Having named themselves after the 1962 NY Mets’ infamously hapless first-baseman, “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry, these Cincinnati pals of the Afghan Whigs might well be your standard-issue indie-rock dweebs with low self-esteem. Instead, Sangría opens with singer/guitarist Jason Arbenz informing the world that “I’ve been touched/The hand of greatness has selected me.” You’ve got to admire a first album that begins with such a cocky announcement. Produced by big Whig Greg Dulli at his bandmate John Curley’s Ultrasuede Studio, the record comes close to validating Arbenz’s god complex. Sangría captures the band’s Big Rock dynamics (oh-so-similar to the Whigs’ brand of punk-soul); blended with Arbenz’s raspy voice and bleary-eyed heart of darkness, the result is stirring songs like “Green Goddess” and the half-drunk-at-4:00 a.m. innuendo of “Shellac the Bozak.” Throneberry might not be ready to part the Red Sea just yet, but Sangría is a damn fine invocation.
Extensive touring and bouts with illness kept Throneberry out of the studio for a while, save for a cool version of “Here Comes My Girl” that appeared on 1994’s You Got Lucky, the otherwise awful Tom Petty tribute album. Finally, early ’96 yielded the heartbreak of Trot Out the Encores. Murky and indistinct production that is clearly someone’s idea of modern rock radio-friendly (producer Joe Chiccarelli?) quashes the simple sparse emotionalism found on Sangría. Arbenz’s boozy tongue-in-cheek wit is in evidence, and there are a handful of good songs (notably “Drops of Moxie” and the lounge-crawling “Hooray for Everything!”), but, in the end, Trot Out the Encores is pretty much a swing and a miss.