Divine Weeks’ 1991 Album, Never Get Used to It, Reissued As Digital-Only, Deluxe Release, Comes Out August 11
LOS ANGELES, CA – Divine Weeks’ second album, Never Get Used to It, was released by Mike Lembo’s First Warning label through RCA/BMG on September 24, 1991 – the very same day as Nirvana’s Nevermind, as rock ‘n’ roll’s landscape cataclysmically shifted.
Bill See, the singer/songwriter who founded Divine Weeks with his childhood L.A. pals – including best friend, co-writer and guitarist Raj Makwana — describes the finished album as filled with the angst and desperation that comes from being at a “make-or-break crossroads,” following the critical acclaim of their 1987 debut album, Through & Through, died down and they toiled for several years without a label. The group figuratively fell through the cracks of their post-punk indie roots background (following in the footsteps of X, The Blasters, Divine Horsemen and Long Ryders), the opposing Sunset Strip glam-rock/pop-metal scene of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Motley Crue and the grunge-rock revolution emerging from Seattle.
The result is the underappreciated Never Get Used to It, self-produced by the band and recorded against the backdrop of racial tension caused by the Rodney King beatings, as See explains, “Racism was something that galvanized the band because of the damage done to Raj growing up Indian in England and then carried over when he moved to Los Angeles.” Twenty-six years later, Lembo’s Funzalo will release a remastered, deluxe, digital-only version of the album, which features six bonus tracks, including EP covers of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Wanna Take You Higher” as well as the traditional “O Holy Night,” from First Warning’s acclaimed holiday compilation of Yuletide standards, A Lump of Coal, which also boasted tracks by Young Fresh Fellows, Hoodoo Gurus, Crash Test Dummies and Henry Rollins.
Never Get Used to It offers a survey of Divine Weeks’ increasing interest in the raw, R&B sounds of Stax-Volt-Muscle Shoals (the rousing single “I Found Out,” which puts the band in league with the likes of current-day neo-soul stirrers such as St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats), the British Invasion blooze-rock of the Stones and Zeppelin (dig See’s yowling vocals on “Animal Move Real Slow,” with its images of slavery and critique of institutionalized racism), Allman Bros.-style southern gospel (“Watershed,” “Roll Away”) and even a taste of the raucous Strip metal scene which looked askance at their nerd-punk image (“Stay Hungry’). The Springsteen-esque album opener, “Soul on Ice,” is named after the book by radical African-American leader Eldridge Cleaver, while the sturdy rave-up “Copper Wire” is a tribute to Muhammad Ali standing up to white America and the Stonesy “Bitterness” is about an innocent child taking on the cycle of generational bigotry. With hints at his tumultuous childhood, the product of a free-spirited hippie mother who was seldom present and a father he met just once as a kid. See describes the hard-edged “Gingi & Me” as “a cross between Jane’s Addiction and U2’s ‘Bullet the Blue Sky.’”
Listen to “Soul on Ice”
“We weren’t as heavy as Nirvana, Mudhoney or Helmet,” explains See about the band’s failure to break out. “And we didn’t look like any of the Strip bands. Theoretically, we were supposed to reap the rewards that bands like Soul Asylum did, who, like us, toiled in the underground, then opened a door to the mainstream. “Maybe it was blind faith, delusion and stupidity to think that was our moment.”
Divine Weeks first formed in 1984, as The Need, by See, Makwana and bassist George Edmonson, now a Professor of Medieval Studies at Dartmouth, later adding drummer Brad Holtzman, and two years later, recording a collection of demos, Obviously Four Believers, at famed local producer Ethan James’ “Radio Tokyo” studios, where the Minutemen famously made Double Nickels on the Dime.
“We took from the friendship between D. Boon and Mike Watt, and that whole egalitarian, smart, focused, follow-the-breadcrumbs-left-on-the highway DIY credo,” says See.
Changing their name to Divine Weeks, and adding Washington, DC, transplant Dave Smerdzinski on drums, the band recorded their debut album, Through & Through, at a home studio being built by The Last keyboardist Vitus Matare, in exchange for helping him finish it. The album came out in May 1987 on Steve Wynn’s Down There label through Restless Records, and earlier this year was re-released as a deluxe, remastered edition with 13 bonus tracks on CD and digital.
As the band recorded demos in anticipation of a long-delayed sophomore album, Raj, suffering from familial pressure to pursue a more traditional cultural path that didn’t include his guitar, left Divine Weeks after helping write much of the music that would appear on Never Get Used to It. He was, in turn, replaced as guitarist for the recordings by the demo’s engineer, Matt Mahler. The incident caused a rift in the relationship between See and Raj – and a hiatus for Divine Weeks which lasted 23 years, except for a brief, one-off performance in 2004, captured on the recently released live album Tonight is the Night to Dream New Dreams (4/10/04).
In 2011, See wrote a book about his first month on the road in ‘87 with Divine Weeks, 33 Days: Touring in a Van, Sleeping on Floors, Chasing a Dream, which also interspersed autobiographical memories from his troubled upbringing. He reconciled with Raj, who joined him on a book tour to promote the publication, the two performing an impromptu musical set and laying the groundwork for collaborating once again.
With longtime drummer Smerdziniski and new bassist Steve Soto (later injured in a motorcycle accident and replaced by Mike Lawrence), See and Makwana reformed Divine Weeks last year to record and release their first new album in 26 years, See Those Landing Lights – since Never Get Used to It — and even played a rare reunion show earlier this year, which resulted in the live album We Did It for Love (Live 2/11/17).
With a new album out and the re-release of Never Get Used to It, See feels Divine Weeks has made up for unfinished business.
“I wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t have new material,” he insists. “It is relevant to me because of that. I think we’re a better live band than we’ve ever been, and whoever doesn’t believe me, can come out and see us.”
As for Never Get Used to It, See can now appreciate where Divine Weeks was at.
“I’m proud of the desperation,” he says. “Sometimes, though, it’s not enough to be good. You have to be at the right place at the right time. We didn’t fit into either the grunge or the pop-metal thing, and when that’s the case, you can find yourself looking at the caboose leaving town.”
With the reissue of Divine Weeks’ Never Get Used to It, the train has returned to the station.
For See, the release represents a circle now completed, “Divine Weeks’ story is one of redemption and making peace with friends, because that’s how we started. Re-releasing this album is a tribute to the regenerative powers of music, which has always been my salvation, my refuge from a chaotic upbringing and what endures.”
More than a quarter-century later, Divine Weeks sound as vital as ever.