I missed seeing Antietam the one time they came 'round my particular place in the universe. That makes me sad. But I vividly recall trying to buy the first album when it came out. The clerk had no idea what band I was asking for. I kept saying "I want that Antietam album, you know, on Homestead!" and he looked at me blankly. Then he said, "Oh, you want the Anti Etam album!" I guess it was just a case of mistaken identity.
"...Antietam Comes Alive! hits with the room-spinning displacement of a furious tequila buzz. The ropy guitar soloing that permeates the Dream Syndicate-styled instrumental "Track 13" lets Key set an ecstatic (in the spiritual sense) tone straightaway as she trance-ports the band through a 50-minute firewalk that reaches peak intensity on a cover of Patti Smith's "Ask the Angels." Truly revelatory." ~ David Sprague, Trouser Press
Track 13 Monica Open Letter George Stomp Glide Angels & Strangers Sample for Sara Ask the Angels Teleplay Sink or Swim Eaten Up By Hate
"One of the more underrated bands on the early-'90s indie rock scene, Antietam is the South's answer to Yo La Tengo, injecting the studied urban coolness of the Hoboken trio with some fiery Southern rock brio, especially in frontwoman Tara Key's impressive guitar work, which at times suggests a post-punk Lynyrd Skynyrd making nice with Neil Young after that whole "Sweet Home Alabama" thing. Like Yo La Tengo, however, this trio did their growing up in public. Key and her bass-playing boyfriend Tim Harris began the 1980s in their native Louisville, KY, as one-half of the Pylon-like post-punkers the Babylon Dance Band. Although extremely locally popular and able to tour throughout the Midwest and eastern seaboard, the foursome only managed to release one single, 1981's "When I'm Home," before splitting in 1983. The following year, Key and Harris formed the less antic quartet Antietam with second bassist Wolf Knapp and drummer Michael Weinert. With Key taking over vocals as well as lead guitar, Antietam had a vaguely folk-rock air in their earliest incarnation, akin to Chronic Town-era R.E.M. or Like This-era dB's. The band's self-titled 1985 debut, with Harris and Knapp playing twin basses under Key's angular, Roger Miller-style (Mission of Burma, not "King of the Road") guitar, is an odd but accessible piece of mid-'80s indie rock. Weinert, clearly the band's weakest player based on the first album, was replaced by the far more competent Sean Mulhall (the duo's former Babylon Dance Band compadre) in time for the much-improved follow-up, 1986's Music From Elba. Although the R.E.M. comparison no longer holds up, there's a moody, near-psychedelic feel to this quietly intense album that shows a definite similarity between Antietam and the mid-'80s Hoboken bands such as the Feelies and the Individuals. Perhaps sensing this musical kinship, Key and Harris left Louisville in the late '80s to settle in New York. Antietam took a couple of years to settle in their new environment, making the friendship of Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley in the interim. Yo La Tengo covered Antietam's burning "Orange Song" on their 1989 album President Yo La Tengo, and Kaplan and Hubley produced Antietam's third album, 1990s Burgoo. Although again somewhat hampered by another less-than-stellar drummer, Charles Schultz, Antietam made the transition from quartet to trio (Knapp had stayed in Louisville to return to college) with surprising grace. Key offset the loss of the interesting sonic patterns created by Harris and Knapp's double basses by focusing more on overtones and feedback, and the noisier sound fits the more aggressive songs perfectly. After the closet-cleaning release of a second Babylon Dance Band single, "Someday," in late 1990, Key and Harris hooked up with a steady drummer at last; with Josh Madell on board, Antietam finally had a stable lineup with three similarly gifted players....An absolutely smoking live set recorded at CBGB in July of that year was released as Antietam Comes Alive! in 1992; a selection of songs from the two most recent albums plus two new songs and a rave-up cover of Patti Smith's "Ask the Angels" with guest rhythm guitar by Chris O'Rourke of Sleepyhead, Antietam Comes Alive! is one of the band's better efforts. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide