NRP: Acetone – If You Only Knew


It’s petty plain that there needs to be an Acetone revival… and soon. The band has long been a bit of an band’s band — influence to many, but largely left out of conversations that don’t drill down into ‘90s niche genres. Now, it feels like their sound might be more relevant than ever. Straddling slowcore, narcotic indie, and the brooding edges of country, the band excelled at standing on shifting sands. Far removed from their grungier, more pop-eaten debut, Cindy, and eschewing the country lilt that entered the fray on their ’94 EP, I Guess I Would, the band’s ’96 album If You Only Knew is a masterpiece of pacing and aesthetics. While I’d certainly be first in line to argue that the EP is high on the list of albums that should also get the reissue treatment, especially given its Cosmic Country appeal that might dovetail into some current trends, their sophomore LP gets the top spot on the ‘necessary’ list.

Darker and more desperate, the album is constantly circled by a smoke ring of aloof detachment. The band excels at turning small phrases into slippery, repeated hooks that sloughed off much of what the bulk of ’96 was indulging in at the time. With a jazz tone touch and an downer rock heart, the band encapsulates the wounded air of the mid ‘90s and an underground ripple of experimentation that wasn’t always breaking through the surface. On the album the band finds their comfort and sink into it. That Acetone were released on as large a label as they were is almost stunning. Likely propagated by their debut’s sound, they’d wind up making quite likely labelmates with Low on the short-lived Virgin imprint Vernon Yard.

Largely that speaks to the kind of ‘throwing it all at the wall’ mentality of the ‘90s A&R approach, but hey, if it got Acetone and Low onto some shelves, even via used bins and discount stock selldown, then so be it. Years on, though, Acetone still seems to be a kind of word of mouth, secret handshake type of band. The ‘if you know, you know’ lost sons of the ‘90s, but with the kind of major label reissue redundancy that’s happening it seems time to take this gem from the CD/cassette era and give it an official pressing and some well-earned spotlight. Hell, even the out of print CDs are going for a pretty hefty sum these days. Not that I’m expecting an RSD rollout of the Acetone catalog, but maybe this one can break free and slip out as a one-off somewhere. However, whenever, it’s time.

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