LA CASTANYA TO REISSUE TWO CLASSIC LPS FROM 90s UNDERGROUND HEROES
THE VAN PELT
20th Anniversary of their 1997 benchmark album Sultans of Sentiment
Plus their 1996 debut Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves
Due out on LP/CD/DL on 12 May
A taster of what’s in store
Watch A 1997 Live Video Of “Nanzen Kills A Cat” From ‘Sultans’
Plus Tracks “His Steppe Is My Prairie” from ‘Thieves’ &
“We Are The Heathens” from ‘Sultans” (below)
Spanish label La Castanya have announced they will be reissuing two classic 1990’s albums re-mastered from the original tapes from New Jersey underground heroes, The Van Pelt. Their debut Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves (featuring brand new artwork) as well as their benchmark LP Sultans Of Sentiment, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. BrooklynVegan broke the news, with a live clip of Sultans of Sentiment’s evocative opening track “Nanzen Kills A Cat” (filmed in Detroit in 1997) and the tracks “His Steppe Is My Prairie” off Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves, and the classic anthem “We Are The Heathens”, from Sultans.
Plus Tracks “His Steppe Is My Prairiie” from ‘Thieves’
The Van Pelt, led by songwriter Chris Leo (The Lapse/brother of Ted Leo), with drummer Neil O’Brien (from The Butterflies of Love – who have reformed to play in London at Islington Assembly Hall on 24 March for the Fortuna POP! 20 Years of Trouble shows), and a rotating cast, including bassist Toko Yasuda (Blonde Redhead/Enon), released their debut full-length, Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves, in 1996, followed by Sultans Of Sentiment, the following year, on the Gern Blandsten (Ted Leo, Liars, Rye Coalition, Weston, Chisel, Canyon, etc.) label, before parking the van in the garage, and calling it a day, moving on to other projects. But a funny thing has happened over the past two decades, with those two albums finding new ears with a new generation.
Though their debut Stealing From Our Favourite Theives was well received, The Van Pelt did an about-face for their second effort and what is considered their benchmark album, Sultans of Sentiment. The anthems dissolved into a quieter, minimal almost eerie album, at times sounding like The Minute Men on codeine or if Tough & Go had any room for fey emotions. The fury behind the ballads matured into a more whispered plotting. Realising what they believed to be commercial suicide in fact jettisoned them into the spotlight, Sultans not only far outsold Stealing but continues to sell to this day as a cult favourite.
Post-Punk? Indie Rock? Post-Hardcore? The Van Pelt walked between all these worlds. Spoken/sung vocals, anthemic pop hooks, fiery guitars and a tightly wound rhythm section made them stand outs of the DIY basement scene they emerged from. The 1990’s indie heroes have had a lasting power far greater than so many of the other once bigger bands of that era. The sort of interest that has neither waxed nor waned over the decades since they disbanded, yet just mysteriously continues on despite their discography being out of print since the end of the last millennium.
So what is it that sets them apart? Too soft to have ran with the AmRep or Touch & Go crowds, not hip enough to have made sense on Matador or Merge, earnest yet not histrionic enough to make it onto the “best emo bands” lists, not weird enough to be on bills with Arto Lindsay and Thurston Moore – in a sense, their outsider status comes not from the wings, but from the dead center eye of the storm. The ‘90s were happening all around them, they were witnesses thereof, yet they emerged transcendent of it all.
The Van Pelt re-emerged in 2014, with the release of Imaginary Third, a collection of singles and unreleased Van Pelt tracks, which were originally intended to have been the components of their third album, including the alt-famous “Speeding Train”. They returned to the stage in the UK and Europe for select festival dates, including the ill fated ATP Jabberwocky Festival, the cancellation of which, led to two powerful London performances – first at the ACE Hotel with support from Ought on their first European tour, and additionally at the Shacklewell Arms, with Metz and Iceage. A New York performance is in the works to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sultans Of Sentinment, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
Stealing from our Favorite Thieves
1. His Steppe is My Prarie
2. It’s a Suffering
3. Shame on You
4. Magic Fantasy (We Are Provincial)
5. You are the Glue
6. Simone Never Had It This Good
7. His Saxophone is My Guitar
8. It’s New to Me
9. Turning Twenty Into Two
Sultans of Sentiment
1. Nanzen Kills a Cat
2. The Good, The Bad, and The Blind
3. Yamato (Where People Really Die)
4. My Bouts with Pouncing
5. Don’t Make Me Walk My Own Log
6. The Young Alchemists
7. We Are the Heathens
8. Pockets of Pricks
9. Let’s Make a List
10. Do the Lovers Still Meet at the Chiang
“We Are The Heathens” from ‘Sultans”