The Virgins, Small And Broken, 1995

The Virgins, Small And Broken, 1995

Tony Krisman: bass, accordion(?)
Carol Dees: vocals, violin
Eric B. White: guitar
Brian Farrell: n/a
Joe Odegaard: drums

Side A
This Minor Earth
Boy Sex Star
There Are Different Ways To Get What You Want

Side B
It Happens Every Minute
Anything Can Happen
Everyday I Get Born

If this tape ever had a J-card, it’s long gone. The lack of any other info should consign this cassette to “mystery tape” territory. But hold on! Turns out the DuBase has my review of this tape, together with The Virgins‘ late 1995 7″ single, “Swimming Pool” b/w “Leave” in the first Demo Universe!

Here’s what I wrote back then:

Halfway through the warm pinprick of “Swimming Pool,” I knew I’d be checking out Small And Broken, the demo tape that came with this single. “Swimming Pool” is a lovely song, lit by inner sunshine, darting like a swallow over fields of remembrance. In its spare, efficient impact, “Leave” compares favorably to Sinead O’Connor‘s finer moments, although the production is not up to the standard set by side A. Such minor concerns are set aside by the six-song demo (“This Minor Earth,” “Boy Sex Star,” “There Are Different Ways To get What You Want,” “It Happens Every Minute,” “Anything Can Happen,” “Everyday I Get Born”), which doles out two big raisin scoops of cool, organic, interesting pop music. Pop music? Yes, in a better world this would be pop music.

Jim Santo’s Demo Universe

Nearly 30 years later, this tape holds up! It’s sophisticated art-rock with spiky, Johnny Marr-meets-Arto Lindsay guitar, jazzy saxophone (I think), folk-ified violin, and a cool, arch female vocalist. A very interesting blend of sounds and influences! Dipping a full foot into dissonance, cassette closer “Everyday I Get Born” is especially intriguing, swirling with scents of shoegaze, Sonic Youth, and Scary Monsters.

My old review included a Milwaukee mailing addresss, and identifies one group member: Tony Krisman. A quick search of Discogs reveals that Krisman was at one time a member of a Milwaukee pop-rock band, The Soloman Grundy’s, which released a CD, The Andy Bucket, in 1996; Tony is credited with bass and accordion. And get this: The Soloman Grundy’s has a Soundcloud, which was updated five months prior to this writing. Someone’s keeping the light on! (Check ’em out, it’s good, kinda Feelies-inspired stuff!)

Turning next to Gurgle (an occasionally useful search engine), I found a Rate Your Music page for a Virgins CD, West Seven (1997), that helpfully lists all the band members and (partial) instrumental credits! As I suspected, vocalist and violinist Carol Dees was also a member of The Soloman Grundy’s (man, that apostrophe is killing me).

Searching for guitarist Eric B. White led me to this Gurgle Books archive of Billboard magazine from 1997 and a review of West Seven: “Vocalist Carol Dees (who doubles on violin) is the band’s most distinctive element. Her calm, even tone suggests emotional depths far below the surface,” wrote Dave Luhrrsen, adding that the album was recorded in Milwaukee by Dave Vartanian (Talking Heads, Crash Test Dummies, Live, Violent Femmes) and produced by Connie Grauer (Indigo Girls, k.d. lang, Phranc). Hot stuff!

West Seven can be streamed on Apple and Spotify, and Youtube has a playlist. Yay!

Alas, this is where the trail grows cold. Aside from an accordion cameo by Krisman on a 1999 CD by a Houston, Texas, band named Drunken Thunder, and strong evidence that Joe Odegaard plays drums as “Joey Boulevard” in a Milwaukee-based “dueling piano” trio named Piano Brew, we never hear from The Virgins again. Not to be confused with the now-defunct NYC indie-rock band that almost made it in the aughts, these Virgins really had something going in the mid-1990s! It’s a pity they’ve left so little behind. I wonder what happened!

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