Over it’s 50+ years existence Rock N’ Roll has tended to be male dominated. The 1960’s did see the rise of the girl groups; (who were controlled and manipulated by men), or “underground” acts such as the Grace Slick fronted Jefferson Airplane, or the Janis Joplin fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Punk Rock in the late 1970’s seemed to the providence of angry young white men; the 1980’s saw an increased emphasis on heavy metal, typified by groups like Metallica, and eventually the development of the “hair band.” There were some all-female or female-led rock band that achieved commercial success in the 1980’s, the Go-Go’s, Bangles, and Joan Jett all come to mind, but still
“because of the success of Go-Go’s and Bangles many females were frustrated at not being taken seriously or only thought of as “cute chicks playing music”
The early 1990’s witnessed a resurgence of American interest in pop-punk and as a consequence of that a reaffirmation of punk’s original D.I.Y spirit. Combine that D.I.Y spirit, female frustration (musical or otherwise), Riot Grrrls and mainstream magazines like Sassy helping to empower teenage girls and by the mid 1990’s all of a sudden you have
“a roster of all-female or female-led rock
bands from Garbage to Hole that, for a brief moment, took over the radio airwaves and made rock a less testosterone-driven ball game.”
Though groups like the Shirley Manson lead Garbage, Hole (Courtney Love), The Breeders (Kelley Deal), or Belly (Tanya Donnelly) managed to achieve success because of their presence on commercial radio, the majority of 90’s girl groups, like L7, Throwing Muses, Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch and Tribe 8 were largely confined to college rock radio.
While they never attained the level of success of Garbage or Hole the Boston based, female-fronted pop outfit Mistle Thrush straddled the line between commercial and college radio success. Championed by legendary Boston rock station WBCN
“WBCN Boston PD Oedipus says, “[Forgione] is a compelling lead singer, and the band has given us good music. They’re one of the best bands in Boston.”
While they achieved their greatest success in the greater Boston area, they also toured nationally, sharing the stage with the likes of:
Aerosmith, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Boo Radleys, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Candy Butchers, Cranes, David J, The Fixx, Garbage, Gigolo Aunts, Helium, Ivy, Love and Rockets, Love Spit Love, Luscious Jackson Lush, Mercury Rev, Morphine, Amanda Palmer, The Push Stars, Seven Mary Three, Slowdive, Sonic Youth, Splashdown, Spiritualized, The Strokes, Jen Trynin, Steve Wynn.
Formed in 1993 by Scott Patalano and Brad Rigney (guitars), Ruben Layman (bass), Todd Demma (drums) and Valerie Forgione (vocals, keyboards) the group
“took their name from a bird that eats the poisonous-to-most berries of the mistletoe plant.”
With a range of musical influences that included Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey and The Verve The Boston Herald described the bands sound
“as The Cure-meets-Fairport Convention” and the band with “its brand of shimmering, sometimes dark, but always catchy pop”
while music critic Steve Morse of The Boston Globe said they were
“an expansive, psychedelic-spiced rock unit with influences from Jim Morrison to Kate Bush”
1994 saw the release of their debut single “Beside” / “Shine Away” on Washington, D.C.’s Bedazzled Records who also released the 5-song CD Agus Amàrach later that same year.
In 1995 found the group reaching the semi-finals of the 17th annual WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble; replacing Brad Rigney with Matthew Kattman and releasing their debut full length, Silt.
Two years later they signed with the “fake” indie label, Egg Records (bank rolled by major label Elektra), who released their sophomore effort, Super Refraction. That album made the Boston Heralds “Local Best of 1997” list, and was also nominated for
“a Boston Music Award for Indie Label Album of the Year, with Forgione also being nominated for Outstanding Local Female Vocalist.”
“Super Refraction received national airplay and attention, charting on CMJ’s Top 100, entering daily rotation on WBCN, and earning a “pick hit” in Friday Morning Quarterback.”
Disillusioned with Egg Records they signed a publishing deal with Warner-Chappell Music and than used most of the advance money buying out the remainder of their 5-album contract with Egg.
With their recording career effectively on hold while the legal wrangling took place the band members needed to find other creative outlets. Forgione appeared as Mary Magdalene in the Boston Rock Opera’s 2000 production of Jesus Christ Superstar to positive reviews.
The legal wrangling eventually took its toll on the band and Kattman and Layman both left. Matthew Klain was hired to take over on bass. 2002’s Drunk with You was released on the new Los Angeles indie label, Ecstatic, but proved to be their final album.
“WBCN has once again gotten behind the band and added the first single, “Small”, to regular rotation.”
“The album was recognized by the Boston Music Awards with a nominations for Local Album of the Year, and Local Song of the Year (for the song “Small” )”
According to the band’s website, they’re on hiatus but they haven’t performed since July 2003. Forgione’s current project is called Van Elk but a recent check of their My Space page seems to indicate that band may also to be on hiatus.
Singles, EPs and Full-length
Tracks Appear On:
“Whispers” Kindred Spirits (CD) (Bedazzled) 1994
“Beyond Reach” Soon (CD) (Castle von Buhler) 1994
“She Is A Flower” Woke Up Smiling (CD) (Bedazzled) 1995
“51 Pegasi: Rocket Song, V.1” Wicked Deluxe (CD) (Wicked Disc) 1996
“Wake Up (The Sleep Song)” Radio Hepcats (CD) (Antarctic Press) 1996
“Flowereyed” (demo)” Spring Fling (CD) (Pulp Magazine) 1996
“Heavy Set John” Know Your Enemy: Friends of the Archenemy Record Company (CD) (Archenemy Record Company) 2000
“Heavy Set John”, “Judy Stone” Notes From Thee Real Underground (3xCD) (Underground, Inc.) 2001
Playing Time: 58 minutes 8 seconds
1. Freshwater (2:14)
2. Flowereyed (4:20)
3. One Sixth (0:42)
4. Cicada (5:52)
5. Overpass (4:21)
6. Some Poet (5:03)
7. Wake Up (The Sleep Song) (5:59)
8. Silt (1:05)
9. Red Caboose (4:02)
10. Shine Away (6:21)
11. The Shy and My Hands (5:22)
12. The Honey Trip (9:27)
13. Bloom (3:20)
Buy Silt from the Band
Super Refraction (1997)
Playing Time: 1 hour 7 minutes 47 seconds
1. Stupid Song (3:13)
2. Moth-Like (4:02)
3. It’s All Like Today (5:01)
4. Yellow Day (4:27)
5. 51 Pegasi: Rocketship V. 2 (2:40)
6. Do You Know This Bird? (3:07)
7. All Mirror Thing (3:40)
8. Train Song (4:52)
9. Escapades in Glass (4:23)
10. Sha Sha (5:57)
11. Making Salt with Sunshine (26:25)
Buy Super Refraction from cdUniverse