photo & text by nacrowe
out of all the POST-GRUNGE bands that were signed and foisted on the public by major labels in the halcyon gold rush era that were those immediate post-NEVERMIND years in the early 1990s, one of the best undoubtedly was the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band SPONGE. to my ears they had a decidedly STRIPPED-BACK classic GLAM ROCK (think T. REX, THE NEW YORK DOLLS, etc) aesthetic that differentiated them from their more EARNEST and flannel-clad peers at the time. that being said, i associate the band with their MEMORABLE, HARD-CHARGING, MELODIC single "PLOWED" off of their debut ROTTING PIÑATA (WORK GROUP, 1994) which was as much of a staple on 106.7 KROQ FM in LOS ANGELES during my childhood as anything produced by NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, PEARL JAM or STONE TEMPLE PILOTS ever was. just the sound of vocalist VINNIE DOMBROSKI's EXPANSIVE voice on that track brings back playground images of pickup basketball and weekend excursions to nearby DISNEYLAND during my elementary school years.
and the UBIQUITY of that track is probably the root of their SECOND-TIER STATUS at the time. unlike the FOO FIGHTERS, BUSH, CANDLEBOX and SILVERCHAIR who were all similar-sounding SUCCESSFUL bands that emerged in the immediate wake of the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the early 1990s, SPONGE only had one massive hit single with an accompanying album that was otherwise largely forgettable. i know people will point to the track "MOLLY (SIXTEEN CANDLES)" but until i reacquainted myself with SPONGE in the early 2000s id never heard it before and had zero recollection of such on the radio when it was a new song. those POST-GRUNGE bands notoriously get little respect as they are the go-between stepping stools between the waning ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene and the emerging BELLIGERENT, AGGRESSIVE and decidedly MISOGYNISTIC NU METAL that followed. they occupied a temporary NICHE in the market that was already looking past them upon arrival. a CULTURAL ANACHRONISM of sorts before they had a chance.
that all may sound HARSH, but in terms of singles, "PLOWED" is still an UNDENIABLE track that stands up with the best of that period. i wouldnt necessarily recommend ROTTING PIÑATA in totality as it is a bit of a TOP-HEAVY album. check out the more COHESIVE and similarly GLAM ROCK-influenced TINY MUSIC... SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (ATLANTIC, 1996) by STONE TEMPLE PILOTS released just two years later instead.