When people think of the “Minneapolis sound,” most think of Prince or at least Bob Mould during his Hüsker Dü days. But in the mid 80’s a highly creative band named Trip Shakespeare combined alternative rock with a power pop twist. Elaine Harris and Matt Wilson founded the band with John Munson and produced the debut record Applehead Man in 1986. Matt’s brother Dan Wilson soon joined the band later and eventually Wilson and Munson went on to form the mainstream power pop band Semisonic. I never got the chance to appreciate Trip as a band back then, so I did some digging and was lucky to find that Omnivore Recordings has reissued the bands debut and follow up Are You Shakespearienced?
With a new listen Trip Shakespear’s music has held up much better than I remembered. On the the debut Applehead Man, best described as both melodic and esoteric, starts good and gets better with repeated listens. Harris’ unique rhythmic skill and Wilson’s poetic lyrics set Trip apart from other 80’s bands. Highlights include the title track, “Washington Bridge,” “ Necklace,” and the angular tribute to the Fab Four “Beatle,” without sounding a bit Beatlesque. Are You Shakespearienced? is more polished and with the addition of Dan Wilson, contributes to the harmonies and sophisticated arrangements shown on “The Lake” and “Two Wheeler, Four Wheeler.” The band would soon earn a contract with A&M Records after these 2 albums, so its cool that you can re-discover them with the added bonus tracks and demos.