Good Friday, 1995. 17 years ago, I attended the album release party of a Manhattan, Kansas band called Truck Stop Love. They were releasing their first (and sadly only) full-length on Backyard Records. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is that album.
TSL was, arguably, the most successful band to come out of Manhattan, not just in the 90's, but ever. The 90's were the peak of Manhattan's local music scene. Labels were scouring the states for the next this or that, bars in town were actually supporting live music, people actually showed up and creativity seemed to be at an apex. There was a great confluence of bands in Manhattan at that time. Between Puke Weasel/Spine, Roach Factory, Sufferbus, TSL, Ten Thumb and countless others, the "scene" kinda meant something. Truck Stop Love got picked up by Scotti Brothers records, recorded an EP and then started in on the full-length that's the subject of this post.
With a Midwestern bar band sound that perfectly mixed influences of The Replacements, Urge Overkill, TSL running buddies God's Favorite Band, Big Star (this album was co-produced by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens) and many others, Truck Stop Love managed to coalesce all of that into an album that shines as the pinnacle representation of what it meant to be in this area, in the local music scene at the time.
The album's cover art, a basic turntable book-ended with two well worn speakers, visually represented what awaited on the disc. The lead track 'You Owe' is exactly what the title implies (if you read between the lines of the title). It's an Urge Overkill-inspired blast that's over almost as soon as it starts. The next song, 'Other Stars', shows how perfectly balanced this band was, in terms of utilizing their twin singer/guitarist threats, Matt Mozier (vocals on 'You Owe') and Rich Yarges (vocals 'Other Stars'). Mozier's voice was the gruff, Paul Westerberg-esque sound, capable of conveying both pleasure and pain, whereas Yarges owned the cleaner, more plaintive voice that reflected sorrowful heartache.
I'm probably a bit biased but, all these years later, I still don't hear a clunker on the album. 'Walton's Mountain' adds a touch of banjo to the garage punk proceedings, the title track is one of the fastest, hardest rock songs you'll ever hear in the genre and 'Benny' is a quick strike tribute to the band's pals in God's Favorite Band. 'Bitter Boy' is the standout track, in my opinion. I'll spare my words and just let you listen for yourself.
Also, listen to the slow build of 'Carolina's Eyes', to hear the best song Husker Du never wrote.
The band didn't hold together much longer after the release of this album, but the magic and inspiration they committed to this release stands as a document of a time when anything was possible.