Philadelphia’s Dandelion might best be remembered as poster children for the underground/popular music clash of the early ’90s, rising as they did in the era that saw a shift in the red-blooded hard rock dynamic from long-haired metal to shorn grunge leftovers purveyed by countless hordes of candidates caught up in the major label search for “the next Nirvana.”
Forming Dandelion in 1989, singer/guitarist Kevin Morpurgo, guitarist Carl Hinds, drummer Dante Cimino and bassist Mike Morpurgo established themselves as local champions of the heavy neo-psychedelic sound. Corralling like-minded outfits like Trip 66 into their loud corner helped develop a scene, which eventually attracted the attention of Ruffhouse, a label based in nearby Conshohocken, and home to The Goats.
I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick has a sound as aggressively grating as the cover’s scrawled titling. The songs parlay the angst of social frustration (“Waitin’ for a Ride”—damn those “so-called friends”), confusion (“Outside,” with a hearty dose of agnostic cynicism), and loneliness (“In My Room,” which inadvertently rewrites Brian Wilson’s classic for the alternative nation). In a heady stew of Alice in Chains grind and Mudhoney dirge (albeit minus the latter’s humor), sludgy, cumbersome riffs provide visceral thrills, but also a prevailing sonic monotony. The group put a live take (more straightforward than versions by the Damned and Redd Kross) on the Rolling Stones’ “Citadel” on a B-side of the time, which hinted at a possible source of the band’s name — namely the Stones’ trippy love-era “Dandelion.” It also hinted at a direction their music might take next.
The psychedelic influence is indeed more apparent on Dyslexicon, particularly in spacier songs like “Weird Out” and “Tapped.” Dandelion manages to more closely approximate Nirvana, especially with “Trailer Park Girl” (a dead ringer for Nevermind‘s “Polly”). Production add-ons flesh out the sound, from laughing FX in “Super Cool” to concentric waves of fuzz in “Melon From Heaven.” “Viva Kneval” even has a flute solo (oddly out of place with the Easy Rider images of bell-bottoms and “star-spangled helmets”). Despite the extra instrumentation, however, Dyslexicon is bland, and an anticlimactic false ending provides a poetic inkling of the sputtering fade-out soon in store for this over-hyped band.
As hometown heroes, Dandelion played at the Camden, NJ stop of Lollapalooza in 1995, and continued to tour into the fall (with drummer Dante Cimino replaced by session vet Ben Brauer). The handwriting was on the wall, however, and Dandelion called it quits. In 1996, Kevin Morpurgo joined another Philadelphia band, Latimer, on second guitar. Mike Morpurgo, after working on the soundtrack of Abel Ferrara’s 1998 film New Rose Hotel formed Laguardia with Trip 66’s Greg Lyons. Brad Wood produced the band’s punchy, pseudo-arty debut, Welcome to the Middle.