In My Tribe
With the aid of Linda Ronstadt producer Peter Asher, 10,000 Maniacs made the leap into the major leagues via 1987’s In My Tribe. Weathering the loss of guitarist John Lombardo, the band sanded down some of its quirkier edges in favor of a leaner, more direct approach. Singer Natalie Merchant followed suit, bringing a more contemporary focus to her ever-vivid lyrics. The result was such radio favorites as “Like The Weather” (a brightly lilting number about depression) and “What’s The Matter Here?” (a similarly catchy condemnation of child abuse). The band’s sonic twists are still present — “My Sister Rose,” for instance, features Robert Buck’s African-influenced guitar lines — but what’s been added is a more visceral musical attack (especially on “Don’t Talk”) and a more upfront lyric treatment of social issues. Merchant’s themes range from illiteracy (“Cherry Tree”) to urban alienation (“City Of Angels”), with detours into more mysterious terrain as well (“Verdi Cries”). In My Tribe is an ultra-tuneful folk-rock excursion mixing exotic musical influences with conscience-prodding poetry. One of the gems of its era.