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Louisville's Evergreen Crafted Off-Kilter, Melodious Hardcore That Burned Bright and Fast

Louisville's Evergreen Crafted Off-Kilter, Melodious Hardcore That Burned Bright and Fast

July 17, 2018 | by Jocelyn Hoppa

Listen to records between 1991-1996 and you’re going to hear the influences of Spiderland, Slint’s 1991 album, their second and last, and likely most widely known for its unique stance amongst the shambolic '90s hardcore at the time. A big bang showing signs of life to form. Even though the band split up just as the noise and urgency of the Louisville scene was taking shape (Rodan, Crain, Cinderblock), the sound proliferated and reconfigured into other bands.

Evergreen was one such band. In their first few years, Evergreen featured an ever-revolving lineup and name changes. In fact, they started as a metal band called Revenant, slid down the slippery slope of house party hardcore/funk, and landed somewhere around guitarist Tim Ruth’s experimental exploits (Ruth was in Slint and a ton of other bands like Cinderblock and Pale Horse Riders). In this early lineup incarnation, members also included Dave Pollard (Four Rose Society, Cinderblock, Odessa), Troy Lee Cox, and Matt Tucker (Cinderblock, Blacklisted) — a true local supergroup.

However, none of the people just mentioned made the band’s lone LP.

The new lineup solidified around 1993 when Britt Walford (Slint, The Breeders, The For Carnation, Watter) joined on drums, and vocalist/guitarist/drunken poet Sean McLoughlin became their frontman who could certainly hold a paradoxical candle to the likes of Nation of Ulysses’ Ian Svenonius in his wild onstage antics. Lo, another true local supergroup.

Walford, the same mastermind behind Slint songs like “Rhoda” and “Glenn” was the visionary in Evergreen — so much more than what typically constitutes a drummer position within a band. Percussive guitars, groovy low-end bass lines, and instantly catchy drumming drives the songs of their only full-length eponymous released in 1996. Certainly strains of Slint are present in Evergreen's sound, but they were also influenced in equal parts by Fugazi, Television, the Stooges, and the post-rock leanings of Krautrock.

Everything about Evergreen is so characteristic of place and time, riding on live tradition and other certain guiding fundementals during the ‘90s.

The album kicks off with mid-tempo “Fairlane,” which epitomizes the bands overall sound:

Second track “Petting the Beast” brings the energy level back up into a punk rager:

And then they drop “Solar Song,” which is all raw, direct power with an undeniable hook:

There's oddball gems like “Plastic Bag” about living life in a plastic bag:

The band could get totally oblique, as heard on “Sweet Jane”:

As well as take some off-kilter excursions:

The usual show closer, “Pants Off,” even kind of sounds like a Jack White premonition:

Evergreen was full of rock intensity and experimental spirit, but they were also the kind of thing that wasn’t going to crop up in Seattle or Chicago.

One had to look deeper south where christians and conservatives abound, a place where counterculture wasn’t exactly slapping a person upside the head with each turn on a city corner. It was a small, somewhat unnatural, but monumental scene fueled by young folks keen on DIY attitude and showing local support.

Louisville in the mid-'90s was a particular moment in time. A time that birthed Evergreen as the noisy, experimental hardcore legends that couldn’t quite get their act together. It was a time that shined bright, however sloppily and temporarily. The record — produced by DFA’s James Murphy, who is credited as saying they were the most "for-real rock band [he] ever recorded" — has become something of an unassuming rarity as time has passed. But Evergreen also happens to be a post-hardcore masterpiece that can and should persist.

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