The Gin Blossoms: The Best of Gin Blossoms (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection)

Jon Langmead

The Gin Blossoms

The Best of Gin Blossoms (20th Century Masters: the Millennium Collection)

Label: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection
US Release Date: 2003-09-23
UK Release Date: 2003-10-20

It's easy to kick at the Gin Blossoms because their success so far outstripped their talent. From about 1993-1996, their songs were hurtled at the radio like wet spaghetti as A&M kept hoping for a repeat of "Hey Jealousy". With only two really worthy radio songs to their credit (though both are really credited to Doug Hopkins, the guitarist they kicked out before they broke through), the second being better than the first and both being much better than anything they wrote without said guitarist, and filler songs that tried but never really did, they figure to never get any real respect even as "Hey Jealousy" figures to keep pulling in the royalties thanks to spins on MIX radio.

Mediocre power pop, maybe by definition, possesses little back bone, so stripping away at what's left of it, as the Gin Blossoms really did, leaves you with limp outlines for songs that are out of ideas half-way through the first chorus but which repeat their hollow hooks for usually two more verses and three more choruses. I personally find it to be about the most self-indulgent and deflating kind of music there is. At its very best, the songs will be catchy but never really inspiring, and if power pop can't make you get up and run around the room or shift to a higher gear when it comes on the radio, caffeinated from a guitar hook or a melody line or a perfectly dropped drum fill, what's the point of it? Had the Gin Blossoms never gotten so popular, had their music and videos not been spun to death, history might have looked kinder upon them.

"Hey Jealousy", just as a straight-up pop song, works wonders. It hints at just enough depth to keep it from being purely a guilty pleasure but it's hobbled by a sound that is so hilariously ready for mainstream radio that nothing gets left to the imagination. Head to head, I like "Found out about You" better but when it was released as the band's second single it was a pretty clear sign that they were a one-trick pony. Marshall Crenshaw's name lent some credibility to "Til I Hear It from You", which starts off harmlessly enough but gets sabotaged by a fall-apart bridge that leads in with a lyric ("I can't let it get me off") whose delivery has always just always struck me as gross.

Maybe what this collection reveals most is how the band was completely unable or unwilling to break out of their self-imposed formula. It's almost startling how the ideas get rehashed from song to song and this becomes particularly evident when they're heard back to back instead of broken-up on the radio. It must really stick in the band's craw that they'll never really get out of Doug Hopkins's shadow, but nothing here makes much of a case for any other point of view. His four songs here are the best, though they're built from most of the same bits that make-up "Hey Jealousy" ("Lost Horizons" uses the guitar line and "Pieces of the Night" the bass line; both use the same harmonies as "Found out about You"). For the other songs, the vocal hook on "Follow You Down" isn't bad, though the lyrics and harmonica part are, and I've always liked "Until I Fall Away". Still, as the songs snowball, they come across as so adult-contemporary that you just start to feel a little gross. By the time "As Long As It Matters" gets its spin, the harmonies sound nice for about one line and then they can turn your stomach because you realize that what these guys developed into was a scruffy-faced take on Wilson Phillips. Thanks, but no thanks.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.