The Big Takeover (Issue #42, 6/98)
Long before Butch Vig spent his days producing garbage (and that doesn't even include his stint with Smashing Pumpkins!), he spent time behind the faders for the great lost '80's power-pop band, The Other Kids. In their brief career, the Madison, Wisconsin trio released only two LPs and an EP, which are compiled here (curiously, the tracks are not in chronological order). But despite the limited output, lead singer/guitarist Steve Watson managed to deliver a feast of crunchy tunes with superb harmonies, most of them on level with the best work of better known power-pop bands such as the Raspberries, Shoes, and the dB's. In particular, "Livin' Downtown" sounds like an unreleased, late period dB's gem. "Where The Wild Things Are" and "Shame On Me" are pure pop delight. The real shame is on the "other kids" who didn't pay enough attention to the band before they broke up. Hell, with the recent, much ballyhooed power-pop revival, and Butch Vig producing, The Other Kids could have been the New Kids of the '90s! -Mick Lewis
Luke, UK (1998)
The Other Kids got together in 1984 as a three-piece, recorded three albums in their eight year existence and ended with a whimper rather than a bang in 1992. Neverland collects all three of those albums onto two CDs and is yet more proof that however great your records are, without the breaks, you're never going to hit the big time. Before I'd read a review for Neverland in Bucketfull Of Brains, I'd never heard of The Other Kids. Now, having played Neverland fifty or sixty times since it arrived in the post a few months ago, I really cant see a time in the future when I'll be able to live without it. I suppose you could file them under power pop, because they're so damn catchy, but the bands I hear in their songs include the Replacements and James, bands that aren't normally on lists that feature Raspberries, Cheap Trick, dBs, etc. Unfortunately, the tracks arent in chronological order so without resorting to the booklet its difficult to plot how their sound changed over the years but highlights are plentiful from all stages of their career and include the title track, the hard hitting Livin' Downtown, Where The Wild Things Are, Water Water Everywhere, the genuinely amusing Flamin' Drag Queen and the gorgeous ballad, Autumn Girl. And thats just the first CD. The second disc features a couple of tracks that are surplus to requirements but overall theres no sign of any real quality drop. Two thirds produced by Butch Vig, of all people, it's almost criminal that a band like The Other Kids can produce so much excellent material and yet go virtually unheard of outside their local scene. Hopefully Neverland can right a few wrongs and put them on the map. I really hope so. -Rob Forbes
The Isthmus (Madison, WI 12/11/97)
In the mid-'80's, the Madison band the Other Kids began a long run on the regional pop-rock circuit, garnering periodic major-label interest and attracting a devoted college-age following. The band called it quits five years ago, but it's ringing guitars and polished hooks live on thanks to a digitally remastered compilation called Neverland, a 25-track, two-CD package that includes material from the three albums the trio released during its eight-year career.
Early production work from Butch Vig is featured on two-thirds of the collection, but the songs are the real draw. A pure guitar pop act, the Other Kids leaned toward the Hollies rather than the Byrds, an esthetic wrinkle that hampered them in the days when R.E.M. reigned supreme in UW dormitories. Today, however, regional hits like the wistful title cut and the poignant college-town kiss-off "Madtown" fit right in with the musical progression that began with the cresting of New Wave and ended in the commercial success of earnest alt-rockers like the Gin Blossoms.
Memories fade, of course, but Neverland is a very polished retrospective. It's likely to interest serious collectors of American pop-rock as well as those fans who spent a season or two catching the Other Kids' act at O'Cayz Corral and the old Club de Wash.- Tom Laskin
The Paper (Milwaukee, WI 2/20/98)
Pop is a funny word, one that can mean a number of different things. I've always thought of the Other Kids as Wisconsin's greatest pop band, but I've got a very specific definition of pop in mind. Like the Plimsouls, The Smithereens, the Db's or the Records, the Madison-based Other Kids were melodic, hard-rocking and quirky and for the most part, they were roundly ignored by the music industry.
This collections eases that injustice a little. A collection of The Other Kids' three vinyl releases from the mid-to-late 80s, Neverland documents the band's razor-sharp songwriting and clean, guitar-driven sound. There are few songwriters around who had a clearer take on the underside of the Yuppie Experience than Steve Watson. Watson's stories of bars, parties and corporate life can be cynical, but his insights and the sense of longing for a more meaningful existence are compelling indeed.
There's no shortage of great songs here. "Where The Wild Things Are" is an absolutely stunning portrayal of a child neglected by a single mom seduced by the night life. "Water Water Everywhere" perfectly captures the surreal quality of a party, where senses are on overload, but there's no real connection being made. "Shame on Me," is an understated gem, which showcases how the band could effortlessly move from soaring melody to bruising guitar riffs. And those are just the highlights from disc one.
You could point to Alex Chilton, The Byrds or The Who as influences of the band (especially in Watson's fondness for Rickenbacker guitars), but I also hear a little of the Kinks and Nils Lofgren in the mix. The band's last album was named Grin, perhaps a reference to Lofgren's first band. And "She's Got Me Where It Hurts," is a bit derivative of "You've Really Got Me," but to its credit, the song rocks just as hard and is just as much fun as its inspiration.
The Other Kids were a trio, and though that approach never seemed to limit them in a live setting, some of these tracks might've benefited from a fuller sonic approach. And drummer Chris Fink, while having an explosive style reminiscent of Keith Moon, sounds just slightly out of control on some songs. But these quibbles can't change the fact that The Other Kids made great rock and roll, and their demise was a huge loss to the Wisconsin music scene. It's great to finally have them back, at least on this collection. -Scott Wooldridge
Maximum Ink (January, 1998)
With the requisite chiming guitars, choirboy vocals and compact tunes, Madison's Other Kids were stars on the local scene when new wave/power pop rose to prominence in the mid-'80s. Their success and eventual demise were, unfortunately, equally textbook, with financial mishaps, long tours and record company policies leaving the trio completely worn out after three self-releases and seven long years.
The Other Kids sound like a stripped-down version of the Shoes with lyrics more serious than boy-meets-girl. Compiler Paul Bruski chose not to present the Kids chronologically, and, in effect, created the album that should've been. Interspersing the keyboard-sweetened tracks from 1990's Grin with the straight-ahead early works from Living in the Mirror, the introspective retrospect Neverland is at once seemless and varied. While interest might be kindled due to Butch Vig's participation in their production, the Other Kids stand on their own with a double-disc testament to the DIY ethics.
From psycho slice-of-life vignettes like "Flamin' Drag Queen" and "I Can't Hear Anything," to anti-romantic love songs like "She Got Me Where It Hurts" and "I Wanna Be Gone," the Other Kids punched out hooky little tunes that upbraided convention with sugar-coated terrors. Succinct without being simple and slyly sarcastic, the 25 tracks that make up Neverland mark a welcome revival of a band whose pop sense included honest rock 'n roll, social observation and swift delivery. -John Noyd
Milwaukee Shepherd Express (January, 1998)
"Madison's Other Kids were probably Wisconsin's best classic pop-rock band, working those Alex Chiltonesque melodies together with empathetic intelligent lyrics, edgy guitars and a solid beat." -Dave Luhrssen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (March 13, 1998)
"CD offers flashback featuring The Other Kids"
The Other Kids were among the more popular of Madison rock bands during the mid- to late '80s. The group had a knack for constructing well-crafted pop tunes, with nods toward Midwestern contemporaries such as The Shoes and The Replacements.
The group formed in 1984, built a loyal live following among Madison students and occasional Milwaukee club crowds, and broke up in 1992 -- shortly after the alternative-pop sound it advanced had at last penetrated mainstream-rock radio playlists.
The band has no immediate plans for a reunion show, but you can recapture its essence on a recent 25-song CD, "Neverland," which touches upon all sides of its seven-year existence.
"Neverland" can be purchased at Atomic Records, 1813 E. Locust St., or in the band's hometown at Mad City Music. -Nick Carter