Going Back to the Future With Detroit’s ’90s Space-Rock Revolution

Third Man comp Southeast of Saturn remembers the Motor City's vibrant shoegaze era.

Techno, Motown, Eminem, The White Stripes, and all things Jack White: Detroit is renowned as a city with a rich musical history. Mind-expanding space-rock is not usually part of the conversation.

Back in the 1990s, however, the Motor City was home to a fertile and bustling space-rock/shoegaze scene, with a host of bands who played around town, supported and promoted at the local record store, Play It Again Records.

As a diehard hanger-on, fan, and Play It Again Records shopper, I can offer a first-hand testimonial about the raging indie scene that mostly revolved around U.K. acts including Spiritualized, (The) Verve, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Primal Scream. Locally, it was bands like Majesty Crush that led the space-rock charge, often serving as the opening act for visiting British bands while dropping instantly classic singles like “Cicciolina” and “No. 1 Fan.”

“I  don’t  think  we  really  noticed  the  local  Detroit  scene earlier on,” explained Andrew Peters, guitarist for ’90s Detroit band Thirsty Forest Animals. “We were more into the bands you would see in the NME / Melody Maker, zines, and records—mostly from the U.K.—on the walls at Play It Again.”

Southeast of Saturn is a new Third Man Records compilation that celebrates the vibrant ’90s Detroit space-rock scene, featuring Windy & Carl, Thirsty Forest Animals, Füxa, Asha Vida, and more. Among the comp’s track: Majesty Crush’s “No. 1 Fan.”

“No. 1 Fan” is our best song-song,” states the band’s bassist, Hobey Echlin, in the liner notes. “It started as me trying to play ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ and turned into our Marvin Gaye/Rakim Detroit cousin to Verve’s ‘Slide Away.’ [Late vocalist Dave Stroughter] has a narrative intensity and vocal dexterity that uses every part of the music and lyrics to express Patricia Highsmith/John Hinkley delusion and wholeheartedness, but with an ease and earnestness that’s regrettably relevant to our school-shooting era/polarizing-president present, added to incel recognizability.”

Preview the comp below.

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