While scouring the mp3 blogs for ‘things I vaguely remember being interested in,’ ‘stuff I’d seen back when record stores were a thing, but didn’t have the money,’ and ‘hey, if you’re that enthused about it, Mr. Blog Writer, sure, I’ll give it a listen,’ I found this little cross-genre stinker: ‘Why I’m Here,’ by Oleander.
Back in ’99, your ‘Rock’ stations that hadn’t totally given up and become ‘Classic Rock’ stations either had a backbone of Metallica, Guns’n’Roses, and more Metallica, or Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Pearl Jam. Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock and the like were only just beginning to push ‘grunge’ off the radio. Nevertheless, superprofessional, up-to-the-minute ‘grunge’ was being made. Like this particular track by Oleander, which sounds about as perfectly like Nirvana as could be imagined. I mean, it’s even got a cello on it — and it’s not even unplugged! It was a radio hit in Birmingham, which was something of a ‘test market’ in those days. There are some things you’d hear on Birmingham radio that you wouldn’t necessarily hear on a ‘big-time’ station like the WHFS of the period. I wasn’t exactly shocked to get back up to Baltimore and discover no one had heard of Oleander and this goofy ‘Heart-Shaped Box’/’All Apologies’ soundalike.
Back in ’02 or ’03 — I forget when — there was some ‘new’ Nirvana track that was released with some ‘greatest hits’ or live album that was completely underwhelming to the good-music-loving world at large. They should have just licensed the Oleander track — since it wasn’t a ‘nationwide’ hit — and just said it was the ‘lost’ Nirvana song. It would have been much less embarrassing for everyone involved.
Although now that I’ve listened to it a few more times while running errands, I’m convinced it’s also a perfect pastiche of Metallica’s ‘Load’ album. I would not be surprised to find out that the members of Oleander wore flannel shirts with spiky gel-hair with frosted tips, just like a mutant Nirvana/Metallica offspring. I’ve never seen them. I had the opportunity to do so, at Birmingham’s 2000 City Stages, but I went over to see Del McCoury. One of those mysteries, like the center of a Tootsie Pop.