There is a multitude of brilliant music that flies under the radar, quickly goes silent, or falls flat on release. Whether it’s from new bands that can’t find their footing, or established acts that are pushing the boundaries of their sound, there are brilliant records and “lost” music everywhere.
1996 was a really great year for this. Unfortunately, grunge, alt-rock, or whatever the genre was called, was like the sub-prime mortgage crisis for music. The shift in culture five years earlier catapulted Seattle and its mix of punk aesthetics and head-banging sex to the forefront of the music world, as reluctant as some bands were to embrace it. When Kurt Cobain died, and Nirvana ceased to exist, there came a massive void that the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden did not feel the need to – or simply could not – fill. But the juggernaut was already down the tracks and a bevy of really good bands took centre stage and gambled for next in line for the crown with many swept away into the bargain bin.
In 1996, one of those bands was Sydney’s Ammonia, a seemingly sheepish trio with a large sound. Ammonia scored a minor hit in America with the overly apathetic song “Drugs” from their debut album Mint 400. I found the song to be super catchy so I bought the record and was immediately floored by their basic brand of glam metal guitars and pop hooks with a heaping dose of‘90s apathy shoehorned down the esophagus like castor oil. An instant sing-along of a record fuelled by “Drugs”, the slinky power of “Face Down” and the hammer, hard-hitting “Sleepwalking”. Title track “Mint 400”, “Ken Carter”, and “Suzi Q are all windows down, scream at the car in the next lane kind of jams. The record was a celebration of something, but I’m not sure what that is, I’m not so sure that Ammonia knew either, but damn it was fun.
Ammonia released a 2nd album in 1997, but eventually broke up 2 years later. Simply put, the musicianship wasn’t great, but the feeling was, and they say you never forget how someone or something makes you feel. So, on the 20th anniversary of the release of Ammonia’s mint 400 in America, I urge you all to search your bargain bins for the next in line for the crown.