Better Than Ezra Deluxe
A quarter of a century later, Better Than Ezra's Deluxe still has that familiar 90s rock band led by an acoustic guitar playing lead singer who writes more authentic lyrics and possesses less shrill vocals than his/her 80s predecessor feel to it.
Good is the best that Deluxe gets, allowing Better Than Ezra to tour forever.
One thing that is amazing about Better Than Ezra is that we recall them being a bit harder than they really were. In no way were they known for their intricate guitar work, blazing solos, bass slapping, or thunderous drumming. That's not to say we thought they were Soundgarden, but man, Dishwalla (Pet Your Friends) rocks way harder than the boys of BTE.
Don't read that as us not really liking them though. We do. Very much.
One thing we've noticed about Griffin is that he shares some vocal tonality with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Listen for it sometime. It's quite subtle, but it's there.
In the Blood
A better song than Good. There, we said it.
Wait, that goes against how we titled this album review? Oh well. It's true.
In the Blood is Deluxe's Somebody to Shove (Grave Dancer's Union). It is to Good what Somebody to Shove is to Runaway Train. And that's absolutely zero disrespect to those other two slower songs.
Griffin wrote a really excellent tune to lead off Deluxe. As it turns out, it's about an acquaintance of his contracting HIV. Here is the quote according to Songfacts:
"That song is about a good friend who had AIDS. He got HIV and AIDS and he passed away in '94, '95. And it was literally about what's in your blood, and what we give to one another emotionally and through experience. But also just spot-on hitting the nail on the head physically. I never really explained that song, because it was from real life. But that's what it's about."
There's also a mention of Griffin borrowing, as they say in the music business, a little bit from Catherine Wheel's Black Metallic, a song that was released in 1992.
The hit. Good was just hard enough to catch my attention when I took a moment to turn In Utero, Vs., and Purple down.
Bridge key change!
yeeeeeeah, that's right!
Southern Gürl employs the Motley Crüe umlaut, the most famous of all umlauts.
Griffin is quite insistent about wanting and needing a Southern Gürl. Throws in a bendy outro solo that's pining, before switching on the crystals effect (i think) on the reverb pedal to walk the song out.
The Killer Inside
Clean guitars roll out a descending arpeggio. Toss in some organ swells, and then some spaghetti western lead guitar work, and you have The Killer Inside. You know, before the introspective bass that precedes verse 2 and Lili Haydn's succinct violin work.
A song about abuse and pain. Rosealia, in lyrical content, melody, and instrumentation, would fit right in within the 90s Tempe scene. Which is quite fitting, as Griffin was living in Santa Fe, NM when wrote it.
If Rosealia had appeared on New Miserable Experience (Gin Blossoms) or Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy (The Refreshments), would you be surprised? The answer is no. It has the chime-y guitars, the lonely harmonica, and the tough, grinding lyrics.
Cry in the Sun
Cry in the Sun is the song template for every single singer-songwriter that toured on college entertainment budgets in the late 90s/early 2000s and fancied themselves a modern day Dylan, but with smoother vocals.
Griffin pens perhaps the lightest-hearted break up tune of the 90s with Cry in the Sun. Buoyed by Walt Thompson's 70s-style organ work on the old Hammond, Cry in the Sun could easily have charted on the adult contemporary chart. Also fairly certain My Friend Steve wrote the sequel a couple of years later named All in All off of Hope & Wait.
Teenager is a good rock tune with complimentary interplay between the bass and guitar. It's got a good groove without diming the amps.
Ambient music that is a bit discordant, with interesting guitar dives/power outages. Ether ends abruptly.
Bassist Tom Drummond finally rubs some dirt on his 4 string. If Rosealia is about abuse and pain, Summerhouse feels like the retaliation.
Love the descending double bends.
If I were trying to restock Summerhouse as a single at Newbury Comics in the 90s, I'd have filed it under alt-prog-surf.
Is that a thing?
Melanie Owen's backing vocals are the strongest part of Porcelain.
The mid 90s adored clean electric guitars. If you told me that Heaven was a Toad the Wet Sprocket song, I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
Engaging reverse functionality on the delay pedal. Commence!
This Time of Year
This Time of Year is vintage BTE. Griffin's vocals are memorable, based on timbre alone.
Another song that could have been on Fizzy Fuzzy. Crossing state lines, coyotes, Southwestern landmarks ... all I'm waiting on is the heavy boozin'!
Coyote is perfect for a road trip packed with sleeping bags, hatchets, and one match to get the campfire going.
More Deluxe Details
References & Sources
Reviews of Better Than Ezra Albums