The Maniacs are not the best band I know. Not by a long stretch. They are, however, the band that moves me the most from my whole collection. As you know, they were an American band that was active in the 80’s, and they were very popular among College audiences. The band comprised Natalie Merchant (vocals), Rob Buck (guitars), Steven Gustafson (bass), Dennis Drew (keyboards) and Jerome Augustyniak (drums).
They eventually scored a big hit with their cover of “Because The Night” in the early 90’s, at which point Natalie Merchant left the band to pursue a solo career of note in her home soil.
Natalie was replaced by Mary Ramsey (who played viola as well as assuming vocal duties) and John Lombardo, a guitar player that was actually involved in the band at the very beginning, way back in 1981.
There is a phrase from a REM song that always brings the Maniacs to my mind: “Loaded with beautiful vulnerability”. That is the essence of their best work. In actuality, I dare say that their entire oeuvre is their best work.
They are not superhuman. They do not make you feel invincible. They remind us that life is a struggle, but if we don’t wipe the tears that come at night these tears will not let us witness a new sunrise. Remember what Bruce Springsteen once sang – “The world came charging up the hill and we were women and men”? If we apply it to these folks, it would become “The world came charging up the hill and we were women and men. And we made a stand. Sometimes we fell. Sometimes we stood. But we always believed in life.” That is the message conveyed by their albums.
I have all their albums minus “The Wishing Chair” and “Blind Man’s Zoo”. I am actively looking for them, but they are a bit hard to find here in Uruguay. I am also missing their final album with Mary. I will review the ones I have in these pages. Your comments are more than welcome, I’d love to know your feelings on this band that means so much to me.