Monday, February 04, 2008

Jen Trynin

Way back in '94 or so my brother was telling me about this woman, Jen Trynin, and her incredible debut cd. Bro had picked up on her in a local Boston rag and had ordered her disc direct before she had been picked up by a label. At that time there was talk about how she was the next big thing, and I heartily agreed upon hearing the tunes.

Cockamamie was initially released on her own Squint records label and is one of the greatest debuts ever in rock, and is probably one of the best power-pop records of the 90's. That opening drum roll, those down chords, and the lines "What could make me happier than sitting right here/ trash in the walkway and boys on the street/ screaming bloody murder/ cause that's what you do/ when you don't have a chance," signaled a cry of pop desperation that shook with honesty. The album is truly a solo affair with Trynin on guitar and vocals and a hired-gun rhythm section that really complements her well. The general focus of the lyrics is on love affairs good and bad (mostly the latter) and seeing a sense of hope in that aforementioned desperation.

This theme is really developed on the second track and should-have-been-a-hit "Better than Nothing." The opening lines "Maybe we could talk in the shower/ I bet we'd be gone in an hour/ I bet we could leave all this behind/ or we could just stay home," detail a woman who is struggling to find goodness in a blase situation. The jangly pop and keen drum beat accentuate the hope to be found, and the chorus "It's Better than nothing/ I'm feeling good for now/ But I know that tomorrow, I'll probably come around" hammer home the point that maybe we just have to accept our plight and take what life is giving us.

The remainder of the album continues that theme with great songwriting and especially killer guitar playing from Trynin. Titles such as "Snow", "Everything is Different Now", "All this Could be Yours", "Knock Me Down", and "Beg" hammer that lyrical theme home. I popped this in last week after a long hiatus and was struck by how personal this record is to me. That probably has to do with my situation back in the mid-nineties when this record was an essential part of my soundtrack. I was in my early twenties, going through some of the same relationship issues as the songwriter, and sometimes just trying to make sense of messed up love affairs and my own shortcomings as a partner. "One Year Down" was a particularly close to home tune: "One year down and I'm no hero/ One year down and there is not a sound/ One less year that I'll be lonely/ With one ear to the ground."

I never understood why this record didn't take off into the stratosphere, and when it's followup Gun Shy Trigger Happy (killer title, by the way) was released, there was very little push behind it. Trynin had toned down the rocking a little bit, and even had a short-lived single on the local AAA station, but the damage was done, and she faded out before long. I caught her live gig at Club Metronome in Burlington for this record, and was pleased that she brought her rockin' pop up to Vermont. Chatting with her after the show she seemed a little disenchanted with her plight in the industry...if I'd only known. Her records are now found in cutout bins and for $1.99 on eBay.

So last week I had some time to kill in Barnes and Nobles and picked up her 2006 biography Everything I'm Cracked up to Be. I cranked through it in no time at all, and learned of how she was chewed up and spit out by the major labels during their insane bidding war for Cockamamie, how the initial tour was fraught with false expectations, too much drinking, inter personnel conflict, and was, by the time it hit the West Coast, a failure. It happens that the first record was released the same day as Alannis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill, and parent company Warner Brothers decided to put its full marketing power behind that one. Too bad, because Morrissette was a flash-in-the-pan (with an undoubted killer single), while Trynin really had the skills to go for the long haul. Fed up with it all, Trynin quit the business after GSTH. The sad thing is that even in her afterlife as a writer, she gets crap for respect. I bought the book in the closeout section of B&N for six bucks.

Track down her records and give them a spin. Hell, Cockamamie even saw a vinyl release, which I ordered last week off the 'Bay (ten bucks, shipped). And learn more at her website.


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