Spin Doctors – Kryptonite – 20th anniv (CD review)

Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite  [20th Anniversary Edition] (Epic/Legacy) (CD review) by Jay Scott

The early ‘90s were a transitional period for music – the Dead were still touring though no longer making studio records, Nirvana were about to break, and regional bands were still being signed to major labels.  The Spin Doctors were building a following in and around New York City at the time when they caught the attention of Epic Records.  So even though August 1991 seemed a prime time to break through, it still took nearly a year for Pocket Full of Kryptonite to catch fire, thanks both to incessant touring and some impassioned supporters at radio.  Despite its slow start, the record went on to sell some 5 million copies in the U.S. alone, 10 million copies worldwide and is ranked among the top 100 albums of the ‘90s.  Twenty years later, Pocket Full is being treated to a 2-CD deluxe edition featuring a remastered version of the original album, as well as the first digital release of two rare demo cassettes the band sold at its shows.

Often lumped in with jam bands of the era, Spin Doctors had a pop/funk sensibility to their music that other, similar bands lacked.  Nowhere is this more evident than on their studio debut.  Pocket Full relies more on groove and concisely crafted songs than jam, while still capturing the band’s live, good-time party vibe.  A total of five singles were extracted from the ten-song album, though the catchy gems “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” made the biggest impact (Top 10 and Top 20, respectively) and can still be heard on radio today.  From the hits to sublime album cuts like “Forty or Fifty”, Pocket Full never takes itself too seriously and remains a fun listen, sounding as fresh and unique twenty years on as it did in 1991.

Fans of the original album will find much to rejoice about in the second disc of the deluxe edition.  Most of the familiar tunes are already more or less fleshed out in demo form, but possess a kinetic energy that wasn’t so much tamed as refined by their major label producers.  The funk-influenced “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” contains horns that were deleted from the album version, and most tunes are performed at slightly faster tempos than their LP counterparts, giving them a sense of vitality and urgency.  Also included are two tracks that never made it onto an official Spin Docs release, “Can’t Say No” and “Turn It Upside Down”, as well as the standalone b-side version of “Hard to Exist”.

All in all, the deluxe edition of Pocket Full of Kryptonite is a fine way to discover or rediscover a joyous, lighthearted pop/rock record that held its own on both the charts and airwaves at a time when grunge, for better or worse, defined rock and roll.