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As for the aforementioned "Cruel Intentions," Pirner sheds all remnants of the "grunge rock" tag the band never quite fit to begin with, and recasts himself as a lounge lizard behind a piano. With lightly cooing vocalists in the background, he affects some sly melisma and tells an unknown adversary — perhaps a critic, an ex-lover, a record company, or all of the above — that "your whole world spins around you/And maybe that's cruel/So, save your cruel intentions/For somebody other than me."
The song's a more subtle stab than an earlier jazz reference: The band's amusing cover for the 1989 Clam Dip & Other Delights EP parodies the iconic sleeve from a Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass album, Whipped Cream & Other Delights. Instead of the luscious model Dolores Erickson in chiffon and shaving cream, it features Mueller covered in a hilariously noxious mess of sour cream, paint, whipped cream, and seafood. Still, convincing Murphy, Pirner's bandmate for three decades of punk-fueled rock, that an actual jazz song — written not long after Pirner relocated to Louisiana — belonged on Delayed Reaction took some work.
"It really had to come around to the beat not being tracked jazz, and me kind of nailing the vocal in a way that didn't sound like I was pretending to be something I wasn't," Pirner, who played trumpet in his youth, continues. "It took a long time." Contrast that with Delayed Reaction's new crunchy, guitar-driven single, "Gravity," which he says is the style he's always trying to challenge. "When I bring 'Gravity' to the band, they just respond to it immediately and go, 'Oh, that's what we do.'"
Remember how fans of Faith No More's hard-edged early material felt upon hearing Mike Patton crooning over a cover of the Commodores' "Easy" for the first time? Admittedly, "Cruel Intentions" is less surprising for owners of Pirner's solo album from 2002, Faces and Names, which rubs his sandpaper-rough voice against funk-melded R&B on "Tea" and features the smoky soul experiment "Feel the Need," which shows undeniable ties to New Orleans. Still, the song is a stylistic departure for Soul Asylum — and ultimately a welcome one.
A remnant of Karl Mueller's time with the band comes in the form of "I Should've Stayed in Bed," Delayed Reaction's dirge-y, strings-aided final song. According to Pirner's description of the song on Spotify — his brief explanations of every track are on the online streaming service — the older song was unearthed on YouTube by Murphy. Its only recording is from a 1995 taping of MTV Unplugged in Canada, and it's a dramatic remnant from that era. Despite its, ahem, delayed release, the song, with its theme of fighting back negativity, feels all the more apt today.
For the week of the release, Soul Asylum are not only celebrating Delayed Reaction's debut in the First Avenue Mainroom, but also with an already long sold-out show at the 7th St. Entry next door the night before. Pirner says he still feels oddly comfortable walking into that intimate venue.
"We all have sort of a different history of the building," he says with a laugh. "I think Danny [Murphy] might feel different about it and Michael [Bland] might feel different about it. It's going to be a sweaty mess, no matter how you look at it. Our gear is bigger than it used to be, and it'll be interesting to see if we still have room to rock in there. I can only imagine that it could be a disaster. Even if it is, it'll be just like old times."