As a follow up to a previous post which discussed VRS’s band history and Pasta album, this post explores some earlier songs which pre-dated Pasta. Actually, two of the songs, “Been Around The Block” and “Fish” are two of the songs that made it onto Pasta, but the remaining two were never released on anything more than demo tapes for prospective gigs. These songs give some good insight into the raw and highly unpolished sound that VRS possessed in its early days.
Track 1: This sample tape is introduced by a dedication from Marty (master of time) Menes to Papa John’s Pizza—the most common provider of midnight snacks to Notre Dame students in the nineties. Following the “shout out” to Papa John’s (and the guy across the street), CD begins strumming the main guitar pattern that appears throughout the first song, “Pickpocket”. I soon jump in plucking some complimentary bass notes, and the remaining band members follow in a high spirited, energetic, but fairly derivative romp through some comical lyrics about pickpocketing the world. The song is raw, as is the production (recorded on a four track in the basement of “The Swamp”), but it is a good representation of where we were as musicians and songwriters during the infancy of VRS. Everyone starts somewhere...
Track 2: “Been Around The Block” is the next track, and as written in the previous post, this song predated VRS and was penned by the members of Schwa (including Steve, CD, and Marty). It’s a great grooving song, and this version is a bit rawer in its production than the version on Pasta. I’ll re-post what was previously written about the song to save the reader the trouble of flipping back to a different blog post:
“Been Around the Block” has a straight forward song structure like “Backwards”; however it triggers a more effective emotional response. I’ve always been a fan of hypnotic grooves, and this song brings a Fugazi-like bass line that tries its best to get your head subtly bobbing. For this alone, I enjoy this song. Although I’m not crazy about the guitar’s flange effect on the recorded version, I think this helped the mood of the song when played live. Given this song was a remnant of Schwa (that’s a whole ‘nother review), VRS sure got a lot of mileage out of it.
Track 3: The third track is the same recording of “Fish” that made it onto Pasta. As I previously wrote in the past blog:
“Fish” is another one of the first songs written by VRS. Steve conceived the song’s lyrics to chronicle the cyclical romance of two of the band’s close friends. It contains poppy and lively guitar with some acoustics layered in. The rhythm section pushes the tempo, but generally allows the guitars and vocals to carry the song. Although a simple composition, this was just an up-tempo song we always had fun with. Ryan throws in an over-qualified guitar solo to complete the song, and thus, the album. I feel that ending the album with such an early song was an appropriate reflection of how the band started, and an acknowledgment of how far we had come.
One thing I failed to mention before is that “Fish” easily became a fan favorite for VRS followers. For better or worse, this became our “Freebird” at every local show we played. I’m sure this had something to do wish this single being featured on one of the ND campus music compilations (Incubus 1993), as well as the fact that “Fish” was one of the early songs that we continued to play for a couple of years.
Track 4: The Sample Tape ends with “Ryan’s Lonely”, a crude commentary about the self-pleasuring habits of VRS’s guitar soloist. In defense of poor Ryan, I will say that he had “mad skills” around women. He played the sensitive, troubled, creative genius role perfectly, and figured out early that playing a classical guitar in one’s bedroom is a phenomenal tool to have in one’s tool box. In other words, I’ll stick up for Ryan and say that the basic theme of this song is mis-guided. This song begins with some guitar “noise”, but soon kicks into an in your face tempo, a driving drum beat, catchy guitar rift, and rapid slides up and down the neck of Ryan’s guitar. A performance note: Ryan’s action of sliding up and down the neck intentionally ties into the overall theme of the song, and he tended to exaggerate these movements when performing live. Like many VRS songs, this one contains a consistently repeated guitar rift around which the other components of the song are built. We mix in some dynamic changes, but we basically play the same parts throughout the song. Nevertheless, it is a fun and lively way to end this collection of songs, and who can’t appreciate ending it on the lyrics “Better touch myself and smile!”
In conclusion, this sample tape is a good snapshot of the early stages of Victoria’s Real Secret. Although not as polished in both content and production as Pasta, it provides a good benchmark from which one can measure the progress of our band. As I previously posted:
More than anything else, I remember VRS as a band that was FUN to see live. We always had a great time stirring the audience into a frenzy and playing off each other.
This sample tape, if nothing else, reminds me of the fun and lively shows we put on. That’s a memory I will always treasure. Thanks for reading and listening! Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria's Real Secret on MySpace
Victoria's Real Secret - Pasta