Saturday, November 6, 2010
When the Semantics formed in the early '90s in Nashville, their punchy, accessible brand of Southern power pop seemed destined to follow like-minded Southern bands like the dB's and Let's Active into the power pop history books. Led by two songwriter/vocalists, William Owsley III and Millard Powers, the band initially began recording demos for their debut album with a then-unknown drummer named Ben Folds, who -- contrary to legend -- was never officially a part of the Semantics. Folds soon left to form Ben Folds Five and was replaced by Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey. The band signed to Geffen and recorded their debut LP, Powerbill, but weeks before its scheduled 1993 release, the label decided not to release it, effectively ending the band's career. For most bands, the story might've ended there. But Starkey went on tour with his father and later joined the Lightning Seeds as their full-time drummer. Amy Grant, a fellow Tennessean and then-superstar who obtained a copy of Powerbill, called Owsley shortly after the album's botched release and lavished praise upon the record and asked Owsley to be one of her touring guitarists. In 1996, while Ben Folds Five were becoming worldwide alternative rock superstars, Powerbill saw a belated Japanese-only release and sold over 20,000 copies, despite that the band had already disbanded and that there was little, if any promotion, backing it. Owsley and Millard Powers each respectively recorded their own solo debuts while paying the bills as backing musicians for the likes of Grant and Charlotte Church. Owsley initially issued his debut album in 1998, but it was repackaged and reissued in 1999 with mightier distribution and it even managed to produce a minor hit single in the charging rocker "I'm Alright." Powers' solo debut was released shortly after and both of their albums included at least one re-recorded song each from Powerbill. In 2001, Powers also became Folds' bassist on his solo tour, gaining him a great deal more exposure and new fans. After the relative success of Owsley's self-titled debut and Powers' exposure from working with Folds, Japanese copies of the now out of print Powerbill became major cult collector's items and belatedly became one of the most influential and most well-regarded power pop records of the '90s.
Semantics - Bone Of Contention - Vinyl album on Electra Records