Queen City Sounds
By Tom Murphy
Published Issue 114, June 2023
For the 5-year anniversary of this column I’ve put together a listing of some of the more important releases, five for each year, by Denver bands that were active in the 80s and 90s as well as a couple of compilations. It’s not a definitive list and a couple of those comps are meant to include much more of the scene. A lot of our local cultural history is lost or buried and certainly not championed or often mentioned in local press, so maybe this can serve as a modest reminder of what has gone before. I saw most of these bands and a large swath of the artists on the compilations, which informed the selection, and all are worth a listen. Some of these bands are still around, and once you look into one it will lead to others in the internet wormhole. This list is light on some genres of music and could have easily been twice as long. But I left off many artists who meant a lot to me because there is no utility in overloading people with information. Most of this stuff is still available if you’re willing to make the effort and much of it in digital form. Each is a bonafide Denver music classic.
Apostle – The Chosen One (1994)
Ferocious conscious hip-hop debut EP from Emancipation Theater playwright Jeff Campbell.
The Apples in Stereo – Her Wallpaper Reverie (1999)
The creative and experimental apex of these influential pioneers of 90s psychedelic indiepop.
Cephalic Carnage – Anomalies (2005)
Peak weirdo deathgrind from these titans of technical death metal.
Christie Front Drive – s/t (1997)
Moody and meditative landmark of 90s Midwest emo.
The Christines – s/t (1994)
Post-shoegaze/post-Paisley Underground jangle pop perfection.
The Czars – The Ugly People vs the Beautiful People (2001)
Exquisitely crafted fusion of slowcore, shoegaze and 90s art rock
Dressy Bessy – Sound Go Round (2002)
Beginning to end some of the most captivating songwriting in the fuzzy indiepop band’s career.
Fluid – Clear Black Paper (1988)
Hard to pick one standout from the most influential garage punk band from Denver so start here.
40th Day – Lovely Like a Snake (1992)
Industrial 4AD shoegaze from this early Denver alternative rock band.
Friends Forever – Tidal Wave City EP (2002)
A haunted, retro-futurist science fiction carnival of sound experiments.
Little Fyodor – Peace is Boring (2009)
Acerbic, angsty conceptually clever, ferocious, brilliantly nerdy punk.
New Frontier – A Collection of Colorado Punk Bands (1998)
Arguably the definitive collection of late-90s Colorado punk. Just add Hate Fuck Trio and Four!
Planes Mistaken For Stars – s/t EP (1998)
An enthralling nexus of emo, post-hardcore and hard rock.
Seraphim Shock – Red Silk Vow (1997)
The darkly romantic and defiant, landmark Goth-Industrial album of the 90s from Denver.
Sin Desires Marie – s/t (2000)
Cathartic post-punk art rock emo.
Sixteen Horsepower – The Secret South (2000)
Gothic Americana at its elemental and haunting yet accessible peak.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Cipher (2008)
Transcendent, high concept, alchemical mix of dark Americana and post-punk.
Space Team Electra – The Vortex Flower (1998)
Swarming with post-Beat/Romantic era poetry and dreamily disorienting shoegaze melodicism.
Sympathy F – s/t (1993)
Emotionally charged, jazz-inflected shoegaze.
Thinking Plague – In This Life (1989)
Gorgeously eclectic and eerie early offering from the internationally renowned prog/avant-garde Denver collective.
Twice Wilted – Ice Hex Fix (1993)
The highly influential Holy Grail of post-punk/early alternative rock/gloom pop from Denver.
Vivid Imagination – Brutus Bruceleroy (1995)
Rambunctious and irreverent, teenage funk punk disciples of Warlock Pinchers.
The VSS – Nervous Circuits (1997)
Nightmarish and inspirational amalgamation of hardcore, arty post-punk and dystopian, electronic industrial soundscapes.
Warlock Pinchers – Pinch A Loaf/Deadly Kung Fu Action (1988/1989)
Genius deconstruction of punk, hip-hop, funk, industrial music into a vehicle for snotty and surreal commentary on popular culture.
An expertly curated selection of artists in the late 90s Denver DIY music scene including all female rap-punk group Rainbow Sugar, psychedelic prog group Orbit Service, avant-garde ensemble Carbon Dioxide Orchestra, blues punks The Hellmen, noise artist Noise Between Stations and unclassifiable weirdos like Bill Pickets Invitational Rodeo and Sal 3 Fold.
For more see queencitysoundsandart.wordpress.com
Tom Murphy is a Denver-based music writer and science fiction/fantasy/horror creator. He is also a musician, historian and itinerant filmmaker.