Reissues Prove Edsel Was Actually Relevant
Next week Universal will reissue Nirvana's Nevermind to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary, which will put a nice cherry on top of the grunge-nostalgia sundae folks seem so eager to devour lately. But as anyone who lived in Seattle in the late '80s and early '90s—or anyone who spent a couple hours Googling bands after watching Hype!—could tell you, grunge was bigger than Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Sub Pop. Plenty of musicians helped build the scene and the "Seattle sound."
Edsel was one of those bands, but in Washington, D.C., not Washington state. On Monday, New Jersey label Comedy Minus One digitally reissued a couple of the band's albums: 1993's The Everlasting Belt Co. and 1994's Detroit Folly. History hasn't been so kind to the group (see Andrew Beaujon's TBD piece "Edsel will reissue its albums to prove it existed"). In Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins' local punk history book, Dance of Days, Edsel is merely described as "former members of teen-core bands Kids for Cash and At Wit's End...[who] had moved beyond that aesthetic to create a Wire-y art-punk style with spare lyrics." Hopefully, these reissues will help flesh out that memory a little bit.
As a bonus, the music rips. As the band says in a new write-up for Everlasting Belt Co., the Edsel sound evolved beyond Wire worship to combine arty guitar licks, D.C. post-hardcore-funk, and a smattering of shoegaze. The songs on Everlasting Belt Co. are muddy, they pulse and swell in odd angles, and they're more similar to Jawbox than Wire, especially on the album's lumbering opening tune, "Checkering." Edsel cleaned things up a bit for Detroit Folly, but kept the headstrong, often molasses-paced propulsion of the first album. It's daunting to jump into both records at once—Everlasting Belt Co. alone has 18 songs—but it's easy to get immersed in them.
So what caused Edsel to slip through the cracks? It could be that, though the group's sound lends complexity to D.C.'s late 80s/early '90s scene, it never conformed to what's known as the "D.C. sound." Which is what makes these reissues feel all the more special.