In March of 2014, I saw Radiator Hospital play for the first time. It was at a coffee shop in University City, and free donuts were given out for someone’s birthday. Try the Pie played one of her first shows, Crabapple played one of their last, and Sam Cook-Parrot’s band Radiator Hospital closed out the night. Stupid Bag Records honcho & RH drummer Jeff Bolt was selling tapes, so I picked up a copy of Great Thunder’s Strange Kicks EP, the only tape I ever bought.
I listened to Strange Kicks a lot after that. It even included a Mazzy Star cover. Great Thunder was Keith Spencer (of Swearin’) and Katie Crutchfield (of Waxahatchee), often noted as KS and KC. With Waxahatchee taking off and the years passing by, the lineup of Great Thunder has become a little less clear; one bio simply says “K and an ever changing line-up of incredibly talented people.” Naturally, Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital have been tied ever since. Imagine my excitement when Stupid Bag, back in May of 2015, noted that a Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital split LP was on its way. I’d been waiting ever since, unsure of what to expect.
A few weeks ago, The Wedding Album finally arrived. There were some updated old songs, new songs, covers, and collaborations. Great Thunder’s side came first, and started off with a couple of originals. KS & KC were both singing – the GT I knew. “I Was Fine Before” originally appeared on Sounds of Great Thunder, but is revamped three times the length. “I Can’t See the Sun” is the catchiest song of the year, and in a surprising twist, the light-hearted RH song “Big Cloud” is covered with professional production. The next song eventually revealed itself as a dark, sludgy version of RH’s “Sleeping House”. The sounds of Great Thunder embody many different textures, after all.
Radiator Hospital kicks off Side B with “Parting Glances”, from his split with Fred Thomas. It has much more percussion than typical RH songs and the whole side has a softer touch to it. Cook-Parrot’s regular bandmates are absent from this recording, so the quick pace of Torch Song falls away as well. “Old Me” is a new song, with a vocal cameo by KS, followed by KC helping out on “Waiting for You to Come Around”, a Strange Kicks highlight. “Singer’s No Star” is one of GT’s best songs, and Crutchfield join’s Cook-Parrot in a beautiful rendition. The Wedding Album closes with the devastating “Absent Year”. Cook-Parrot reminds us that he writes the best ballads, and Crutchfield has a wonderful verse, before he tears the song back. “And I’ve been waiting for so long / Oh I don’t want you to be gone / If you wanted me to dance / Why didn’t you say so?”
The Great Thunder & Radiator Hospital Wedding Album is one of the best of 2016; a truly special collaboration between three of Philadelphia finest musicians. Projects like this are often done for fun, but this is a fully realized piece of art. It was recorded in 2014, and while the wait was long, it was more than worth it. Listen to the album, and trace its roots for an even deeper experience.