The Donner Party
Complete Recordings 1987-1989
Way back when, “alternative” was a word with a meaning, and not just something the folks in marketing came up with. The Donner Party, who gigged around San Francisco for about five years before calling it quits, featured Reinhold Johnson, Melanie Clarin and Sam Coomes, and easily fit into the sound you’d classify as “alternative” back then. Coomes went on to take part in Heatmiser, and is currently in Quasi, but remarks in the liner notes for Complete Recordings about the persistence of the Donner Party in people’s memory, something which led up to this assembly of all recorded DP material into a two-disc set: two full albums, a third (previously unreleased) one, and a handful of live tracks.
The Donner Party had a good sound, solid if a bit naive. Definitely influenced by the R.E.M. school of guitar rock, the band often sounds on the verge of total riff domination, threatening to drown out Coomes’ nascent lyrical and melodic talents. “Up & Down” and “The Owl of Minerva” are two tracks on the first disc that stealthily sneaked into my subconscious, torturing me for a couple of weeks as I struggled to remember who did the song that went like that. Fans of Quasi/Heatmiser will find this invaluable; this isn’t a long-lost record by either of those bands by any stretch of the imagination, but it does provide a clear historical reference, and Coomes knew how to write a good hook even back then.
Innerstate Records, P.O. Box 411241, San Francisco, CA 94141-1241