State of Gloom

IDAHO recently gained a Maker SOTW for their sombre and affecting first single.

SHARON O’CONNELL rocks with them, slowly

MELODY MAKER, July 31 1993


“I like to think of it as some kind of Band Aid to put on your wounds,” says John Berry, one half of Idaho, when pushed to describe their divine debut, “The Palms EP”. “For me,” he adds, “It’s creating the music that I want to hear myself; these really sad songs that I find very satisfying.”

That’s important. When you’re low, it’s empathy you seek, songs that sit quietly with your troubled soul rather than insensitively tell it to buck up and get on with life, and the four tracks here are the most beautifully sympathetic salve for sadness I’ve heard for some time. John’s slow, heavy powerchords fall like folds of stone drapery, feedback blows up into squalls, the bass heaves and Jeff Martin’s dolorous voice drifts by. Only Red House Painters, and Mark Eitzel equal this in the loss and loneliness stakes.

Is it unfair to describe Idaho’s songs as bleak?

“Oh, not at all,” John says brightly. “I would hope them to be bleak, but at the same time somewhat hopeful. Then again, maybe not,” he laughs.

But not perhaps the ideal thing to sling on the stereo when you’re feeling particularly down?

“I personally disagree with that,” Jeff butts suddenly in on the other line. “If l was feeling low if s most definitely what I would need to hear. It’s like medicine to me.”

“Yeah,” John agrees, “it’s like listening to the blues. You know ‘Blue Valentine’ by Tom Waits? When I’m feeling low a song like that is something to grab on to.”

John and Jeff have known each other for around 12 years, but have very different backgrounds. As a teenager, John hung around the LA punk scene, got hooked on heroin and landed himself several spells in jail, which was, he remembers, “a very violent reality that really opened my eyes.” Jeff went to college as a music composition major for all of three weeks, and “got frightened by the whole thing. It was ULC,” he explains, “which to me is like a gigantic, right-wing corporation, and the people that went there just made me ill. It was the worst of my generation. I was just going to appease my parents, which is what I’ve been doing up until last year.”

Yeah, but you’re 29 now.

“Sure, but I’ve never been able to do much of anything except play music and I wasn’t ‘successful’, so they looked down on me.”

Do they accept you now?

“Yeah, they do. And they definitely understand the music - I’m surprised.”

Clearly, it’s Idaho that gets these guys through the night. Just how important is it to them?

“Oh, God...” John trails off, unable to explain exactly HOW much he depends on it.

“It’s all I could ever imagine doing,” says Jeff. “It’s what we have to do, or else life would be completely empty.”

‘The Palms EP’ is available now on Quigly Records