Personnel: George Huntley (vocals, guitar, mandolin); Mike Connell, Doug Macmillan (vocals, guitar); Steve Potak (piano, organ, keyboards); Peele Wimberley (drums, percussion).
Rising out of the Raleigh, North Carolina college rock scene, the Connells are perhaps best remembered for their catchy 1993 hit "Stone Cold Yesterday." That song, as well as a handful of the band's other singles and album cuts, are included on the 2016 Bicycle Record Company anthology Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of the Connells. Formed in 1984, the Connells built a fan base with their jangly, guitar-based sound and earnest pop songcraft. Centered on bookish lead singer Doug MacMillan and featuring guitarist Mike Connell, bassist David Connell, guitarist George Huntley, drummer Peele Wimberley, and later, keyboardist Steve Potak, the band's early work drew favorable comparisons to bands like the Smiths and R.E.M. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mitch Easter, who helmed R.E.M.'s Murmur, produced the band's 1987 sophomore effort, Boylan Heights, of which the cuts "Scotty's Lament" and "Over There" appear here. Those tracks find the band enamored with a moody, '60s folk-rock atmosphere accentuated by their use of 12-string Rickenbacker guitars. Later cuts, like the infectious title track off 1990's One Simple Word, the swoon-inducing "SlackJawed" off 1993's Ring, and the driving, minor-keyed "Maybe" off 1996's Weird Food & Devastation, reveal a move toward a heavier, power pop- and grunge-inflected sound. Also included is the band's other recognizable hit, the poignant midtempo acoustic anthem "'74 - '75," which entered the Top Ten in Europe in 1993. Despite making live appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the video for "Stone Cold Yesterday" working its way into regular rotation on MTV's 120 Minutes, major mainstream success eluded the Connells and they remained cult favorites. Nonetheless, Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of the Connells goes a long way in showcasing their literate, engaging rock. ~ Matt Collar