Sponge

Oh boy, it’s “Song”, from “Band”! How exciting!

“Filter”, you remember them, they referenced R. Budd Dwyer in a hit song, and the lead singer’s brother played the T-1000 in the classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Can you believe that movie is from 1991?!

I’m betting the Patrick brothers were a real couple of pistols back in the day. As the liquid-metal T-1000, Robert delivered a master class in good cop/bad cop. The majority of his menace comes from his facial expressions alone. (And his excellent protruding ears.)

Ah ah ah. You didn’t say the magic word.

Just imagine sitting around with the Patrick brothers, knocking back a few brews, and after you make an innocent faux pas, Rob shoots you the look shown above. You’d be fit to be tied.

Sponge was formed in 1991, just like T2, in Detroit, Michigan. Their lead singer was Vinnie Dombroski, and almost everything Sponge-related follows the BUM-pa bum-BUM-pa cadence of his name: Rotting Piñata (album), “Neenah Menasha” (single). I don’t know why, but this sort of thing bugs me over time. Sponge was signed to Sony, which is why they enjoyed the marketing blitzkrieg that they did.

Oh my god, aren’t you dudes cool. You’re just too cool for the room, dudes.

Rotting Piñata was a reference to GG Allin, who intended to kill himself on stage (and instead overdosed on cocaine). Sponge joked about hanging Allin’s corpse from the rafters at their shows, so the audience could throw objects at it, like a “rotting piñata”. Credit where due: these guys were signed to Sony, and they referenced that a transgressive rocker even existed. No current Sony artist has ever heard Allin’s name. They’d call the cops on you if you played his music.

I maintain that the cover of Rotting Piñata is hideous.

It’s the latest from CANDY CORN BOY!

Some intern at “WORK Group” (now-extinct label) slapped that together, I’m betting. Come on, man, that’s clip art and fonts. I know it was the ’90s, and effort was a dirty word, but still. I’d be pretty pissed if I put the months of work into recording an album, and the art department comes back with that. Ever hear the story of Rick Wakeman and the cover of Yes’s Tormato, from 1978?

I thought not; it’s a Sith legend. Rick Wakeman was so disgusted with the proposed album photos for the upcoming “Yes Tor”, he hurled a fat tomato at them. Hipgnosis then changed both the title and image, causing one of their designers to hurl a tomato, as seen above. The world may never know the truth, but the fact remains that Tormato is a goddamn horrible pun.

The Sponge EP that I used to have was much more interesting, conceptually. Here’s an art department being literal, but still doing the job they were presumably paid to do.

The reverse side is a high-resolution photo of the scouring pad. It’s cardboard with a plastic CD tray that slides out. Nice.

Like I said, literal, but clever.

I can’t fault a rock band for having no artistic inclinations within its members; I just personally feel that a tossed-off album design is a missed opportunity. Some musicians don’t give a fuck what the package looks like, especially today, where it matters less than it did. And hell, a band performing on a stage has very little to do with visual art; it’s sound. So remember that my criticisms of Sponge are, at best, superficial.

In the picture I posted, you can see that the members of Sponge are tattooed as fuck (though not as tattooed as the girl with all the shit in her face). That means they must have had some interest in art, even though they might have only chosen it off the walls of a tattoo studio. The average musician knows at least one starving artist, right? Was there not one person who could come up with something better than “spilled candy corn”?

1996’s Wax Ecstatic is even uglier. Clearly this guy ate all that candy corn.

Sony’s WORK label went defunct in 1999, the same fate as most corporate boutique labels. I referenced this in the Stabbing Westward strip. One of these was Madonna’s “Maverick” label, from which we got Candlebox. Fucking Candlebox.

Do you see the pattern? These labels didn’t sign these bands because they were astonishing in their talent; they were picked because they were generic versions of popular groups. Guys without a ton of “artistic integrity”, with no delusions of grandeur, like starting their own label (competition). Generic “rock musicians”, right out of Central Casting (often literally). Aspiring actors are even better, since they often come with the ability to play an instrument, and they recognize things like contracts and NDAs. Before you know it, you’ve got a band.

For around five years, anyway.

Sponge went “independent” in 1999, resulting in an album cover that looks like it took more than five minutes to render.

Still ugly, though.

There once was a term in the stock market: “pump and dump“. It has been excoriated everywhere but the Internet. Here, you can take an entity like a band, movie, or model, empty your bank account (and others) promoting it, and then dump it when the demand is highest. Because your entity isn’t good enough to go the distance; it’s just a retread of someone talented’s footsteps. You have to dump it quickly, before the audience catches on.

Anyone involved that is contracted as part of the entity has to support it, or risk losing their career. They are paid to lie to your face, if necessary. For example, you didn’t notice, but everyone who’s making fun of Donald Trump and his cabinet on Saturday Night Live this weekend is someone who has barely worked for the past ten years. 

Rosie O’Donnell will no doubt be cheered deafeningly when he appears as Steve Bannon, even though he (sorry) she promised to move to Canada when Trump was elected. She is banking on her physical repulsiveness to ridicule this Bannon guy that apparently terrifies everyone who watches Saturday Night Live. Alec Baldwin is getting lots of love playing Trump, which is good I guess, after Kim Basinger and their spoiled daughter ruined Alec’s image completely, with one mean voicemail. 

See how the marketing machine works? See how cancerously political it’s become? These people are working again because they hate the people that the show’s producer hates. They’re doing something that would be unimaginable and unprofessional if Hillary had won; devoting all their efforts toward ridiculing the president. 

This would be fine (Chevy Chase used to ridicule Gerald Ford, and Phil Hartman did Reagan, so there is a proud legacy of irreverence on SNL), if the connections weren’t so visible. These people are still part of the machine they deride. They have more money than you or I will ever see. Yet, they still see fit to lecture us on politics and our lives.

“Wall”? Saudi Arabia is building a wall to keep out ISIS. We’re the only pussies that have a problem with it, which is how we get randomly attacked and murdered. Did you have a problem with Trump’s travel ban? Hey- name the countries that it restricted. I’ll wait while you look them up, I know you have no idea. There’s your politics.

Maybe the name “Sponge” worked better than I thought; their label used them to sop up profit, rang them out, and tossed them aside.

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