Monday, June 20, 2005

Karl Mueller R.I.P.

Today I read that Karl Mueller, bassist and one of the founding members of the rock group Soul Asylum, died from throat cancer Friday. He had been diagnosed with the cancer in May 2004, after which he went through a round of radiation treatments. It went into remission last October, but unfortunately returned this year.

In 1981, Mueller, guitarist Dan Murphy, and drummer Dave Pirner founded Loud Fast Rules in Minneanpolis, MN. Within three years the group would become known as Soul Asylum. They would also release their first album, Say What You Will, Clarence...Karl Sold the Truck, on the small, local label Twin/Tone Records. Throughout the Eighties the group maintained a cult following and was a favourite on college radio. By 1989 they would sign to A&M records. Despite being on a major label for the first time, neither 1989's Hang Time nor 1990's And the Horse They Rode In On gained much attention. By 1992 they would be on another major label, this time Columbia Records. It was there that their fortunes changed with 1992's Grave Dancer's Union. The album prdouced three hit singles, "Somebody to Shove," "Black Gold," and "Runaway Train." Their following album, 1995's Let Your Dim Light Shine would not do quite as well as Grave Dancer's Union, although the single "Misery" made the top twenty. Regardless, Soul Asylum has kept its loyal following to this day. In fact, Mueller, Murphy, and Pirner had been working on a new Soul Asylum album earlier this year.

I have always loved Soul Asylum. In the late Eighties and early Nineties they had a truly unique sound. They weren't alternative, nor were they heavy metal. I suppose the best classification for them would be hard rock. In my opinion they produced some of the best music of the Nineties. Their lyrics were always witty and often humourous. And they covered an array of topics, from the loneliness of old age ("Somebody to Shove") to masochistic melodramatics ("Misery").

I am then truly saddened to hear of Karl Mueller's death. His bass was a central part of Soul Asylum's hard rock sound. He was also more than a talented musician. Reportedly, he had no pretence about him--he never played the rock star. And though he ultimately lost the battle against cancer, from everything I have heard he fought it with a strength few have. As both a remarkable man and a remarkable musican, then, his passing is truly saddening.

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