April 1994 was one of the most notable months in music history, for many reasons. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, The Offspring exploded with Smash, still the highest-selling album on an independent label in history, Blue exploded with one of Britpop’s most defining albums in Parklife, and Live took advantage of a grunge/post-grunge overlap period with their album Throwing Copper. (It should be noted that the band recording an album in 1989 under the name Public Affection, before changing their name to Live, so it’s usually considered their 3rd full-length album.)
While the band indeed gained popularity with 1991’s Mental Jewelry, nothing could have prepared Live for the success that came after. A combination of good timing and matured songwriting helped Throwing Copper explode into the mainstream, eventually selling over 8 million copies in the USA alone. Led by Ed Kowalczyk’s instantly recognizable voice, it’s one that even the most hardened detractor of post-grunge (whether that’s an accurate label for Live is a matter of debate – they’re definitely on the alt-rock side of things) can’t help but appreciate in some capacity.
Of course, the album had the requisite hit singles that enabled Throwing Copper to sell so many records. “Lightning Crashes” and “I Alone” gatecrashed rock radio, with the former being arguably Live’s signature song. There’s also the dark “The Dam At Otter Creek”, which accelerates quite nicely as the song goes on. It’s one of the album’s heavier and more intense moments, with Kowalcyk’s wailing amongst a sea of guitars and drums one of the best moments on any alt-rock album of the ’90s. Listen once and you’ll notice what we’re talking about, it even takes on an ominous ending at the very end of the song.
It’s also a record where many of the album’s best songs weren’t the hit singles. Whether it’s the galloping + anthemic “Iris” (which might have been the most notable song of the ’90s with that name had it not been for Goo Goo Dolls) or the ambitious and bleak “White, Discussion”, there’s really no shortage of tracks that might be considered standouts. It’s an album with quite a few moving parts, yet they all manage to fit together. And it’s usually considered Live’s best album by far, at least in terms of composition and reception.