The Gin Blossoms – Congratulations I’m Sorry (1996)

The Gin Blossoms is an American rock band with members Bill Leen on bass, Jesse Valenzuela on lead guitar and vocals, Robin Wilson on lead vocals and percussion, Scott Johnson on guitar and piano and Scott Hessel on drums. The band released its third studio album Congratulations I’m Sorry in 1996 in response to the suicide of former band member Doug Hopkins in 1993. Eventually reaching platinum status, the album was a successful catchup from their 1992 album New Miserable Experience.

The band originally consisted of guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, bass guitarist Bill Leen, vocalist Jesse Valenzuela, guitarist Richard Taylor and drummer Chris McCann. Originating in Tempe, Arizona, the band generated early popularity by releasing its first independently recorded album Dusted in 1989. While working to release the first full-length studio album, band member Doug Hopkins drank heavily and became increasingly rowdy, causing the band to fire and replace him before finishing the 1992 album. Sadly, Hopkins ended up committing suicide as a result, though his contributions created some of the most successful tracks on the first album. Congratulations I’m Sorry was largely a reflection of the band’s feelings during the time period and a comeback album for the group after the difficult loss.

The best song on the album is “Follow You Down,” the third track. Beginning with solid guitar and drums, the song is fast paced but not too aggressive. Valenzuela’s lyrics are clear, while the chorus is extremely catchy. Accompanied with frequent harmonica, the drum and guitar combination blend fluently to create a captivating track. The song reflects a theme of risk-taking but not pushing one’s limits, with lyrics such as “Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down / Anyplace, but those I know by heart / Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down / I’ll follow you down, but not that far.”

The album’s opening track, “Day Job,” starts with a quiet guitar solo that elevates slowly. The track fails to be as captivating as “Follow You Down” and sounds depressing and even almost somewhat ranting. Electric guitar dominates as the song progresses; as Valenzuela spits out lyrics, the words closely match the tone of sadness felt by the overly aggressive guitar. Listeners hear a story about a man who feels his life has not progressed as planned, yet has chosen not to change it: “I should’ve been a whole lot farther / I’m never going back to college / For just one good day job.”

Another engrossing track is “I Can’t Figure You Out,” the album’s eleventh track. Valenzuela’s vocals are genuine and soft, yet powerful. Containing a blend of electric guitar and prevalent drums in the background, the sound is captivating and the chorus is catchy. The lyrics are relatable—“Write in the pages of my notebook / But they never sound the way they look / Kicking at this old tin can /… I can’t figure you out”—which tell about how a songwriter’s relationship issues affect his or her songwriting abilities.

The Gin Blossoms continue to tour today and most recently joined Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit and Marcy Playground on a tour. No Chocolate Cake was the band’s fifth and most recent studio album, released in 2010.