2 Steps From The Middle Ages
This album is the final one in Omnivore’s reissue series. Originally released in 1988, it was an album that the late Scott Miller said he wanted to tear up the Billboard charts, and if not, to be let out of his contract. It didn't, and the band broke up after this album was released.
If this album had come out in, say, 1993, it might have hit. Alt was sort of the mainstream then, and to give two good examples of the kinds of songs that hit, think Bob Mould’s "If I Can’t Change Your Mind," or "Cannonball" by The Breeders. But there weren’t so many charts and formats as there are now, so here are some hypotheticals if it were a brand new album being released today.
While this album is too indie to fit into the “mainstream alternative” radio format, I can see this hitting on non com AAA radio, like NPR and its offshoots, listener supported stations, and so on. It’s streamlined enough, catchy, accessible, with all the right quirks. There are straightforward lyrics about good times, romance on the rocks, and being nonconformist. It rocks when it wants to, but can be quiet enough to pack a stealth punch, like on “Initiations Week.” One of Donnette Thayer’s best songs is her duet with Scott on the gentle “Wyoming,” another great song on a great album.
This reissue is also chock full of bonus material, demos, live tracks, and rough mixes. My favorites are the demo for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "America," which is as lovely as the original, and the live version of "Waist And The Knees," especially since it features backing vocals by the late, great Gil Ray.