I first got introduced to Austin-based band Cotton Mather when 1994’s superb debut, Cotton Is King, hit the streets. Genuine hook-filled opener “Lost My Motto” sounded like ‘80s pop kingpins Squeeze, riding along a nifty guitar beat emulating Matthew Sweet. And leader Robert Harrison’s wonderful pop sensibility guided the troupe through catchy Beatles-esque melodies in a wholly conventional manner.
Strangely taking their woolly name from a 17th Century Puritan preacher supporting the Salem Witch Trials, Cotton Mather received further underground plaudits for 1997’s Kontiki, an eloquently resourceful power pop project utilizing a shimmering production glaze ‘70s rockers Badfinger and Big Star or oddball pop superstar Todd Rundgren may’ve influenced.
Amp-injected axe work hardens initial track “Camp Hill Rail Operator,” but never overwhelms its guileless melodiousness. “Homefront Cameo” dupes Squeeze for the better part and “Spin My Wheels” receives a psychedelic haze not unlike the Beatles’ romantic ballad “Because.” “My Before And After” is a sweet piano shuffle. And just when things get purely accessible, Cotton Mather deliver the slightly abstruse “Private Ruth” and, a few songs hence, the scathing Nirvana-derived punk swaggerer “Church Of Wilson.”
The future looked bright and Oasis took ‘em on tour, but Cotton Mather never broke free of cult status since modern American radio sucks and would rather promote safer cookie-cutters. Notwithstanding, Kontiki, re-released with a bonus disc of acoustic or 4-track takes, is a certain gem-in-the-rough and well worth the investment.
In A Word: Fantastic