Seeking “Spiritual Pollution”
Published in Blog. Tags: Canada, Music.
To this day it still might be widely perceived that grunge’s northern reach ended at the 49th parallel in the early ’90s. That simply wasn’t the case though. Signed to Reprise/Warner in 1991 based a single demo tape, Vancouver’s Pure achieved the bulk of their success based on their 1992 full-length debut, Pureafunalia. Produced by Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison, the album relied heavily on many rock standards of the time, leading Roch Parisien of All Music to explain how Pureafunalia boasts “an anarchic, punk attitude, tight funky rhythms, a splash of 60s psych, and great big hooks combine to beat such British bands as EMF and Jesus Jones at their own game.” Two of the band’s music videos from the release, “Pure” and “Blast,” were nominated for the “Best Alternative Video” award at the 1993 Much Music Video Awards, with Pure’s “Blast” beating out the likes of Sloan to win the award. If the extent of the band’s success can be measured by one single factoid, however, it’s that their track “Tennis Ball” was featured on the soundtrack to BASEketball in 1996. As far as I’m concerned, by that fact alone they were gods among men.
Of those two songs, “Pure” and “Blast,” when hearing them now, I prefer the smoother sounding “Pure,” but I don’t recall listening to them all that much at the time. Same goes for the Soundgarden-y “Greedy,” which was also accompanied with a music video. The song from Pureafunalia that struck me as the most brilliant at the time and has since stuck with me the longest is “Spiritual Pollution.” The track boasts an entirely different vibe than “Blast” or “Pure,” with its infectious guitar riff leading into a simplistic handclap-based rhythm and an earworm of a chorus that never seems to grow old to me. To this day it makes me smile.
There’s a lingering thorn in my side regarding the song though: its corresponding music video has apparently been forgotten by history. Or at least history as far as the Internet’s concerned. I remember it to be hip enough (hip at the time, mind you) that it became an event for me every time Much Music would play it. If a VJ mentioned that it’d be coming up in a playlist, either before the next commercial break or sometime during the next 24 hours, I remained glued to the TV set so I could check it out. (Admittedly, as an elementary school student at the time, this wreaked havoc on my grades.) Yet despite holding such a positive role in my memory bank, it’s apparently nowhere to be found online.
Many of Pure’s early albums are available for streaming online, as are a number of other music videos from the band: “Anna is a Speed Freak” (which was banned on Much Music at one time), “Feverish,” “Me and the Almost Beautiful Girl” and “Chocolate Bar” (which is my second favorite Pure song) joining those previously mentioned. While there was apparently a version of it on YouTube at one point in time, the closest thing to the video that can presently be found online resides on on Pure’s MySpace page. “With a little interview at the front end, this was the lowedst [sic] budget video we made for the Pureafunalia album. Strobes are nice.” But the fucking visuals have been disabled. What gives?
Well, during the hours (yyyyyup, I’ve literally spent a couple of hours trying to track this thing down) of searching online as well as emailing and messaging people with the hope that someone would reply with a tip, I dedicated a bit of time reading the group’s blog posts and scanning the bulk of their MySpace comments. From what I’ve found, the reason the video is nowhere to be found is due to a combination of issues. Writing on Christine Leakey‘s MySpace page, a representative of Pure commented some 357 days ago, “hi Christine, this myspace page is locked now. Apparently the all powerful WMG has their software scanning all uploads and we triggered it. There are a lot more songs on last.fm if you use that site.” To which Leakey responded, “damn.. that is so wrong! warner did the same thing to mike trebilcock. he is unable to upload any of HIS music from the killjoys to put on his page.” (An aside: I was also looking for the music video for “Rave & Drool” by the Killjoys this past week… it, too, is absent from the Internet.) Blog posts “Majors vs. Youtube” (Feb. 10, 2009) and “The songs are missing” (March 19, 2009) both explain a bit about the difficult time the band has had dealing with Warner’s blind deletion of their music. A message from “Mark” (possibly Mark Henning who was the band’s keyboardist before quitting in 1994) in the latter read, “For whatever reason, it seems that Warner’s Music Group has tightened its hold on the digital community and now our songs, which have been so happily playing on this site for over two years, are gone.”
In general, it’s really hard to overlook this instance DMCA bullshittery, especially given the minimal number of people who are likely out there trying to view ripped versions of VHS videos taped from late night cable broadcasts, but this one especially pisses me the fuck off. Why? Because, simply put, “Spiritual Pollution” was maaad bonkers back in its day, and anyone who cares enough to want to check the video out nearly two decades later should be able to. Done deal. So, if for whatever reason, this blog post reaches someone who has a digital copy of the video, an old VHS tape, or even a lead as to where I might be able to view it, let me know in the comments or send me an email. In an unlikely move considering today’s everything’s-free culture, I’d also like to mention that I’m willing to pay for it. (Update: It’s now online, available below.)
[This article first appeared on Tsururadio.]