Writing about the Luna Lounge got me thinking about Lotion, one of my favorite NYC bands of the '90s. Which in turn gave me an idea for a new feature here: Lost in the '90s. There are certainly a treasure-trove or great bands who got lost in the shuffle between grunge, Britpop, and boy band mania. My first installment...
Years active: 1991-1999
Backstory: Singer Tony Zajkowski said Lotion originally formed as an excuse to make band flyers, and theirs became somewhat legendary around the Lower East Side -- cleverly appropriating a flurry of brand logos as their own. (Zajkowski was/is a graphic designer.) The got the idea from UK rave posters, and Lotion initially wanted to be an American version of what was going on in Manchester. They wisely dropped that element and focused instead on crafty pop, often with complex time signatures.
Claim to fame: There's a few. Lotion were one of the first to receive "Cute Band Alert" status in Sassy; their debut Full Isaac was named Album of the Year by the Village Voice (though not in the Pazz & Jop poll); and perhaps most notably, the famously reclusive Thomas Pinchon penned the liner notes to their second album, Nobody's Cool.
ETC: Lotion continued to play Luna Lounge even after their popularity had grown enough to play bigger places. Those shows, often playing unannounced on a Friday or Saturday, late after the last scheduled band, were loose, boozy affairs, loaded with the band's affinity for covers. One night I saw them perform kick-ass versions of "This Charming Man," "Brand New Key" and "Love is the Drug."
What to buy: It got the least acclaim of Lotion's three studio efforts, but The Telephone Album, is hands-down their best. Ambitious, melodic, muscular, clever... Lotion in a nutshell. It also contains the band's finest pop moment, "Feedback Queen." Followed quickly by Nobody's Cool and Full Isaac, in that order. You can skip The Agnew Funeral EP, but if you can find their four-song debut EP released on Kokopop, snatch it up immediately. All their CDs are out-of-print (though available on iTunes) but easily found on Ebay, Amazon, and your local record store's used bin (sadly).
Where are they now? Tony Zajkowski and drummer Rob Youngberg formed Honeycomb early this decade that were equally pop-friendly but added a multimedia element to their shows that made them unique. Despite winning some big Best Unsigned band contest a couple years ago, I'm pretty sure they're now defunct, though the website still exists. Tony is a mainstay at NYC's Loser's Lounge tributes. As for the rest of the band... no idea what happened to brothers Bill and Jim Ferguson. If anyone out there has the scoop, please write in. Meanwhile, here's a song from each of Lotion's albums:
MP3: Lotion - Head | From Full Isaac. Best song ever about a dog's envy of it's owner's new baby.
MP3: Lotion - Marijuana Vietnam | From The Agnew Funeral EP, by special request.
MP3: Lotion - Rock Chick | From Nobody's Cool. I still can't figure out the time signature of this song. The piano solo (played by Loser's Lounge founder Joe McGinty) that is the song's latter half is second only to The The's "Uncertain Smile."
MP3: Lotion - Feedback Queen | A perfect pop song, just ridiculously catchy, yet it never gets old.