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Largely passed by in the alternative music sweepstakes of the mid-'90s, Acetone pursued indie rock with influences from two of their Southern California forebears, the Beach Boys and Gram Parsons, with plenty of the Velvet Underground thrown in as well. Officially formed in 1992 by guitarist Mark Lightcap, bassist Richie Lee, and drummer Steve Hadley, the group had actually existed as early as 1987, when the trio began playing around Los Angeles. After working for several years with a succession of vocalists, the group decided to keep it a threesome. After just a few months of recording demos, the band signed to the up-and-coming Vernon Yard subsidiary of Virgin Records (also the home of Low and the Verve) and in 1993 released their debut album Cindy, a collision of aggressive neo-psychedelia and pastoral harmonies reminiscent of the Velvet's third LP. Though Acetone toured in a quite visible role as support for the Verve, the album sputtered under a glut of similar-sounding releases. By 1995, the group had turned in a new direction, translating their affinity for roots rock and country into I Guess I Would, a seven-track mini-LP of inspired cover tracks, including the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Juanita" and the Kris Kristofferson chestnut "Border Lord." Though alternative rock was beginning to hit the trails of their roots-rocking ancestors, the album again failed to connect with listeners. The trio then recorded their second full-length, If You Only Knew, which charted a course between the aggression of the first album and the twang of I Guess I Would. Dropped from Vernon Yard in 1997, however, Acetone moved to the independent Vapor Records for their third, self-titled album. York Blvd. followed three years later. The album was critically acclaimed as a creative high point of the band's career, but it was followed by tragedy when Lee died after an apparent suicide on July 23, 2001, less than a year after its release. Acetone disbanded shortly after Lee's passing. Lightcap would go on to play with the group Matmos. In 2017, the respected reissue label Light in the Attic issued 1992-2001, a career-spanning anthology that included several previously unreleased performances.
© John Bush /TiVo
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