Alabama Kids were the Netherlands’ answer to Dinosaur Jr., Wipers, Hüsker Dü and then some – a guitar-driven, melancholic and melodic heavy rock band with a penchant for psychedelic digressions. Drowsy Driver – their third and final record – was their opus magnum and a time capsule of an age when alternative rock still meant ROCK.
Alabama Kids was quickly and accidentally put together in Eindhoven in 1986 as a one-off for a country trash night, hence the name. The ball kept on rolling, switching drummers and adding a lead guitarist to the line-up of Djie Han Thung, Rob Geerings, Michel Boekhoudt, Stefan Vermeeren and Jacco Van Rooy. Alabama Kids seemed at first to take more influence from the US-psych garage rock scene than the burgeoning world of alternative rock; yet with the emergence of the band’s first LP What Goes Down in 1990, it became clear that the band had plenty in common with the heavier side of the rock scene. Bringing big, distorted and sweltering guitars into their brand of melodic downer rock, the Alabama Kids quickly developed a following in their home country: spreading their tunes abroad meant getting in the bus for a tour supporting Dinosaur Jr. the year punk broke and sharing stages with the likes of Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Wipers. This was followed by the release of their second full-length Earthman Supersmell. By the time the band entered the studio to record Drowsy Driver, they had perfected their own unique brand of psychedelic alternative rock, a record enthusiastically received by both fans and international press for its lengthy, powerful and emotive songs. Sadly, the band decided to call it a day before long as the Kids set off to pursue other musical endeavors such as the Netherlands’ most famous space rock outfits 35007 and 7Zuma7, while drummer Van Rooy even went on to play briefly for the Norwegian band Motorpsycho.
After some ten-odd years of correspondence and prodding, Stickman Records was able to get a reissue of Drowsy Driver off the drawing board and into production, remastered and full of nostalgia.
Words from Bent of Motorpsycho:
“The Alabama Kids were my new favourite band back in 1993. They were our tour buddies on a Dutch/German stint that started at the Pop-Komm ‘messe’ in Köln and ended somewhere in Holland a few weeks later. Our band, Motorpsycho, recognized fellow travelers when we met them, but we bonded with the Alabama Kids in a different way than with most other bands. We seemed to pull from the same well and look at things the same way too, and it felt like magic to meet such close cohorts so far from home.
The Alabama Kids were a fearsome live act on a good day. A band that somehow seemed to synthesize everything I dug in guitar rock right then, without becoming just another grunge/ alternative yawn. They had classic songs seemingly minted from the same place Neil Young and J Mascis got theirs, they had three lead guitars – and everyone had a both a big muff and a wah wah pedal – so the psych quota was well and truly filled. They had the best rhythm section this side of Can, and they somehow always managed to catch your cerebral cortex in their sonic crossfire, making you feel both sad and elated at the same time. They made us play better, and we paid close attention to what they were doing, adopting (well, stealing really….) all we could and slowly making it our own in the process. Bet we were out-played as often as not, and the rivalry was for real, but we all benefitted from it: It was a great tour!
OK, so maybe not all of it worked on their first two records, but by the the time they released Drowsy Driver, their third album, they were faultless – a different band in the grunge plethora of the day, of it, but somehow singular as well. Listening to Drowsy Driver today some 23 years later, it still sends chills down my spine like it used to back in the day. The songs are still as good, the arrangements as trippy (listen to the groove on the false ending of The River!), and the playing as tasteful as I remember it. It’s a great album any way you look at it, and I’m stoked that it’s available again. The world is a better place with this album on your turntable.
Peace & love
Updated on October 26, 2016