I spent the entirety of my teenage life in the ’90s. It’s weird to think that back then there were times when someone could actually ask, “Have you heard of Green Day?” and it wouldn’t have been a laughable faux pas — Green Day hadn’t really broken through yet. The same goes for Smashing Pumpkins and Everclear and Oasis and Beck and whoever else had phenomenal breakthrough albums without first licensing their songs for car commercials.
There wasn’t much of an internet then, so news of these bands was spread almost exclusively by word of mouth. Hearing about them or borrowing a friend’s CD (to copy on cassette!) was like expanding your catalog of inside secrets. And the material was reliable. The best stuff rose to the top because there were nobody told us we’d be more in tune with the zeitgeist if we listened to Duncan Sheik instead of Ben Folds Five (though some went ahead and listened to Duncan Sheik anyway and only now am I starting to thaw that cold war).
The Resonators are a band that spreads by word of mouth. They’re an inside secret that’s out in the open. They’re just one of those bands. They describe themselves as “the ’90s with better clothes,” and that’s exactly the conclusion I drew when I first heard their latest release, Black Diamond. (I didn’t have much to say about their clothes, but the ’90s part was evident.)
Black Diamond is full of riffs and melodies that could as easily be found in anything the Spin Doctors, Semisonic or Weezer ever did back in the 20th century. The opening track “Your Resonation” has effortless appeal, as does the updated “Wishful Thinking.” Everything else shines with tighter production and slicker sounds than the band’s eponymous 2009 EP. And it’s good to hear in “Enough’s Never Enough” that they can stop and catch their breath sometimes too.
Black Diamond is for me everything that was awesome about all of that ’90s music exchanged among my friends in high school: guitars to the fore, lyrics with plainspoken relevance, and an unstinting pop-populism that declares without pretext its intention to fully entertain every last one of us. In a mixtape of Weezer, Harvey Danger, Third Eye Blind, et. al., there’s some slack being picked up by the Resonators.
The only thing missing from Black Diamond was a cover of “Lump,” but I guess they’ve go to save something for the live shows, which incidentally is where they really shine.