside some excellent stuff from Girls vs Boys, Jesus Lizard, Polvo and the mighty Come was “Skyscrape” by Idaho, a slow, sad, feedback drenched lament. I was smitten. Year After Year became high on my wants list, and when a copy fell into my hands, I wasn’t disappointed.

At the time of this, their debut long player, Idaho were a duo of Jeff Martin on vocals and John Berry on guitar – everything else was also played by the pair bar three tracks with guest drummers. Tempos were slow, and the mood uniformly sombre (except when it was positively anguished). This wasn’t happy music. Existing somewhere in the space between Red House Painters and Low, what marked Idaho out from the crowd was the guitar-work and the extensive use of sustained feedback as opposed to gentle strumming. It sounded as tormented as the songs themselves. “Skyscrape” was a highlight, but tracks like “Gone” and “Memorial Day” were its equal. The final track “Endgame” is magnificent, but an even more striking version entitled “You Are There” appeared on the group’s first release, the four song Palms EP.

Berry left before the follow-up record This Way Out was recorded. I seem to recall that some kind of substance problem was the issue. Happily he was back for 2005’s The Lone Gunman. In the interim, Martin put together a four piece group who were responsible for a series of excellent records. None quite matched the heights of their debut, though. The album is still in print and should be easy enough to track down.

“Skyscrape” recorded live at the Knitting Factory in 1996 and featuring the bleach-blond Dan Seta with some stunning, restrained guitar work.

Tracks
1 God’s Green Earth 3:44
2 Skyscrape 4:11
3 Gone 5:21
4 Here To Go 4:56
5 Sundown 4:33
6 Memorial Day 4:25
7 One Sunday 2:12
8 The Only Road 4:00
9 Let’s Cheat Death 1:36
10 Save 3:46
11 Year After Year 5:48
12 End Game 5:36

Originally issued in October 1993 on Caroline, CAROL136 in the US and Quigley QUIGD4 in the UK.

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