Although often associated with frequent collaborators and fellow Boise natives Built to Spill, the indie rock group Caustic Resin—a trio comprising lead singer/guitarist Brett Netson, bassist Tom Romich, Jr., and drummer James Dillon—developed a sound of their own. Less melodic and poppy than Built to Spill, Caustic Resin created a strange, yet compelling blend of rock that screamed of passion and darkness. “Imagine John Lennon playing heavy metal without the tasteless soloing. Bowie and Ronson doing Soundgarden covers. A great big devil boogie with beards and make-up. You’re almost there,” offered Ink Blot magazine in an attempt to describe the band’s sound. Obviously, Caustic Resin are a tough group to pin down, with influences ranging from Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, Jane’s Addiction and the Butthole Surfers, and everything in between. After struggling for nearly a decade for recognition, Caustic Resin released what is considered their most cohesive and creative effort, The Medicine Is All Gone, in 1998, followed by The Afterbirth in the summer of 2000.
Much of the band’s success, according to critics and other musicians, rests upon the guitar skills of Netson, who Built to Spill founder and leader Dough Martsch called, without hesitation, “the best guitar player alive,” as quoted by Will Hermes of the Village Voice. Little wonder, Martsch wanted Netson (not to be confused with Brett Nelson, who has played on other Built to Spill recordings) as an original member of his own band, though he would have to settle for collaborations and appearances instead. Martsch and his group recorded with Caustic Resin the 1995 EP Built to Spill Caustic Resin and persuaded the guitarist to guest on Built to Spill albums, including the ambitious guitar-rock project Perfect From Now On from 1997.
Caustic Resin was formed in 1988 in Boise, Idaho, a city not usually associated with the indie rock music scene. According to Magnet magazine contributor Matthew Fritch, Caustic Resin’s brand of rock not only sounded as though it came from the wrong side of the musical tracks of the group’s hometown, but at times sounded like a train wreck itself. Nonetheless, when the group started sharing bills with Treepeople, Martsch’s band before Built to Spill, and circulating early tapes around the Northwest (courtesy of Martsch), the future of Caustic Resin seemed bright. “Before then, we were playing metal shows,” said Netson to Fritch, “and then bands like Nirvana and Screaming Trees and Alice Donut were coming through town, and it kind of opened things up.” Meanwhile, Netson’s guitar-driven rampages were exactly the kind of antics Martsch originally had in mind for his own band. “(Martsch) kind of used me…to give it contrast,” explained Netson in reference to Built to Spill’s first album, Ultimate Alternative Wavers, as well as the joint EP, both equal parts Martsch’s savvy songwriting and Netson’s inventive guitar riffs.
In the midst of touring with Built to Spill, Caustic Resin was attracting fans of their own, quickly establishing themselves as one of the best live acts on the indie music circuit. Their debut Seattle performance, for example, included six televisions flashing odd videos while an artist situated behind the band splashed metallic paint on a large canvas and another person played strange, distorted samples. As word of Caustic Resin spread, the group secured a recording deal with C/Z Records, finally releasing their intense debut album entitled Body Love Body Hate in 1993. “This record forsaked all the tapes that came before it and opted for gut-wrenching twists of psychedelic blues, acidic grunge and cacophony,” concluded the iMusic Indie Showcase. The band’s second album, Fly Me to the Moon, this time for Up Records, arrived two years later in 1995. Originally titled Cancer, Fly Me to the Moon ” is a 16-song avalanche of dirt-ass rock ‘n’ roll that remains a monumental work and a very important and treasured record in the Up catalog…. From grunge masterpieces, to traces of metal, haunted pop and electronic music, it works on many levels.”
Both Body Love Body Hate and Fly Me to the Moon, coupled with the band’s live assault, puzzled fans into submission with prolonged, psychedelic jams. By now, major labels—namely EMI Records—were taking an interest in Caustic Resin. However, following a short tour in support of the second album, a prolonged period of silence ensued. For two years, the group stayed put in Boise, where Netson took a job with the ski patrol at a local resort and hung around with his
Members include James Dillon, drums; Brett Net son, guitar, vocals; Tom Romich, Jr., bass.
Formed Caustic Resin, Boise, ID, in 1988; released debut album Body Love Body Hate, 1993; released Built to Spill Caustic Resin EP and Fly Me to the Moon, 1995; signed with Alias Records, 1998; released The Medicine Is All Gone, 1999; released The Afterbirth, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Alias Records, 2815 W. Olive Ave., Burbank, CA 91505, phone: (818) 566-1034, fax: (818) 566-6623, website: http://www.alias-records.com. Website —Caustic Resin: http://www.causticresin.com.
bandmates waiting for the next record deal to come through. But despite promises from EMI that a contract was just around the corner, nothing happened. The inactivity took a toll on the members of Caustic Resin, who all experienced substance-abuse problems. “We ended up doing more drugs than we cared to be doing,” Netson admitted to Fritch. “I’ve never been a big fan of drugs, really. It just sort of caught up with us—without us even realizing it.”
Fortunately, a creative opportunity from Alias Records saved Caustic Resin. Ending their drug-induced rut and going sober, the band recorded the appropriately titled The Medicine Is All Gone. Released in the summer of 1999 and produced by Phil Ek (known for his work with Modest Mouse, 764-Hero, and Built to Spill), the album revealed, in Netson’s own words, “compassion and brutality,” as well an honest assessment of the group members’ own personal situation. Receiving favorable responses from the music press, The Medicine Is All Gone served as a testament to Caustic Resin’s musical maturity. Although akin in spirit to Fly Me to the Moon, The Medicine Is All Gone demonstrated a more concise and cohesive attack, as evidenced by the opening track “Cable,” the dark and provoking “Mysteries Of,” and “You Lie,” a lilting song reminiscent of Caustic Resin’s past. The album also included an impromptu version of “Hold Your Head Up,” a 1970s rock anthem by Argent.
After a brief hiatus and tour, Caustic Resin returned with a fourth album, The Afterbirth, in the summer of 2000. Although not so well-received as The Medicine Is All Gone —many critics called it too depressive—the group remained intact, all recovering completely from their addictions. “Music’s always been my main drug,” concluded Netson.
Body Love Body Hate, C/Z, 1993.
Built to Spill Caustic Resin (EP), Up, 1995.
Fly Me to the Moon, Up, 1995.
The Medicine Is All Gone, Alias, 1998.
The Afterbirth, Alias, 2000.
Magnet, July/August 1999, p. 12.
Melody Maker, June 19, 1999.
Village Voice, January 28, 1997.
Alias Records, http://www.aliasrecords.com (November 4, 2000).
Caustic Resin, http://www.causticresin.com (November 4, 2000).
iMusic Indie Showcase—Caustic Resin on the ARTISTdirect Network, http://imusic.com/showcase/indie/causticresin.html (November 4, 2000).
Ink Blot, http://www.inkblotmagazine.com (November 4, 2000).
Pop Matters, http://www.popmatters.com (November 4, 2000).
"Caustic Resin." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/caustic-resin
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