B100: #71 “No Room 9, Kentucky” by Shudder To Think

In common with Plush at #33, it’s another great double sided seven inch in my favourite 100 songs list, with “No Room 9, Kentucky” from Washington DC’s criminally overlooked Shudder To Think.

Originally a B-side, “No Room 9, Kentucky” by Shudder To Think is certainly one of the deeper cuts in my top 100 songs list.  And yet, it’s a beguiling twister of a record, totally unique as befits this singular band who soared high but generally flew under the radar, particularly in the UK.  Shudder To Think are often pegged as a “post-hardcore” group, predominately because they released their early key records on Dischord, the fantastic Washington DC label run by Fugazi’s Iain McKaye.  Dischord have released a stellar run of records (especially through the early/mid 90s) including classic albums from The Make-Up, Nation Of Ulysses, Jawbox, Circus Lupus, Hoover, Slant 6 and of course Fugazi themselves, many of which feature on my 379: Punk (and post-punk) Spotify playlist.  As for Shudder To Think, although melodic hardcore influences are present, most obviously on 1989’s excellent first Dischord album “Ten Spot”, their playful experimentalism began to really take root on 1990 mini-LP “Funeral At The Movies”.

As well as their exquisitely soaring but angular tunes, it’s frontman Craig Wedren’s breathtaking, sub-operatic voice that really marks out Shudder To Think as something special.  Hugely expanding their sonic palette, Craig’s vocals are often used as another instrument; for example on “Funeral…”’s version of “Crosstown Traffic” where his voice takes the part of Hendrix guitar solos, something that sounds awful when written down but amazingly gives the rock standard a vibrant new freshness.  After their next album, 1991’s also great “Get Your Goat”, the original Shudder To Think line-up splintered with new guitarist Nathan Larson and ex-Jawbox drummer Adam Wade joining Craig Wedren plus original bassist Stuart Hill. 

Shudder To Think were soon to sign to major label Epic, but before that their final Dischord release was the 1992 single “Hit Liquor/No Room 9, Kentucky”, which is where we come in.  Up there with Plush’s “Three-Quarters Blind Eyes/Found A Little Baby…” as my most obsessed over seven inch, the notional A-side “Hit Liquor” is itself a great (post-hardcore) tune, partly reminiscent of Slint but with Craig’s sublime vocals a major point of difference.  Flipside “No Room 9, Kentucky” is a clear favourite though, a song that still sounds utterly unique, nearly 30 years since its release.  Beginning with an acoustic birthday themed ditty, its hushed intimacy strips back further before building to a dizzyingly seductive listen, as delightfully understated guitar solos and gorgeous story-telling vocals evoke a mysterious nocturnal tale.

This seven inch strongly pointed the way forward to Shudder To Think’s next album (and major label debut), 1994’s “Pony Express Record”.  “Hit Liquor” and “No Room 9, Kentucky” were both re-recorded and sequenced as the respective first songs on each side of the LP.   However, it’s the angular post-rock of “Hit Liquor” that’s the dominant sound for an album I’ve come to love more and more over the years, having originally been slightly underwhelmed upon release especially when compared to the brilliant preceding Dischord trilogy.  Shudder To Think only released one more album, 1997’s sadly below par “50,000 BC” (notable mainly to me for featuring current Guided By Voices drummer Kevin March) before splitting in 1998. 

A few fleeting live reunions in the USA have occurred over the years, but Craig Wedren has mainly focused on his solo career and increasingly successful soundtrack work since then.  Still a totally unique proposition, with hindsight Shudder To Think were always destined to be a cult band, but with a totally adoring audience as was evident the one time I got to see them play live – in 1994 at the Powerhaus in Islington, another London venue sadly lost over the years, originally turned into an All Bar One.


  • Other great Shudder To Think songs include: Red House, Jade-Dust Eyes, Lies About The Sky, Vacation Brain, Hit Liquor, Shake Your Halo Down
Shudder To Think ticket stub (number 1!) from Islington Powerhaus gig in 1994
“No Room 9, Kentucky” is featured on my B100 Spotify playlist
“No Room 9, Kentucky” is also featured on my 379: Indie O to Sm playlist


One thought on “B100: #71 “No Room 9, Kentucky” by Shudder To Think

  1. Pingback: Jumping Fences To Wichita: my 100 favourite songs | No Longer Teenage Fan Club

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s