14 Songs, 46 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

There was something distinctly curious about 10,000 Maniacs’ music from the start. Nurtured in the small-town atmosphere of far-western New York State, the band’s songs had quaint Victorian-era shadows around their edges. Hope Chest collects tracks from the Maniacs’ first two independent releases, recorded in the early ‘80s at Fredonia State University. The studio setting is appropriate: there’s a sense here that the players are still in the student stage, finding their identity though experimentation. This is especially true of Natalie Merchant, then a precocious teenager with a somewhat tentative but still-evocative vocal style. Calypso-styled melodies, ominous reggae rhythms and swirling guitar distortion give these tunes an exotic feel. Tracks like “Poor de Chirico” and “The Latin One” quiver with Jamaican dub effects, while “Orange” and “Daktari” have a jangling sparkle. Drawing upon books and school reports for inspiration, Merchant’s lyrics show flashes of the intense lucidity and smoldering moral outrage she would develop on later recordings.

EDITORS’ NOTES

There was something distinctly curious about 10,000 Maniacs’ music from the start. Nurtured in the small-town atmosphere of far-western New York State, the band’s songs had quaint Victorian-era shadows around their edges. Hope Chest collects tracks from the Maniacs’ first two independent releases, recorded in the early ‘80s at Fredonia State University. The studio setting is appropriate: there’s a sense here that the players are still in the student stage, finding their identity though experimentation. This is especially true of Natalie Merchant, then a precocious teenager with a somewhat tentative but still-evocative vocal style. Calypso-styled melodies, ominous reggae rhythms and swirling guitar distortion give these tunes an exotic feel. Tracks like “Poor de Chirico” and “The Latin One” quiver with Jamaican dub effects, while “Orange” and “Daktari” have a jangling sparkle. Drawing upon books and school reports for inspiration, Merchant’s lyrics show flashes of the intense lucidity and smoldering moral outrage she would develop on later recordings.

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