The Drop Nineteens were always an anomaly amongst the bands of the early 90s’ shoegazing era. While the other groups of that period were predominantly British, and largely from the London and Thames Valley belt, the Drop Nineteens were unusual in that they came from America.

The band, taking as its influences acts such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush and the Stone Roses which were then only available on import in the States, was formed by a group of students at Boston University in 1990. From the outset deciding to focus their music on the overseas market, any impact that the Drop Nineteens had was largely in Britain.

An early demo which band leader Greg Ackell ( vocals, guitar) sent around record labels abroad made ‘Single of the Week’ in ‘Melody Maker’. From this the Drop Nineteens, which also consisted of Steve Zimmerman (bass), Chris Roof (drums), Motohiro Yasue (guitar) and Paula Kelley (guitar, vocals), were able to extract both a short American tour in support of Chapterhouse in September 1991, and eventually a record deal with Caroline Records in the United States and its subsidiary Hut Records in the United Kingdom.

The band’s,debut album, ‘Delaware’, followed in June 1992. Recently re-released on Cherry Red Records with four extra tracks, it opens with the title track, which begins with a glorious hazy-sounding minute-and-a-half opening instrumental in which the band's instruments slowly float in and melt together. Suddenly it, however, ascends into a cacophony in which the guitars become choppy and ugly, and Ackell and Kelley's shared vocals become disentangled and lost from the rest of the song.

Unfortunately a lot of the rest of 'Delaware' is not much better. Ackell's vocals are a problem throughout, sounding reedy and flat. The next track, 'Ease It Halen' is worse, a grinding mesh of vibrating half-whispered, half-shouted vocals and guitars that soon become dirge-like in their abrasiveness. 'Reberrymemberer' is even more unpleasant, an atonal mass of slams of white noise ; revved-up, motorbike-needing-silencer sounds and sudden bellows of Ackell's voice. The last track, instrumental '(Plus Fish Dream)', with its overblown guitar and pedal effects, just confirms that the Drop Nineteens have all too often put experimentation at the expense of melody and tunes.

There are, however, two redeeming moments on ‘Delaware’.

'Winona', which was a single and is a lightly teasing tribute to actress Winona Ryder, is a perfect pop song, three-and-half minutes of soaring harmonics and chiming, buzzsaw guitars and with a much improved vocal performance from Ackell.

Even better still is 'Kick the Tragedy', an epic , enigmatic nine minute number of immense proportion. The band's softly reverberating, part-distorted guitars swirl hypnotically forwards, becoming ambient and orchestral, before six minutes into the song Kelley, who was a one-time child actress, adopting the persona of a confused teenage girl, drifts in with a spoken-word monologue. Her ramblings, in which she talks about her better-favoured sister and a disinterested boyfriend, last less than a minute before Chris Roof's drum tinkle in and the ambient wall-of-sound guitars roll back in all over again. Surreal and haunting, Kelley's depressed soliloquy and 'Kick the Tragedy' captures exactly a loss of innocence, the disillusionment most of us develop at the way the world is rather than what it should be. In both its unusualness and poignancy it salvages instantly what is otherwise largely not a very good album.

While the Drop Nineteens sunk largely without trace in the United States, they toured ‘Delaware’ in Britain on a co-headlining tour with Winchester-based shoegazing trio Revolver to largely good reviews and also played some festivals in Europe. The shoegazing era was, however, largely over by the time of the album’s release, grunge having taken much of its fan base.

Even before they came to Europe, Paula Kelley, who had creative and personal differences with some of the other members of the group, had announced her decision to leave the band at the end of that tour. A few months later Motohiro Yasue and Roof both also quit. Ackell and Steve Zimmerman carried on in a new line-up, featuring Megan Gilbert (guitar, vocals), Justin Crosby (guitar) and Pete Kosplin (drums), which released a second album, ‘National Coma’, in 1993. With that album attracting little interest either at home or in Britain, the Drop Nineteens imploded quietly with little fanfare the following year. They remain also-rans in shoegazing history. For all its flaws, 'Delaware', for ‘Winona’ and especially ‘Kick the Tragedy’, however, remains worthy of further examination.











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