Antenna

Although the Blake Babies broke up in early 1991, just as they seemed to be on the verge of success in the post-Nevermind alternative music scene, there were no underlying personality conflicts or artistic disagreements. John Strohm and Freda Love simply wanted to go home. The couple had moved to Boston from their native Indiana to attend the Berklee School of Music, but had gotten sidetracked when they formed the Blake Babies with singer/bassist Juliana Hatfield in 1987. Over the course of their four-album career, Strohm had grown as a songwriter to the point that he could lead his own band, so when he and Love resettled in Bloomington, IN, the guitarist and drummer formed Antenna with local musicians Jacob Smith on bass and Vess Ruhtenberg on second guitar. Strohm apparently had built up quite a backlog of songs during the later days of the Blake Babies because Antenna's first album, Sway, was recorded and released less than a year after that group split up. A clear continuation from Blake Babies songs like "Girl in a Box," the songs on Sway are lyrically dark but sunnily melodic jangle pop, with Ruhtenberg's rhythm guitar creating a much fuller sound than Strohm and Love's previous trio ever had. The newfound country tinge of a few songs would become more prominent in Strohm's post-Antenna solo career. Ruhtenberg left Antenna shortly after the first album was recorded, and, unexpectedly, Love followed in early 1992. Patrick Spurgeon took over the drum seat and the refurbished trio released the EP Sleep, combining two of Sway's best tracks, "Sleep" and "All I Need," with a rough demo of Smith's "Wall Paper" and a noisy, punky blast through Wire's minimalist classic "Outdoor Miner." With second-guitar help from Strohm's friend Ed Ackerman (Strohm returned the favor on a couple of albums by Ackerman's group Polara), the trio recorded the outstanding Hideout in 1993. The twin-guitar interplay of Strohm and Ackerman recalls both Television and My Bloody Valentine, and the songs -- this time all Strohm/Smith co-compositions -- rock with a newfound verve and confidence. Unfortunately, Antenna ended at that point, with 1993's (For Now) EP serving as their farewell. Reunited with Love on drums, the three new songs, particularly the storming title track, are among the best things Antenna ever did. When the group split, Smith and Love got married, had a son, and formed the countryish pop group the Mysteries of Life with Vulgar Boatmen keyboardist Dale Lawrence. Strohm quickly formed yet another short-lived band, the even darker and noisier Velo-Deluxe, before finally embarking on an alt-country solo career in the mid-'90s.
Stewart Mason, Rovi

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