The drink "velvet crush" is made with Kool-aid and Gin. Most typically in equal parts.

There's a band by that name, too. I'd imagine they got the name from the drink. They seem to be based in Rhode Island but the principles (Paul Chastain, bass and singing, Ric Menck, drums and singing) are from the Midwest. Somewhere. Somewhere in the Midwest.

I'd call them "psychedelic power pop" if I were going to out myself as a record collector geek, but I won't, so you didn't hear that.

Velvet Crush made an Ep or two in the early nineties, and then they got serious. They've had a varying population of guitarists; on their last album (Free Expression, 1999), the above two played guitar themselves, along with some random passersby and the evil Matthew Sweet, who produced the thing with them. Chastain and Menck write all the songs anyway so it's not that big of a deal that the guitarists come and go. Matthew Sweet, evil though he may be, has championed the lads for years and deserves credit for it.

Teenage Symphonies to God (1994) is one of those very rare records that are good enough to justify such a cool name; think of the first time you heard "Archangel Thunderbird" by Amon Duul II: There was fear, was there not? Fear that no song could live up to that name -- and then it did, by golly, and all was joy! Well, this is one of those. The immortal Mitch Easter produced it, and it's just a gosh-darn nifty record. Word has it that Mitch Easter toured with them behind it, which is pretty fantastic because I saw them on that tour (opening for Mazzy Star, Hope walked off stage, blah blah blah) and there was an extra guitarist up there, and that must've been Mitch: So now I can die happy: I saw Mitch plain. They rocked, by the way.

Symphonies is psychedelic and polychromatic and loud and quiet and wonderful, and there's pedal steel too. They even covered a Gene Clark song, "Why Not Your Baby", and did a bang-up job on it. Around that time, they covered Gram Parsons' "One Hundred Years From Now" (released as a B side), also a treat, but they got snubbed on the recent Parsons tribute album, where Wilco grabbed that one (and did it justice, too). They haven't been that good since then. Neither has anybody else.

Heavy Changes (1998) and Free Expression (1999) haven't grown on me yet. I doubt that Heavy Changes will; it's a very monochromatic record, the kind bands are apt to make after birthing an extravaganza like Symphonies. Free Expression is new yet, and we'll see. I had Symphonies for about a year before I realized that it was the second coming of Christ.

Some years ago, Ric Menck made a grinning, naive solo album entitled The Ballad of Ric Menck. He has an annoying, sing-songy voice, but about half the songs are just gloriously groovy enough for it to be a good thing. Wonderful innocent sunshiny retro guitar pop.
VC's debut (and Matthew Sweet-produced) album "In The Presence Of Greatness" is an excellent exercise in low-fi powerpop that really should not be overlooked.

Jeffrey Borchardt was VC's longest serving lead guitarist - he featured on all their records up to and including Heavy Changes.

The members of Velvet Crush have appeared in one form or another under the names The Springfields, Choo Choo Train, Bag O' Shells, The Stupid Cupids (all featuring Ric and Paul) and Honeybunch (Jeffrey Borchardt's long-time VC side project and now full-time concern).

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