This weeks post we take a look at three of the bands featured on last weeks post of Alias Records Year of the Wagon sampler and Fueled by Ramen’s Year of the Rat Sampler.

Formed in the summer of 1991 North Carolina’s Small was part of the influential (and highly hyped) Chapel Hill, NC music scene that formed around the group Superchunk and its Merge Record label. Unfortunately for the group, at the same time there were three similarly named groups, Rhode Island’s Small Factory, Canada’s Smalls and Oregon’s Small. A threat of legal action by the Oregon group prompted the group to change their name to Small 23 for a time during the True Zero Hook period.

The group’s original line-up consisted of singer/guitarists Mike Kenlan and Eric Bachmann, bassist Matt Walter and ex-Superchunk drummer Chuck Garrison. The group’s debut single, 1992’s “Makes Me High” and a Small/Pipe split were financed by Walter and attracted the attention of Rockville Records, who released 1993’s Cakes EP. With it’s twin guitar attack, solid vocals and an emphasis on melodic pop-punk the ep clearly showed the influences of Dinosaur Jr/Superchunk but its modest success attracted the attention of the much larger Alias Records.

Just before Cakes release Bachmann left in order to commit full-time to his other project, Archers of Loaf. His spot in the line-up was filled by Dave Hollinghurst.

Released in 1993, True Zero Hook, along with Icky Mettle by contemporaries the Archers of Loaf

are exciting snapshots of a post-Nirvana/Husker Dü moment when it seemed like great indie guitar rock was poised to take over the world.

With it’s combination of circular riffing, chorus-based singing, an appealingly melancholic lyrical directness, great indie-punk melodies, the ability to rock out, and subtle hooks that reveal themselves with repeat listening True Zero Hook is

a don’t-miss album for any serious fan of the early-’90s indie rock genre.


Small (23)

Singles, EPs and Full-Length

“Makes Me High” (7″ Single) (Matt Label) 1992
“Chopsocky” b/w “Useless” (7″ Single) (Alias Records) 1993
“Noodles b/w Wet Cement” (7″ Single) (Matt Label) 1993
“True Zero Hook” Small/Archers of Loaf split (7″ Single) (Alias Records) 1993
“Toastmaster” (7″ Single) (Alias Records) 1994
“Chew It Down” Small 23/J Church split (7″ Single) (Honey Bear Records) 1994
“B Is For Bridge”/”Happy Days (Are Here Again)” (7″ Single) (Alias Records) 1995
Small/Pipe Split (7″ Single)
Cakes EP (CD) (Rockville) 1993
True Zero Hook (CD) (Alias Records) 1993
Free T-Shirts For Spain EP (CD) (Alias Records) 1994
Chin Music (CD) (Alias Records) 1994
Silver Gleaming Death Machine (CD) (Alias Records) 1995

Tracks Appear On:

“Something Stupid” Chairman of the Board: Interpretations of Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra (2 x CD) (Grass Records) 1993
“Eb” A Day In The Park… A Compilation Of Now Sounds (CD) (The Now Sound) 1994
“Vega And Boston” We Don’t Give Jack (Cass) (Alias Records) 1996
“The Bert Factor”, “True Zero Hook” The Year of The Wagon (CD) (Alias Records) 1997
“True Zero Hook”, “A Wall to Paint On” Alias with a Bullet (CD) (Alias Records)
“Toastmaster” IndiE-Gestion IV: Indie Goes to Hell (CD)

Small 23 – True Zero Hook (1993)

Playing Time: 43 minutes 24 seconds

small 23-true zero hook

1. True Zero Hook (3:42)
2. Off Balance (3:03)
3. Noodles (2:40)
4. Makes Me High (3:19)
5. Red Comes Up (4:54)
6. Recharged (3:22)
7. Finding It Hard To Believe That There Was A Floor (3:26)
8. Saturday (2:32)
9. A Wall To Paint On (3:26)
10. Before We Forget (3:27)
11. Get Used To It (3:21)
12. Chopsocky (6:12)

Buy True Zero Hook from

Emo core indie-rock group Knapsack was founded in 1993 by vocalist/guitarist Blair Shehan and drummer Colby Mancasola; two high school friends studying at the University of California at Davis. The original group also included guitarist Jason Bokros and bassist Rod Meyer. Constant touring and a 7″ single, released by San Diego’s Goldenrod Records, brought them to the attention of Alias Records who signed the group in May 1994.

Their debut full-length, Silver Sweepstakes, was released by Alias in April of 1995. The group toured extensively in support of it with groups like Pavement, Jawbox, Drive Like Jehu and Rocket from the Crypt.

If there is one flaw to Silver Sweepstakes it’s the “guitars’ unwavering sizzle-roar” because except for the tracks “Effortless” and “Centennial”, the album is without major changes in tempo and melody, causing it at times to feel monotonous… however, if you like your guitars loud this album might be your cup of tea.



Singles and Full-Length

“Dropkick” (7″ Split) (Alias Records)
“True To Form”/”Effortless” (7″ Single) (Alias Records)
Silver Sweepstakes (Cass, CD) (Alias Records) 1995
Day Three of My New Life (Cass, CD) (Alias Records) 1997
This Conversation is Ending Starting Right Now (Cass, CD) (Alias Records) 1998

Tracks Appear On:

“Trainwrecker” I Hear Ya! Winter 1994-1995 (CD)
“Cellophane” We Don’t Give Jack (Cass.) (Alias Records) 1996
“Cellophane” American Pie 2 (CD) (Rubber Records, Australia) 1996
“Decorate the Spine” Premium: New Music With a Golden Glow (CD) (Alias Records) 1996
“Cellophane” The Year of The Wagon (CD) (Alias Records) 1997
“Thursday Side Of The Street” CMJ New Music April – Volume 44 (CD) (College Music Journal) 1997
“Less Than” Don’t Forget to Breathe (CD) (Crank!) 1997
“Thursday Side Of The Street” HITS Post Modern Syndrome 39: Spite Girls (CD) 1997
“Shape Of The Fear” ADA Sampler September ’98 (CD) (Alternative Distribution Alliance) 1998
“Shape Of The Fear” September 1998 (2 x CD) (Virtuallyalternative) 1998
“Katherine” Vans “Off the Wall” Sampler (CD) 1998
“Katherine the Grateful” CMJ New Music Monthly Volume 64: December 1998 (CD) (College Music Journal) 1998
“Decorate the Spine” Nowcore! The Punk Rock Evolution (CD) 1999
“Effortless” Spin This 6 (CD)


Knapsack – Silver Sweepstakes (1995)

Playing Time: 40 minutes 3 seconds

knapsack-silver sweepstakes

1. Cellophane (3:32)
2. Trainwrecker (3:55)
3. Effortless (3:14)
4. Fortunate and Holding (3:51)
5. Casanova (2:44)
6. Makeshift (1:28)
7. Centennial (3:47)
8. Symmetry (3:17)
9. True to Form (2:24)
10. Addressee (5:55)
11. Silver Sweepstakes (5:56)

Buy Silver Sweepstakes from Alias Records

Buy Silver Sweepstakes from

Sarge we hardly knew you. Lead by singer/songwriter Elizabeth Elmore Champaign, IL, punk-pop group Sarge formed in late 1995 and originally included Rachel Switzky on bass and Russ Horvath on drums. They played their first show in January 1996; and just months into their existence were being compared to Sleater-Kinney, Scrawl, and even Throwing Muses; but by 2000 they had disbanded. Signed to Mud Records their debut single, “Dear Josie, Love Robyn”, was released in March 1996 and received some exposure and media attention as the group toured the US. Charcoal, the group’s debut full-length was also released in 1996, but shortly after its release Horvath left the group and was replaced by drummer Chad Romanski.

Their sophomore full-length, The Glass Intact, recorded with second guitarist Pat Cramer was released in 1998 and proved to be their breakthrough record. This emotional, punk rock-style album received serious media attention, being reviewed by, The Village Voice, and would also make Spin Magazine’s top twenty list for 1998. The year also saw them dubbed “Hot Band of 1998” by Rolling Stone Magazine. The album would go onto sell nearly 20,000 copies. Following the album’s release Cramer left the band and was replaced by Sue Roth; but line-up changes continued to plague the band as original member Rachel Switzky left at the end of 1998 and was replaced by bassist Derek Niedringhaus. Elmore enrolled in Northwestern Law School in 1999 and opted to dissolve the band.

Distant, released in 2000, is a posthumous collection of Sarge demos and live tracks. Opening with the band’s final new recordings and concluding with a pair of Elmore solo efforts, the the core of the album consists of a

half dozen live tracks recorded in August of 1999 while opening for another late, lamented Champaign band, Braid.

Rolling Stone magazine would write about the group

“Sarge understands what you need from rock & roll: punk guitars, girlie vocals, power-pop melodies and songs that find new ways to say “Love stinks.”

and if there is one track on this album that summarizes all of the above it’s definitely Detroit Star-lite. This is an indie group that could flat out rock and knew regardless of what the lyrics were about that the basic purpose of rock n’ roll, those big guitars, the drums, that big beat is get the audience up out of their seats and out onto the dance floor. Listen to this song and you can see enjoying every minute of this song and enjoying their ability to move the audience. Sometimes it takes the girls to show the boys how it’s suppose to be done.



Singles and Full-Length

Charcoal (CD) (Mud) 1996
“Dear Josie, Love Robyn” (7″ Single) (Mud) 1996
“Backlash” Sarge/Supporting Actress (7″ Split) (Grand Theft Autumn) 1996
“Stall”/”Time After Time” (7″ Single) (Mud) 1997
The Glass Intact (LP) (Mud) 1998
The Glass Intact (CD) (Mud) 1998
Distant (CD) (Mud) 2000

Tracks Appear On:

“Dear Josie, Love Robyn” CMJ New Music November – Volume 39 (CD) (College Music Journal) 1996
“Beguiling” The Year of the Rat (CD) (Fueled By Ramen) 1998
“A Torch” No-Fi Trash (CD) (Suburban Home) 2001
“Dear Josie, Love Robyn” Ooh Do I Love You (2 x CD)
“Last Christmas” The My Pal God Holiday Record (2 x CD) (My Pal God Records)


Sarge – Distant (2000)

Playing Time: 52 minutes 19 seconds


1. Detroit Star-lite (3:33)
2. the end of july (4:33)
3. Clearer (4:00)
4. Stall (live) (3:26)
5. Fast Girls (live) (2:59)
6. Half as Far (live) (4:03)
7. Dear Josie, Love Robyn (live) (3:00)
8. Homewrecker (live) (3:55)
9. the first morning (live) (3:54)
10. These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (3:05)
11. Last Christmas (3:56)
12. Time After Time (4:38)
13. distant (1:28)
14. all my plans changed… (5:49)

Buy Distant from Parasol Records

Buy Distant from

4 responses to “Trio

  1. Small 23??? How did I miss this?!?!?! Knapsack…check. Sarge…check. Small 23?? Completely unknown to me.

    So did they actually record anything with Eric on vox?

  2. Hey there. Thanks for all the great stuff. I listened to a lot of the same records back in the day.

    I couldn’t open the Small 23 archive – the reg password doesn’t seem to work.

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