What’s the surest way to spot the bands that’ll be riding high on the pop charts in three years? Try listening to college radio now. On the next page is a cheat sheet of 10 collegiate-rock favorites that are just beginning to garner national buzz. The class of ’92 is a diverse bunch — from the unconstructed punk fury of Social Distortion to the ethereal dance tracks of the Wolfgang Press. We can’t guarantee any of these guys will be the next R.E.M. But, hey, you never know — they’re all strong candidates to graduate with honors. Summa cum loud…
GIN BLOSSOMS New Miserable Experience
*This year’s entry for the perfect R.E.M./Replacements clone. With chiming guitars and straightforward pop hooks the size of whaling gaffs, the debut album from this Arizona quintet will sit well with those who like alternative rock without the wry.
*To the uninitiated, Helmet is a migraine in search of a skull. The New York foursome puts out a metal-edged garage-band sound that could cause sterility in household pets at 50 yards. But this is industrial-strength noise with artistic pretensions (songwriter-frontman Page Hamilton, no stranger to Manhattan’s arty underground scene, has legit jazz and classical credentials).
SISTER DOULBE HAPPINESS Heart and Mind
*At its best, this San Francisco quartet bears an eerie resemblance to the Golden State’s last great postpunk band, X. Sister, which has an unimpeachable indie track record, might have hit four years ago, had front man Gary Floyd not taken a year off to become a Hindu monk — seriously, dude.
DEL AMITRI Change Everything
*Album-rock stations — and every coffeehouse crooner this side of Cambridge, Mass. — should eat up the sentimental, semi-acoustic fare of this Scottish quartet. Sooner or later, the easy style of Steely Dan and Jackson Browne was bound to come back in. We just didn’t think it would be this soon.
POI DOG PONDERING Volo Volo
*This octet, with roots in Hawaii and Texas, carries on where Camper Van Beethoven left off — with an easy blend of country, folk, world-beat, and funk sounds. The band is cute, precocious, and able to find magic in the flotsam of everyday life.
THE BOO RADLEYS Everything’s Alright Forever
*This British quartet (named for a character in To Kill a Mockingbird) is grungy enough to drive most radio-station management types out of the booth, yet almost melodic enough to fit in the dream-pop camp.
LEMONHEADS It’s a Shame About Ray
*In five years Evan Dando, the only original Lemon still on the tree, has steered the Boston group’s sound from rib-rattling hardcore to melodic, story-based jangle pop — with impressive results: Shame is one of 1992’s best alternative albums.
THE SPENT POETS The Spent Poets
*How does a band go from the garage to Geffen Records’ alternative-rock A list? Seamless Beatles-esque song craft and enough literary name-dropping (Plath, Whitman, Woolf) to make the most pretentious lit major up and hurl.