Of the thousands of bands that hit Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest Music Conference last week, Soul Asylum could have either been categorized with the oldie acts looking to plug new material or the newbies looking to generate a virgin buzz.
It had been long enough since the Minneapolis quartet last played SXSW, the run might have been considered as a fresh start – 18 years, going back to 1998 when its last album for Columbia, "Candy From a Stranger," came out. The band hit it hard this time, too, playing six gigs in three days at the mega-fest to tout its half-new lineup and its all-new album, “Change of Fortune,” which hit stores last Friday.
Dave Pirner and his remade unit – with longtime drummer Michael Bland and newer members Winston Roye (bass) and Justin Sharbono (guitar) – will now make the rounds back home. They have an album release party scheduled Saturday at First Avenue (9 p.m., $20, with openers Bruise Violet, whose members weren’t born the last time Pirner played SXSW). They will also hit the Electric Fetus on Friday at 7 p.m. for a short in-store set and signing session.
For better or worse, “Change of Fortune” very much sounds like it could have been made in 1995, with a lot of polished-up bash-and-pop tracks that sound primed for REV-105 airplay, including the first single “Supersonic.” The album does include a few interesting left turns, including a funky-punky spastic rocker called “Make It Real” and a couple lighter, poppier tunes that eschew the band's punk roots like never before, “Don’t Bother Me” and “Moonshine.” Produced by longtime cohort John Fields (the Greazy Meal bandmember who has also produced for Semisonic and the Jonas Brothers), it’s the band’s first indie album since its Twin/Tone era of the 1980s, issued with help from eOne Music and a fun PledgeMusic campaign.
The band just issued a new video for “Supersonic” before SXSW and posted a second track two weeks ago, “Doomsday.” Here they are.