New Miserable Experience
Arizona’s Gin Blossoms distilled sun-baked alienation into tunefully rueful folk-rock of a high order. Built around the damaged psyche and unquestionable talent of founder/lead singer/guitarist Doug Hopkins, the group’s finest hour was its 1992 major-label debut New Miserable Experience. The torment (and twisted humor) implied by its title speaks volumes — the music here soars and jangles like the Byrds and R.E.M. at their best, while the lyrics unsparingly detail failed love affairs and blown opportunities. The combination is oddly exhilarating, as evidenced by the album’s two big hits, “Hey Jealousy” and “I Found Out About You.” “Cajun Song” and the country weeper “Cheatin’” add some diversity to the high-octane rock thrust. At the heart of it all are Hopkins’ dysfunctional dreams, revealing a panorama of romantic stalemates (“Mrs. Rita,” ”Allison Road”) and free-floating angst (“Lost Horizons,” “Hold Me Down”). The alcohol-soaked despair of “Pieces Of The Night” is genuine — Hopkins was forced out of the group, then took his own life not long after New Miserable Experience was released. The band carried on without him for a time, yet never equaled their earlier brilliance.